Tom Kerridge: My love for British produce
PUBLISHED: 10:26 06 September 2016
He has the nation eating out of his hand (of flowers) with his down to earth cooking and jovial manner. Rebecca Fletcher talks loving local produce with Tom Kerridge on his recent trip to Lime Wood
Entering the hallowed kitchens of Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood Hotel and Spa, there’s plenty of laughter, and the atmosphere behind the swing doors is buzzing as the kitchen brigade gather to be briefed on tonight’s busy service.
Standing alongside one of Lime Wood’s resident chefs, Angela Hartnett, is her friend and high flying fellow chef, Tom Kerridge, who is the first in a series of Guest Chef pop ups and cookery school events over the coming months.
The kitchen is noticeably full of banter and excitement as Tom, a much-loved chef with great magnetism, a sense of fun and camaraderie addresses the team.
“Tom is a very old friend of mine. We’ve known each other for donkey’s years, so it was a no brainer to ask him to feature in our line-up of Guest Chef pop ups at Lime Wood,” Angela tells me. “Not only is he at the top of his game and totally passionate about what he does, but he is seriously good fun. So to have his presence in the Hartnett Holder & Co kitchen has been a real treat.”
Meeting the man himself, it’s not hard to see why Tom garners such high opinions from his peers. A chef for 25 years, his is a career that has gone from strength to strength. From his innovative pub-style fine dining at The Hand and Flowers and second venture, The Coach, just down the road in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, to a veritable feast of cookbooks and an ever growing television career with programmes of his own. More recently we’ve seen Tom on our screens presenting on BBC’s Food Detectives and helping to showcase industry talent with programmes like the BBC series Great British Bake Off Crème de la Crème.
“I only do things that are good fun and so spending time with Angela, Luke and the team here is amazing. Lime Wood is a beautiful setting, a great place, so it’s a pleasure to come over.”
It may be good fun but Tom has an incredible work ethic and certainly isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. It’s this philosophy and his down to earth, chatty nature that resonates so well with the public, and has seen Tom achieve status as a top chef, bestselling author and popular TV personality. A household name and ‘the guy who owns the pub’ (albeit with two Michelin stars), he’s the sort of landlord you’d imagine sitting down with on a Friday night enjoying a pint at the bar.
“I love rejuvenating old ideas – things that are classics, things that people understand, creating robust, big flavoursome dishes. We try to make food that doesn’t scare people off – something that everyone recognises…that softens the perception of Michelin-starred food. Really it’s about great food cooked wonderfully.”
Tom’s culinary style celebrates unpretentious, bold cooking which reflects the seasons and brings the best of what we as a country have to offer to the table. A sentiment he is very keen to share with others.
“Everyone likes baking now, everyone likes growing their own vegetables, little artisan beers, distilled gins, all those sorts of things. That almost post-war Britain stuff was seen as old fashioned but now it’s something we think is really cool.”
Perhaps that’s why we are so enchanted with this charismatic West Country boy? He makes it seem so easy and achievable. Sharing his knowledge of the British food scene, Tom’s television work has seen him becoming more of the middle man or ‘the oil between all the cogs’ as he suggests, helping to simplify and highlight some of the more complex culinary processes or lesser known parts of the industry.
“It’s a great time to be involved in the British hospitality industry as there are so many wonderful bits and bobs that are growing and appearing,” Tom’s face lights up as he reveals what he loves about his role as a chef and restauranteur. “People’s interest in the whole food and farming industry is growing and the more we can convey that industry as chefs and restauranteurs, the prouder we will be of British produce. I’m proud to share the profession with people like Angela.”
A huge supporter of British grown food, Tom’s passion and love of home-grown produce was the driving force, more recently, behind his backing of a National Farmers Union initiative to help put British food and farming at the forefront of the political and public agenda.
“We need more education to show people how good food can be produced,” Tom shares. Shining a spotlight on Hampshire produce, Tom tells me how impressed he is of the farming practices at Laverstoke Park: “Their Buffalo mozzarella and ice creams are amazing. I’m a big fan of what Jody Scheckter is doing up there. He’s ahead of his time in terms of the way that farming is done. We need people like him to drive farming forward and get people thinking about the way food is produced.”
With a young baby on the scene, his wife Beth’s hugely acclaimed return to sculpture, and a diet book on the way charting Tom’s phenomenal weight loss journey, you’d think that this talented chap had more than enough on his plate. Not so…
“In my head, I’m already planning something for a year, two years’ time. I’m lucky that I surrounded myself with a great team of people who’ve been with us from the beginning. We’re always thinking of new ideas, working on building a business on lovely stuff that’s fun – not once has it ever been about the money. The hospitality industry is all about hospitality, a love of food and people having a lovely time. That should be what it’s all built on.”
It’s no wonder Tom’s top billing for the new Guest Pop Ups and Cookery school events at Lime Wood, this is a chef who knows what it’s all about – celebrating our county’s wonderful produce.
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