There are plenty of tools you might expect to see in a Chef’s hand: a whisk, a blowtorch, a blender. But how about a trough or some pruning shears?
To celebrate National Allotment Week, we caught up with some of our green fingered teams, who inspired by their love for fresh produce, have created their own allotments to supply their kitchens.
Chris Dickson, head chef
Chris has had his allotment for over six years after becoming frustrated at the lack of quality fruit and vegetables available in supermarkets. Chris grows an incredible twenty-four types of produce, including asparagus, melon, garlic and gooseberries.
“I love knowing the food I have grown has been raised from a tiny seed, to the dinner plate”, Chris said, “plus, it helps reduce food miles and costs. One 99p packet of seeds, can grow up to thirty plants!”
Keen gardener Chris recently converted an overgrown patch into a herb garden at the University of Cumbria. From chocolate mint and lemon balm to bronze fennel, the herb garden is used to train young chefs on the different herb variations and how best to match them with dishes. Chris is always receiving great feedback from customers about the freshness of the dishes, inspiring him to invest in a large greenhouse for next year, outside the university kitchen.
Barbara Reeves, supervisor
Barbara has managed her allotment in Essex for the last three months. Barbara said there has been positive engagement from customers: “The great thing about having an allotment is that all our herbs on the salad bar are as fresh as they can be, and our customers get to go outside and see vegetables growing from scratch”.
The team grows cherry tomatoes, chillies, radishes and spring onions and hope to invest in a compost heap in the future. What’s the secret to a flourishing allotment? “Keep it simple”, Barbara says, “don’t forget to water it and never be scared to try something unusual, such as black tomatoes or yellow cucumbers”.
Craig Bradley, catering manager
Courgettes, heritage carrots and beetroot are amongst the produce growing in Craig’s allotment. When asked what inspired him to ‘grow your own’ Craig said: “The allotment was just an empty plot located next to the kitchen. I knew immediately it would create interest for our client and customers”.
With plenty of peaches, chard and romesco for the kitchen, Craig’s customers value the proximity of where their food comes from: “We receive really positive feedback from our customers, they get excited when they know the produce for our Dressed salad range is being grown just outside the window”.
“My top tip for maintaining an allotment is to use beer traps and coffee grounds to surround the beds, for protection against slugs. Also, growing your produce from seeds in the greenhouse, allows them to harden gradually before planting.”
Chris Phypers, retail chef
Growing over eleven types of produce on their rooftop including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale, retail chef Chris helps maintain the allotment in a London based client location.
Chris said: “Customers are always impressed that their food is grown on the rooftop of the office. We’ve only had the allotment for one year, but we are already beginning to investigate the benefits of square foot gardening. For example, planting sweetcorn with courgette, as we know they pair well together, so we’d love to get to grips with growing those next”.