Often called the ‘Yummy Brummie’, Glynn Purnell started cooking professionally at the age of 14.
His next professional step was as Chef de Partie at Simpson’s Restaurant where he progressed to the position of Sous Chef. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star and Glynn went on to win a number of accolades within the industry.
After training with top chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes and Claude Bosi, Glynn travelled abroad to work with well-known Michelin starred chefs in Europe. He went on to help launch Jessica’s in July 2003, which was awarded Birmingham’s first Michelin star back in 2005. Glynn is now the proud owner of two establishments in Birmingham, Purnell’s Restaurant on Cornwall Street, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2009 and Purnell’s Bistro & Ginger’s Bar on Newhall Street.
Glynn has become a household name after taking part in the Great British Menu, winning twice and then later appearing as a mentor. He has previously featured on The Great British Food Revival and The Secret Chef, among other television programmes. He can regularly be seen on Saturday Kitchen as a guest chef and host and he is currently filming for the new series of My Kitchen Rules UK, which he will present alongside Rachel Allen.
Were you born in Birmingham? Yes
What’s your favourite childhood memory of Birmingham? Going in to town in the mid 1980s, going to the hustle and bustle of the market and listening to the sound of steel drums. Birmingham was a little bit more urban than it is now. It was a bit more rough and ready. It was more raw. More rock and roll.
When was your breakthrough moment? When I opened Jessica’s in 2003. We were the AA’s Restaurant of the Year in our first 12 months, the first one in Birmingham to ever get that award. We then became Birmingham’s first restaurant to ever win a Michelin Star, and we got critiqued by all the national press the minute we opened the door.
How did you get into what you’re doing today? I’ve been working in independent restaurants for most of my career, most of them Michelin starred. It got to the point where I couldn’t understand why I working for other people, so I decided to re-mortgage my house and go it alone! That’s why I’m here!
What’s the greatest memory from your career? It’s got to be when we won the Michelin Star for Jessica’s in 2005. It was something that I’ve always wanted to achieve. I’d worked in Michelin starred restaurants and had been part of the team that had gained Michelin Stars, but to do it myself with my own team was wonderful.
Favourite thing to do in Birmingham? Depending on how they’re playing, is going down to watch the Blues! I love to go to the football. I also love to go to some of the little pubs around Birmingham. I like to go to Digbeth and have a couple of pints. I like to try and hold on to the parts of Birmingham that are still raw. It can be quite difficult as it is a very different city since the big refurb in 2002. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the way the city has turned out. Speaking of raw actually, another one of my favourite things to do is to go out for sushi to Sushi Passion in the Great Western Arcade!
What makes Birmingham stand out to you? Birmingham doesn’t stand out to me because it’s mine. I don’t know any different. It stands out to the rest of the country purely on where it’s come from. It’s come from being a city that got mocked for being dull, grey, not having much going for it in terms of entertainment and hospitality, but now it’s one of the best places to go in the country.
What are your thoughts on the future of Birmingham? Birmingham just needs to keep on doing what it does. What we don’t need to do is get obsessed with trying to be better than Manchester, or Leeds, or anywhere else. We just need to concentrate on being good at being Birmingham, and forget about the rest. We can’t get flooded by the commercial side, by chain restaurants and big corporate organisations crushing the independent businesses. We need the commercial organisations because we need the investment, but we need to hold on to what we’re good at, and what we are is really friendly.
Who’s the most famous person you think is from Birmingham? Tony Iommi, who’s the lead guitarist of Black Sabbath. He wrote most of Black Sabbath’s stuff and he’s a good friend of mine. He’s quite a quiet man for being a rock and roll star. Black Sabbath are the original rock and roll band, and whatever anybody else does now, Black Sabbath have already done. He’s such a talented man, and he’s still got an accent like mine! The guy’s a legend. An absolute legend.
Who are your heroes? Someone you look up to? I’ve always been self determined so I don’t really look up to people. I admire people, though. I admire Heston Blumenthal. He has taken everything to another level. I admire the Roux family. I love what they did coming to a country that didn’t really know fine dining in the mid 1960s to what they are still doing here now. I know the family and I respect them all. And I admire anybody who gets out of bed in the morning and does a good hard day’s work and lives a good, solid, honest life. With a Birmingham accent 🙂
If you had a dinner party, which 3 people would you invite? Willie Wonka for the creativity. King Leonidas because he’s hard as nails. And Tony Iommi who’s a rock and roll legend. Who else would you need?! And if they can’t make it… my three kids.
What are your plans for the future? Do you know what, I never have massive plans because I’ve been there and done that. It’s really difficult because I set out, when I started cooking, with a mission. People now say “What’s your five-year plan?”… and I’ve almost done everything that I set out to do. I know that sounds pretty sad at 42, but all I ever wanted was to own my own restaurant. I’m from a very humble background. I’m from a council estate. Most of my friends have just got normal jobs, and I’m lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked hard, but I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve. My plan now is just to enjoy life and carry on doing what I’m doing. I don’t want to take over the world. I just love doing what I do. What I don’t want to do is take anything for granted by asking and wishing for more. I’m living the dream.
Who’s the most famous person in your phone book? I’ve got quite a few famous people in my phonebook, and that would be telling!