What are the benefits of using seasonal produce?
Seasonality means using the best quality. The best quality strawberries are available in June and July and at the end of March is when the asparagus season starts. Seasonality is also an advantage for businesses because when a product is at its best and is plentiful the price comes down.
Wherever I can I try to use British as I think it is important to support our farming heritage, although it does mean occasionally that you pay a bit more than you would for something from France or Holland. Buying something produced here though means it’s fresher as it is cut it on a Monday and I get it on Tuesday. Whereas if I get a product from Holland it is cut for two days before I receive it.
How do you implement seasonality at The Chancery?
The menu is constantly evolving and I change a dish every two to three weeks to reflect seasonal changes. This works from a cost perspective but also we get bored cooking the same meals all the time.
It is nice to challenge yourself to replace one dish with a better dish. My suppliers are good at letting me know when something is about to come into season so I can plan for it. I love working that way because you are getting great produce all the time.
Do you only use seasonal British produce?
There are certain things we can never grow in this country or parts of Europe such as avocados, oranges and lemons. But the most important products are the ones you build your dishes around.
I have just put a chicken dish on the menu with asparagus in it. I am getting the asparagus from Brittany while English asparagus is starting this week. I will have that dish on for about six weeks before I take it off. A massive bonus of my job is it’s never the same as we always have new produce coming in.
How important are your suppliers?
I try and build good relationships with suppliers and keep them in the loop about what I want to use and they keep me in the loop about what they think or know is coming in. The suppliers do a lot of the legwork and I do a lot of research. If you know you have a certain product for six to eight weeks, then you have that time to work on the next dish and that cycle works like that all year.
What advice would you give other chefs looking at seasonality?
I would say have suppliers you can trust and have a good relationship with them. They will want to give you their best produce and will let you know if something exciting is coming in. You tend to find that things that are in season at the same time work best together. For example, at this time of year you have got wild garlic, asparagus and morel mushrooms. If you make a dish out of them, whatever you do is going to be delicious. It almost writes your menu for you and takes the pressure off. You have got the best of everything at a good price and it is readily available.
What more can be done to promote seasonality?
I think more and more people are aware of seasonality but it is something the supermarkets could do more with. Supermarkets have got better but over the years it has always been their message that they can get you whatever you want whenever you want it.
Promoting seasonality is also about educating children and the younger generation as to what is good and what they should eating at certain times of the year. People are so much more concerned about where there food has come from and how it is produced.
That can sometimes make our job more difficult as people are more demanding but sometimes it can make it easier. You can serve someone a beautifully cooked carrot and what he or she appreciates is where you sourced it and where it was grown.