It sounds weird but it’s true. It’s just after midnight on a Tuesday. Darren, one of our development chefs and Steve our Purchasing Director and I had just spent a day down at one of the Farms in Kent, that supplies us with great fruit and veg. I have been to this particular farm before and wanted to share what these guys do with Steve and Darren. I did, however, have another agenda which I will get to eventually.

This is a very impressive farm in Kent, I won’t even try and guess how big it is or how much food they grow but the reason I came on this trip was to find out how much do they waste.

We hold a training session on this topic at least a couple times a year and it is a subject that is very close to our hearts. There is a skill gap growing in our industry and unfortunately with this it seems to result in more perfectly good things going in the bin. Some chefs will cut corners and simply not know how to use certain items or by products, so they just chuck it out! Not on my watch!

So the development team and myself will show the chefs how to, not only be clever with the things you might potentially waste, but also how not to get into that situation in the first place. Good ordering practices, stock control and produce management, fridge rotations and preservation methods. This is a global problem and we as chefs have a responsibility to set the standard.

Anyway…

So there I was on this field in Kent as we find all these fennel bulbs just lying on the ground. Now they have “bolted” which simply means that have gone too far and the root has started to come out of the top, so basically not as pretty as one would like, but do they taste rancid now? Are they inedible? No of course not! The fennel herb was enormous on these, pollen coming out of the top and Darren even discovered that the oversized root itself was delicious and could be treated like a vegetable in its own right!

Next was over sized baby chard which was brilliant in its own right but since it was out of spec for some, it had to go! Unbelievable really, since it was tasty and came in breathtaking colours.

Then the turnips!

A large patch of the field with these turnips as far as the eye could see, just laying there in the dirt, discarded, again these were out of spec for baby turnips as they had gotten too big. We collected a few up and started to tuck into them raw and you know what? They were amazing! The slight over growness of them had made them even sweeter and they lost that bitter edge that sometimes can come with turnips. Their leaves had a shellfish like taste and the turnip itself was so juicy, it was almost like an apple. But yet here they were, waiting to go ploughed back into the soil just because they were slightly different to what they were supposed to be. I had a lot in common with this turnip.

We gathered up as much as we could and various other bits from around the farm and made our way home. The whole time thinking, this is bonkers! We have to do something about this.

So that’s how I found myself at midnight staring at a turnip, slicing it and seeing if I could decode the hidden and unappreciated complexities of this under-used vegetable.

The next day we held a fine dining presentation in a tasting menu format, but only used these bits from the farm. These were amazing fresh and tasty vegetables and it would have been pointless trying to add too much to them or just sticking them on the side of a lump of protein in whatever format we wanted. And the fact that these were destined to never leave the farm but be used the enrich the soil???

Until next time… watch this space, I have an idea!

Pete Redman
Executive Chef