Chefs’ Forum at Nyetimber
Every now and again we get a message from someone who, thinking that we are a bar or a restaurant, tells us that they’re going to come and visit or that they’d like us to visit them. Naturally, we always explain – albeit with a subtle tone of sadness – that our Cabinet Rooms have yet to find a home.
Thankfully, when the lovely people at The Chefs’ Forum learned that I didn’t have a team of kitchen staff under my wing they didn’t rescind their generous invitation to what, quite frankly, sounded like a brilliant day out!
The Chefs’ Forum was set up by Catherine Farinha, a specialist food PR professional, who wanted to do something to make a positive change in the hospitality industry. The organisation hosts events for hospitality professionals, giving them (literally) a forum to share ideas, best practice and network.
So, one bright, sunny morning I hopped in the car with a wine merchant friend and off we drove through the West Sussex countryside to Nyetimber’s beautiful vineyard.
As you know, we are all for discovery and learning and so The Chefs’ Forum’s goal of providing opportunities for young people to develop their skills and careers particularly resonates with us. Top chefs have teamed up with local catering colleges to work with young chefs “to mentor, share ideas, motivate, and inspire the talent of tomorrow.”
This was demonstrated when, on arrival, we were treated to some delicious canapés that had been created by winner of MasterChef The Professionals, Steven Edwards, with the assistance of students from Hospitality Industry Training. Nibbling on delicious tidbits, such as a sublime mouthfuls of pork prepared three ways (delicious skewers of pork belly with pâté and crackling), we mingled and perused a mini-trade show.
After a brief encounter with a chocolate head, expertly crafted by Paul Wayne Gregory, and a sample of his wonderful passion fruit chocolates, we moved on with the rest of the group to a tasting of Nyetimber’s wines, let by resident expert Neil Irvine.
Having tried the Nyetimber range already on a previous visit, and being the designated driver for the day, I (somewhat regretfully!) donated the majority of my tasting glass contents to my ‘plus one’, who seemed to be rather enjoying the additional tasters coming her way!
What I hadn’t experienced before, however, was a food pairing with Nyetimber’s wines. What an absolute privilege and pleasure, in that case, to sample these fantastic wines matched with dishes prepared by Steven Edwards.
While Mr Edwards demonstrated his cooking, he explained to the attentive crowd that his passion is in showcasing English products, particularly those from Sussex (where he sources around 80% of his ingredients). The ethos behind his dining experience business, Etch, is to try to source the best quality ingredients from the nearest location possible.
A beautiful piece of cod loin was pan fried and served with fresh peas and asparagus from South Brockwells Farm. Interestingly, the asparagus had been chargrilled to perfection on a Monolith Kamado Grill and served drizzled with an oil that was infused with charcoal. This was a deliciously light and fresh dish that paired superbly with the 2007 Blanc de Blancs we were served. This is a 100% Chardonnay that is only made in the best possible years. The description of the wine having a ‘ripe citrus backbone’ tickled my fancy and I could see how its herbaceous notes paired so well with the asparagus. Here was a food and wine pairing I’d quite happily consume again and again.
Our final dish was just delightful. A lemon cake made with a touch of thyme and a beurre noisette to give it a slightly bitter, nutty flavour. Blueberries had been sourced locally from locally-renowned forager, Blueberry Bob, and were scattered across the sponge with candied pistachios. The fruit had been vac’ed (as the experts say) with a elderflower cordial, which was then drizzled on the dish before it was served with a homemade yoghurt sorbet. We enjoyed this dish with a glass of Demi-Sec which paired beautifully with its notes of candied ripe lemon acid and subtle nuttiness.
I felt very lucky indeed to be able to sample food prepared by a Masterchef winner. What was equally inspirational, however, was Steven Edwards’ approach to cooking and his enthusiasm for supporting and developing the next generation of culinary professionals. A far cry from the stereotypical loud and aggressive chefs we’ve come to know on TV!
We finished our day with a trip out to see the vines, which at the time were preparing to bloom. If you’re interested in knowing more about the vineyard itself then read our post all about our experience on one of the first of Nyetimber’s Open Days back in 2014.
Huge thanks to The Chefs’ Forum for letting this enthusiastic blogger join in for the day! They say that every day is a school day and it’s true… I just never experienced school meals like this before now!