Chef Dave Pigram on integrating superfoods into menus

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dave Pigram is a big believer in the health benefits of superfoods which he weaves into his menu at Waterleaf Restaurant in Kent
Dave Pigram is a big believer in the health benefits of superfoods which he weaves into his menu at Waterleaf Restaurant in Kent

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With superfoods predicted to be a growing trend for menus BigHospitality speaks to Dave Pigram, head chef at The Waterleaf Restaurant at Reynolds Retreat in Kent, about how he is using them in his menus and why they can be beneficial to health and business.

How did you come to use superfoods at your restaurant?:

Back in May Emma Reynolds (founder of The Retreat’s owner Reynolds Group) bought me small bags of spirulina and chlorella - which are probably two of the hardest ones to work with. They are brilliant for you and packed with protein but they’re made from pond algae so as you can imagine they don’t taste fantastic. You’ve got to know what you’re signing up for when you eat them.

We tried them and then I made contacts with a couple of companies who supply superfoods. Rainforest is a company I’m using to get most of our superfoods from, they’ve probably got the biggest range out there.

It’s been a real hit and miss story with the first trial runs as I didn’t have a great knowledge of them before I joined, but I’ve been learning on the job and think we’re getting better at it now. 

How are you using superfoods in your menu?:

Sometimes we try and build a dish around superfoods, but there are some really basic things you can do with them to enhance dishes. You can add chia and hemp seeds or goji berries to porridge. Those kinds of ingredients are easy to work into dishes.

Chefs always like a challenge, sometimes you get something that can be too difficult to use, but a lot of it on our side is about educating people that these things are out there and the benefits of it.

We’ve been using maca in some dishes. Maca’s had a lot of press recently – it’s got a malted flavour and is an invigorating superfood. It used to be used by Aztec warriors before they went into battle, but has recently been dubbed the female Viagra which has meant it has got a lot of press and consequently the price has tripled this year.

We now struggle to get hold of the stuff, but when we can get it we find it works really well with chocolate dishes. We use it with white chocolate ice creams which we churn on demand. We’d normally have to put stabilisers in the ice cream, but maca also works as a substitute for that. It has more than health benefits we’ve found – it’s a real learning-curve. 

How do you communicate the use of superfoods to Reynolds Retreat customers?:

We always mention the superfoods that are in each dish on our menu and will have a superfood emblem on the menu to say they’re there in a dish.

On the back of the menu we’ll list a selection of superfoods being used at that time with an explanation of what the benefits are and how we use it. All our front-of-house staff are trained on it too and taste everything so they can talk about it with our guests. People respond positively to that. 

Would you encourage other chefs to get involved in this new ‘trend’?:

I don’t know if they should as that would make me less unique. But joking aside, if they wanted to look into it more, chefs would be enlightened.

There is the danger that if they tried the wrong one first it could put them off pretty quick, but we’ve just been persistent and stuck with it because we believe in it.

Do superfoods really have health benefits?:

They have changed my life. When I was a chef working in the city I didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle. Before I worked at The Retreat I would’ve had a coffee at home in the morning, but now I put some guarana or baobab in my smoothie in the morning and it gives me a bit of get up and go.

Often I put Co Q10 into things at home like baking it into bread. Co Q10 is really high in omega three in it and great for your joints. I’ve suffered from arthritis since I was three-years-old and I incorporate that into my daily diet and it helps. Using superfoods can be life-changing and have seen the benefits first hand which is why I’m such a believer in it. 

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