Think of all the people who have influenced you over your career.
I’m in the process of planning the next chapter of my career and I’ve gone round in circles and changed my mind so many times. There are so many factors to consider now. There is always a lot to consider but in a global pandemic with changing restrictions in the mix, it is proving harder to pin down exactly a) what I think will work, but more importantly b) what I want to do.
I see the next step as the most important decision I will make.
When making decisions, I normally talk with my friend and business mentor who is not in the hospitality industry. Although he isn’t in the industry, he gets me and is able to question my irrational want to make crazy decisions and offer a more level headed way of thinking that allows me to question myself and my rationale. All of this is so important when trying to make decisions.
For this decision I also decided to go back to where it all started for me. Albeit 5+ years into my career in the hospitality industry, I went back to when I truly knew what it meant to be a chef. I contacted my good friend Lewis King, who was my Head Chef back then and made a plan to go and see him.
I worked with Lewis back in 2001 in Cambridge. I was working at the University Centre in the main prep kitchen. Lewis was Head Chef in the Riverside Restaurant.
Chris Pope was the Executive Chef overseeing the whole business. He was another huge part of my career. I learnt so much from him on how to manage a kitchen and writing menus, but that’s another story. I was working in the prep kitchen for the canteen when Chris asked if I wanted to work a VIP evening event with him and the rest of the team for the restaurant. I still vividly remember we served a beef Wellington stuffed with a foie gras spear it was amazing. White truffles were ordered in and the fryer was drained, cleaned and filled with nut oil. Learning how much the truffles cost, filling a fryer with a specific oil to fry something in, tasting foie gras for the first time, there were so many new experiences in one night, it was completely insane to me but I loved it.
I started to pay more attention to what was going on in the restaurant kitchen and eventually an opportunity became available to work with Lewis so I was there in a flash! I remember him and the Restaurant Manager had been to the Fat Duck and were talking about a dish that was served to them on the back of their hands for them to eat along with other crazy things that again blew my mind.
John Campbell’s Formulas for Flavour had just been released and this was the go to book at the time. So like anyone who read it, we were roasting veal bones at 172°C and we made so many chicken, mushroom and foie gras terrines.
One day Lewis brought in a copy of his Charlie Trotter cook book. It was like no cook book I had ever seen. Big, with beautiful pictures on every other page. Ingredients I had never heard of and flavor combinations that seemed alien to me. But that book, along with numerous other things I experienced whilst working with Lewis changed the way I thought about food for ever.
Lewis eventually left and I took over as Head Chef under the watchful eye of Chris Pope. We have stayed in touch, I have eaten at most of the places he has since worked and we always comment on each other’s food on social media, but it had been a while since I’d seen him.
When I reached the point in my career where I was managing kitchens, I worked my holidays in Michelin star restaurants to gain more knowledge and experience. Constantly staying inspired. Even when you are at the top you need to feed from something to stay being the best. Eating out at other restaurants, reading books, whatever it takes, we all find different ways to do it but those at the top stay inspired!
I have written so many business plans over the last few months, some more spider diagrams than a plan, but in each one there was always something missing.
Then a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a little time in the company of Matt Sankey who since the start of this pandemic back in March has been a huge inspiration. Watching what he has been doing through social media and the support he has given other business through knowledge of rules, legislation, etc it seems like he literally hasn’t stopped the whole way through this and it made me think. There is something about being around people like this, it’s contagious. I realised that for the best part of 7 months I have been uninspired. I have adapted and developed my business and done some great things but personally I haven’t been inspired. So I reached out to Lewis to see if he would spend a day with me to talk through my most favorable business plan.
Turns out it has been 8 years since we have actually seen each other, so I will be going to visit his restaurant as soon possible! After an 11k walk along the Norfolk coast I was not only certain the plan was the right one, I was also more informed about the things I needed to do to make it work. Most notably, I was inspired.
So surround yourself with likeminded people, keep learning and developing your skills and push yourself to be the best version of yourself. We all have flaws but what separates us is the is the ability to learn from mistakes and bad decisions and move on to bigger and better things.
Make sure you stay inspired. Meet up with the people that have inspired you, find new people to inspire you and though doing this you will inspire others!
This is a question I get asked a lot as a chef and up until now I would always just say I don’t have one, but now I think I may just have created it!
Thai spiced butternut squash with crab and coconut
Beautiful freshly picked white crab meat in a brick pastry tart topped with a Thai spiced butternut squash espuma
This is possibly my favorite dish that I have created, ever. I love Thailand and the flavours they use in their cooking so I have utilised some of these flavours in this dish.
I have been making the soup base for the espuma for years but the addition of the sweet meaty crabmeat takes the flavors to the next level.
If you would like this dish as part of your Supper Club please just ask or if you want to give it a go yourself here is the recipe to try it at home.
300g freshly picked white crab meat
¼ red chili (finely diced)
8 sprigs coriander (finely chopped)
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
2 spring onions (finely chopped)
5g galangal (finely chopped)
Mix everything together and season with salt to taste.
Thai spiced butternut squash espuma
300g butternut squash (roughly diced)
½ onion (finely sliced)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced)
¾ red chili (finely sliced)
20g galangal (finely chopped)
4 lime leaves
1 stick lemon grass
1 tin coconut milk
20g coconut oil
Salt to taste
Place the coconut oil into a large saucepan on medium heat. The add everything else except for the coconut milk and water. Place a lid on the pan and cook on a low heat to sweat everything down until soft stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks.
Then add the coconut milk and water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour.
Remove the lemon grass and blend until smooth, and then pass through a fine sieve into the espuma gun. Gas with nitrogen.
Brick pastry tart
6 x12cm round sheets of brick pastry
Lay the brick pastry in a tart mold, and cover with cling film. Fill the Clingfilm with rice.
Bake in the oven at 200°C until evenly golden brown (15 minutes ish).
Remove and allow to cool.
Fresh coconut flesh
Place the brick pastry tart in the center of the plate.
After giving up trying to lift weights in the garden, going on two runs and doing a couple of online body weight movement sessions, I finally remembered I had my bike in the shed. So thought I would dust the cobwebs off, literally.
I haven’t used it since my last sprint distance triathlon back in 2013. I used to love cycling. For me, it was the best bit of Triathlon training. So I searched for my cycling gear and found that it was all far too small for me! Lockdown had well and truly got a hold of me by this point and instead of the 80kg I was back in 2013, I was sitting around 98kg, which I can attribute mainly to beer. Nevertheless I sucked my belly in and prayed that the zips did not break as I squeezed into the stretched-to-the-limit lycra. My movement was pretty restricted but luckily you don’t need to move your upper body too much on the bike.
I went out and hit a 14k loop that I used to do on my rest days. Unsurprisingly it was hard work, but the landscape was beautiful and this is one of the things I have always loved about getting out on the bike. We are so lucky here in Tonbridge. In 5 minutes you can be in the beautiful Kent countryside. So I got home knackered but happy! I waited to see how the legs felt after a couple of days and they were ok so I did the route again only this time a little faster. I was a little less knackered and happy again.
Exercise makes you happy BUT you have to enjoy the exercise for it to be sustainable. I was not happy doing the weights, in fact it was probably having the reverse effect and just pissing me off. Before lockdown I was, and have for a long time, been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which for me is perfect as the ‘getting fit’ part is a byproduct of having fun with friends, wrestling and learning some cool stuff.
Cycling is the same in lots of ways. Like Jiu Jitsu, cycling enables you to train together in a team but you are on your own on race days or those big weekend rides. No one can physically help you on that big hill; it’s down to you to dig deep in the same way when you are under someone’s side control in a Jiu Jitsu competition. The guy on the side shouting, “get out from under him” doesn’t help! It’s all on you and you need to utilize everything you have learnt while training with your team to get out. I love this!
So anyway, after my second ride out I bought a new jersey online, in a Large. When it arrived, it didn’t fit much better than the old ones. It was at this point that my mindset shifted. Not being able to fit into a large top (even though cycling jerseys come up small) was the trigger I needed to break some pretty unhealthy habits and train more. We all know its calories in vs calories out and I’ve always trained really hard, which has allowed me a little flexibility on my diet and drinking. However, stop training and keep eating and drinking means I blow up like a balloon pretty quick. Being someone who likes to eat and drink, I decided to increase my training so some rides I was burning 1800 calories. So far the most I’ve burnt on one ride was our 145k ride to Rye that burnt 3785 calories. The more I trained the less I drank, the better I started to eat. If we were heading out on Sunday morning ride, I wouldn’t drink too much the night before and would try and get an early night.
Now 3 months since my first ride of 2020 I have stopped drinking completely, made a few tweaks to my diet, I am doing yoga every morning and I am feeling great. I am also now ranked 10th on one of the Strava segments that covers part of the loop I first went out on and have now reduced my time for that loop from the initial 33:35 to 27:13. Perhaps most importantly, the new jersey that was too tight now fits perfectly!
We have managed to bring a few likeminded cyclists from Tonbridge and surrounding areas together and created PeloTON, a fun little club that anyone can join. We ride varying distances on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays as a group. We have had some awesome Sunday rides around Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We have climbed two of the top 100 hills in the UK including The Wall and York Hill. We’ve seen some stunning views on the marshland around Romney and up on Ashdown Forest. Most importantly we’ve found some great coffee shops. We are heading out to Whitstable next Sunday to try and hit the 100-mile trip goal.
If you are interested in joining contact us on Instagram or join our club on Strava (PeloTON).
I am a wine geek. I am totally fascinated by the fermented, fortified and distilled. I’ve been studying wine in various guises through travel, gastronomy, tastings, vineyard visits, books and courses for over ten years now and the bug has not abated.
Apart from the fact that I really enjoy drinking and talking about wine, I got completely hooked the subject when I realised how broad a topic it really is. To have a rounded knowledge of viniculture and vinification (the processes of growing grapes and making wine) you find yourself studying history, culture, geography, agriculture, politics, business, marketing, anthropology…the list goes on.
Two weeks ago I graduated from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in London with a WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. It was a long and nerve wracking wait for results, having passed my final exam in January 2019. The Diploma is a globally recognised qualification, infamous for the amount of self-study needed to pass…only the brave need apply!
My partner Rob and I moved to Tonbridge from London just over three years ago. We decided to move after a trip to see Ben and Kirsty Sulston whom Rob has known for over 20 years, having cooked with Ben as young chefs starting out in Cambridge.
At the time we moved I had just started studying for the diploma as a night school student. I have a demanding day job in the city and lots of personal commitments, so it is with gruelling first-hand experience that I admit to my naivete in starting this journey part time. The learning scope for this course was beyond anything I had ever encountered with a recommended minimum of 600 hours of study outside of class and excluding your written assignment. The course touches on every aspect of the wine and spirits world and you will sit 11 hours of examination by the time you’re done…that’s if you pass everything first time (I did not and had to subject my friends and family to copious amounts of sparkling wine to prepare for a resit. They suffered graciously). This is not for the faint hearted and I admire and respect anyone who embarks on this journey.
I am incredibly fortunate to share my life with an equally obsessed and dedicated Chef who has encouraged me to push myself that bit further further at every step, in the same way he has approached his career and learning in the culinary world.
Rob and I have worked on many collaborations over the years and towards the end of 2019, after hosting a number of events together, we decided to start a supper club in Tonbridge as an outlet for our creativity andthat focused as much on the drinks parings as it did on the development of the food.
We held our first Super Natural Supper Club event in TOFS development kitchen last November. Inspired by the fantastic produce and Game available in Kent, we developed a menu to showcase the best of the season. Reaching out to local producers we were able to source some beautiful duck, pigeon and venison from Chart Farm in Sevenoaks and work with local fresh fruit and vegetable wholesaler Seasons by Nature. Having such a innovative and varied menu to work with gave me the opportunity to get creative with the drinks pairing, finding wines that would not necessarily be an obvious choice but would would compliment the menu at each stage.
We kicked off the evening with a venison tartar dish served with a Kentish sparkling cider made by Charringtons, a fantastic cider producer based 10 minutes away in Matfield. Being able to visit the orchards and get in depth information on the growing and production of their cider and apple juice has definitely been a highlight of starting a local supper club.
We paired a feinherb Riesling from Germany, which had just the faintest amount of residual sugar, with a Duck and Beetroot dish. A dry Madiera wine was served with Pigeon and turnip and an elegant, full bodied Cabernet Savignon, Malbec and Cabernet franc blend from Medoza, Argentina, paired with venison and celeriac. The herbal notes in this wine worked amazingly well with pickled blackberries on the dish. We finished the menu serving a Reserve Tawny Port with both the cheese course and the following dessert of chocolate and pears and ended the evening with coffee and brown butter madeleines.
We had such lovely feedback from our guests and so much fun preparing and hosting the Game event that we held our second supper club in December. This was a great success, serving a menu and drinks pairing inspired by our extensive travels in Spain.
Our Supper Clubs are a labour of love and we aim to give the absolute best value for money and service possible while delivering innovative food and wine that is unique and exciting. Our next supper club will be held on February the 7th and 8th at TOFS development kitchen and is inspired by the forefathers of gastronomy, french cuisine.
When Ben invited me to write a post for this website I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself and the Super Natural Supper club that Rob and I have started but also to share a little wine info. I had so many geeky wine ideas to write about that I didn’t know where to begin.
So I reached out to friends and asked … what would you want to read about in wine blog? They responded enthusiastically and here are a few of their questions…
Is there a wine that goes with anything?
For me, the wine that can be pared with practically anything would be a good quality sparkling white wine. Whether this is champagne, Cava (my personal favourite for taste and value for money) or English sparkling wine you will find this doesn’t offend the vast majority of dishes. It can be drunk alone or with sweet dishes. It can be paired with bar snacks, cheese, fish or meat. It stands up to spicy food and strong flavours and works beautifully with vegetarian dishes. If in doubt, choose a sparkling white wine.
Can you really get a decent bottle of wine at a super market for less than £10?
Yes. It is definitely possible although I always encourage people to think about what can actually make a wine a little more expensive (outside of Burgundy which has set the price level astronomically high). Fair labour costs, hand harvesting, natural and ethical farming methods and distribution will all add to the cost of your wine. In much the same way that it effects other consumable products that we buy. However, there are some gems out there. I am particularly fond of Toro Loco organic tempranillo from Aldi at £4.99 a bottle (we came across this wine for the first time in Spain) and Waitrose Classic Cotes du Rhône at £6.99 is a decent bottle from a spectacular wine producing region that is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Is Aldi wine really as good as the media makes out?
Some of it is really pretty good. Particularly wines from smaller producers. I mentioned Toro Loco earlier at a very reasonable price, there is also a nice range of organic sparking Italian wines from Castellone Organico. At a little higher price range you can find Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG £12.99 and Jean-Paul Seguin Sancerre £15.99 that are both very nice wines. Its a good place to start trying different styles of wine to see what you like without spending a fortune.
What grapes should I look for if I want light red wines?
We are big fans of light red wine at home and although the wine making accounts for a lot in the style of wine there are some general guides – Pinot Noir is the queen of light red wines – the cooler the climate the grapes are grown in will usually give a lighter wine but I would also recommend looking for the Gamay grape if you like light and fruity wines. Beaujolais are the most famous Gamay wine and readily available. Saniovese which is the grape used for Chiante also fits the category and try to seek out natural wine producers making young wines for something interesting. There are some great suppliers on line. Check out pullthecork.co.uk
Does an older wine mean it’s a better wine?
This is a huge topic to cover and depends very much on the specific wine as ageing wine will definitely change it but not necessarily for the better. Some varieties are generally considered more age worthy that others – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Nebbiolo to name a few. This has a lot to do with the tannic structure of the wines that breaks down slowly over time and make the wines more approachable. That said many wines are not meant to be laid down for decades and will be most enjoyable drunk young.
Wines labels grand reserva will most likely be subject to minimum ageing requirements, for a red Rioja wine this is two years in barrel and 3 years in bottle minimum. These will be more complex and refined than younger wines from the same region but not necessarily better depending on your taste.
If you intend to spend a large amount of money on a very old bottle or case of wine this should come with certification of how it has been stored – even the most age worthy wine can be ruined by light, temperature and humidity
What’s the best way to store wine at home?
The key things to remember when storing wine at home is light and temperature. Wine hates fluctuations in both! A cool constant temperature and protection from sun light will keep wines happier for longer.
What makes a wine vegan?
Traditionally, some fining agents used to remove particles in wine that are too small to be removed by filtration can make a wine unsuitable for vegans as they can contain egg and certain proteins derived from animals, however, contemporary vegetable based products are becoming far more popular. It is more likely that a wine is vegan friendly than not and while producers are starting to add this information to wine labels, especially as vegans diets become more popular, there is currently very little legislation globally that requires this information to be noted on the bottle.
The answers above are my opinion and are brief, there is always more to say and I will be discussing these subjects along with a bunch of other food and wine related topics on the Super.Natural.Supper.Club website when we launch later this year.
We had a brilliantly busy January here at TOFS with private events and a host of new supper clubs with some incredible chefs including Stuart Deeley winner of Master Chef. We have also added new dishes to the café menu including the very popular spiced aubergine and tomatoes on toast.
Down the road at TOFS Development Kitchen we hosted our first private event of 2020. Our 8 guests were treated to a tasting menu with some astounding matching wines chosen by the guests. I also hosted my first Supper Club of 2020 there, which made me feel very nostalgic as it was three years ago to the month that I held my very first Supper Club in January 2017.
Julie Friend held her Cook Book Supper Club at TOFS Development Kitchen showcasing the wonderful food of Ottolenghi, which as always received huge praise from the guests. For her February Cookbook Supper club, Julie takes us on a pescatarian food adventure with one of her heroes, Rick Stein. To book click here.
We have got a busy month ahead in February. My Supper Club is at TOFS for two nights on 14/15th and we have 3 pop ups at theTOFS Development Kitchen including on 7/8th the talented Rob and Natalia of Super Natural Supper Club hosting their latest pop up. To book click here.
Check out our events page for more info on our pop ups in February!
If you would like to book TOFS Development Kitchen for a private event please get in contact through the enquiry form on here or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
OUR LATEST GUEST BLOG IS WRITTEN BY JP AN ASPIRING VEGAN ATHLETE WHO IS A BLACK BELT IN BJJ TRAINING AT ELEMENTS BJJ IN BRIGHTON.
I say I athlete…. at 48 married with four kids and working in IT, I’m like everyone else addicted to this aggressive hugging.
So here’s some context… I just got my black belt. It’s taken just over 9 and a half years.
In that time I’ve tried to ensure that I train a minimum of three times a week for approximately two hours each session. That can vary, sometimes it’ll be a little less, other times more. The intensity also varies but I’ve always like to roll competitively too. By that I mean yeah I can do the flow roll thing or spar at lower than 100% but I enjoy rolling when it feels like you’re both going for it and you’re being pushed.
In addition for the last four plus years I’ve added strength training and cardio work on the days I can’t get onto the mats.
Thing is, at my cranky old age if I don’t rest/refuel/recover correctly then my body lets me know which in turn dials my crankiness up to an extreme level.
I want to be on the mats as much as possible so I have to EAT.
Now I always wanted to switch to a vegetarian diet as to me deep down it seems the right thing to do. Burgers, dirty chicken and a lack of will power have continually perpetuated an internal conflict…. but there comes a time.
I didn’t mention it because I wanted to avoid that “how do you know if someone is a vegan” cliché, but I pretty much follow a vegan diet. Don’t worry the righteousness isn’t about to explode from your screen. It’s because my wife has a dairy allergy. So seeing as we don’t eat meat, she can’t have milk stuff and we like to eat together that means? yeah vegan….. -ish ?
First thing everyone says is “how do you get protein?”. Well actually the first thing everyone ever says is “I love bacon too much”.
Anyway the question of fuelling correctly if you change your diet is a good one. Luckily transitioning from a meat to non-meat diet has been done before so there are literally tons of good sources out there. In my case it was mostly handled by my amazing wife who happens to be a Personal Trainer. She has an unquenchable addiction to purchasing recipe books and a ridiculously low boredom threshold. This means that our evening meal options are varied and to be honest that’s key when changing to a non-meat diet. You have to be prepared to try a completely new approach especially as for most people meat is the centrepiece of a meal.
A typical day looks a bit like this:
Breakfast: Black coffee. Porridge: Oats, almond milk, banana, peanut butter, maybe some maple syrup.
Lunch: If I’m at home then avocado on sourdough toast. Maybe with marmite…. or mushrooms… or both. If I’m not at home then something totally crap from a shop or vending machine.
I’m so lazy
If I said things like salad or grains then I wouldn’t sell it well. Mainly because with those things you have to re-think what you think a salad is. Same with how you use grains. So instead of that, how about noodles? Everyone loves noodles right?
THIS IS FROM ANNA JONES “A MODERN WAY TO EAT”
Bunch of purple sprouting broccoli
200g Soba noodles
Shredded red cabbage (not loads… half a small one… probably)
Brown rice vinegar
200g Smoked tofu
Juice of 1 lemon
toasted sesame seeds
handful of roughly chopped coriander
Get a pan with some water and heat that sucker up. Then drop in the broccoli. DON’T boil it until it’s limp, instead just simmer it for a couple of minutes.
Fish out the broccoli, then chuck in the noodles. They’ll probably have some cooking instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and run cold water over them.
Now chuck the cabbage in a bowl with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of rice vinegar and the same of maple syrup. Mix that shit up.
Heat up a splash of oil in a frying pan. When it’s hot as hell, add that tasty tofu and sizzle it until each side is crisp as fuck. Add some sesame seeds, stir it up so the seeds stick to the tofu. Then take the tofu out.
Bit more oil, bit of heat and throw in the spring onions. When softened add a tablespoon of rice vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup as well as some sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Cook it for a bit and it’ll get nice and thick.
Throw the noodles back in and stir it up so they’re covered in that thick ooziness. Dish that up. Add the cabbage, tofu and broccoli…. wait we’re not finished. Top with a sprinkle to toasted sesame seeds and chopped coriander.
Yeah that’s DAMN tasty.
I do get asked if there any benefits……Apart from the sanctimonious stuff you mean? yeah I definitely feel like my weight doesn’t fluctuate as much. Previously I would vary between 77kg-82kg. Now I am pretty much static at 77/78kg.
My energy levels feel more consistent too. I think that’s because previously I would eat less carbs but more protein, whereas now I eat LOADS of carbs
SO WHAT’S THE SECRET?
There isn’t one…. IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME. Yeah you read that right. Just because I’ve changed what I eat, the same rules apply. Eat well and eat often.
I still eat crap occasionally, which I should cut out as I prefer competing at lightweight, but when I wander into the kitchen and see packets of crisps…. I mean who knew that if you slice up vegan cheese, put it in a wrap, then put the wrap in the toaster you can make the laziest dirty vegan grilled cheese style thing ever?
Oh and vegan salad cream on crackers is a thing. A tasty evil thing.
Maybe I’m just trying to relive my “eat any old shit” days as a singleton but without death. Who knows? Who cares? BTW I really like this article: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/there-is-nothing-pretentious-about-being-a-vegan-723