PubChef Live - Game on for local sources

By Natalie Cooper

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub chefs, Local food, Sustainability, London

At the latest PubChef Live event, held in London, chefs were challenged to cut the food supply chain by sourcing ingredients locally. Natalie Cooper...

At the latest PubChef Live event, held in London, chefs were challenged to cut the food supply chain by sourcing ingredients locally. Natalie Cooper reports

The fourth PubChef Live event, at the recently-opened Bull in Highgate, London, focused on using sustainable local and seasonal food. With the game season now in full swing the event also focused on why chefs should be putting more game on their menus.

Fresh supply

Jenny Jones, the chair of London Food Link, told how the organisation aims to establish a sustainable local food economy by creating better access to affordable, high-quality and seasonal food through shorter supply chains.

Jones urged pub chefs to think about how they can make

London's food system more healthy and sustainable through improved diet, increasing choice and quality of food for

all, as well as cutting down on food miles by using a network of local food suppliers.

Chefs were encouraged to take part in the new London Food Strategy consultation, set up by Mayor of London Ken

Livingstone and being organised through London Food.

A questionnaire by London Food asked chefs to discuss what top three things they think about when designing menus and

what motivates or prevents them from sourcing local, organic or fairtrade produce.

Jenny argued that pub chefs in London were not as connected to farmers in the region as much as they could be. Part of

the London Food Strategy aims to get better supplier networks in place, as well as logistics and co-operatives to create a more robust, vibrant and healthy food economy.

To give your views on the consultation visit www.londonfoodlink.org or contact the organisation on 0207 837 1228.

Pub quiz

Pub chefs were assigned a season, such as autumn or winter, and asked to create three starters, mains and desserts using

local produce relevant to that season. Our attending chefs showed they knew what was in season and came up with such

ideas as nettle soup with quails eggs, lamb chops with roasted vegetable couscous, homemade beef, Guinness and pigeon pie, and shepherd's pie with celeriac and carrots.

Dessert ideas included autumn berries with a white chocolate sauce, apple and cranberry crumble and a cheese plate with

Cornish Yarg and Norbray Blue.

Championing British food

To prove that pub chefs can influence the environment and be a shining example of best food practice, Geetie Singh, owner

of two organic London pubs, went on to describe how her pubs are values driven and based on the principles food sustainability.

Geetie founded the Duke of Cambridge in 1998 and the Crown Inn in Islington. When Geetie opened up her first pub she was shocked by the lack of sustainability.

She says: "What's the point of buying in New Zealand lamb when you can buy it in locally when lamb is in season?" A firm believer in supporting local businesses, Geetie works with a lot of different local suppliers to provide her pubs with organic, fresh and seasonal produce. Having been certified by the Soil Association, she's also teamed up with the Marine Society to create a sustainable fish-sourcing policy refusing to put cod, haddock or any other threatened fish species on the menu.

All furniture is second-hand, and though she admits that recycling can be more expensive and is extra work, it's all worth it in the end. "Businesses have the most power in society so we, as chefs, have the power to create change," says Geetie, "but supporting small local suppliers, being sustainable and environmentally-friendly is the best marketing power you can ever think of - customers love it."

She advises all chefs to learn what fruit and vegetables

are in season so they can buy it in fresh from local suppliers.

British Food Fortnight

Stephen Schaffer, catering development manager of Punch Taverns and Alexia Robinson, organiser of British Food

Fortnight, which ran from 24 September to 9 October 2005, challenged all chefs to experiment with British regional food and drink. There are 26,000 schools and 24,000 pubs, shops and restaurants getting involved in this year's event.

Alexia believes that putting provenance back on the menu is a great money-spinner because customers want regional specialties. She says: "As the pub sector is even more

advanced in regional food than restaurants are in London, it's a great platform to really shout about it. Pub chefs shouldn't be putting regional food and drink on the menu because it is a nice thing to do but because it makes commercial sense."

Stephen Schaffer advocates that pub chefs "stick with the traditional" on their menus. He says: "I've seen the most bizarre foods. Chefs shouldn't be looking for weird and wonderful products, the public wants simplicity, like serving up a blinding shepherd's pie."

In his role in catering development at Punch Taverns, Schaffer has been spreading the word about fresh products, saying: "Use local fish, select three regional cheeses to accompany your cheese board or just make a really decent cheese and pickle sandwich."

Farm your relationships

Knowing where your produce or cuts of meat comes from gives you complete control over quality. There are currently 12

farmers' markets operating in London, and farmers are looking for more business.

Cheryl Cohen, representative for London Farmers' Markets, says that while you can't replace your wholesalers, farmers can definitely complement them.

A local farmer argued that traceability is essential. He said that farmers can give you invaluable advice and teach you how to make the most of a half or whole carcass to make a range of dishes rather than ordering in 24 fillet steaks. And it's a lot more economical, too. Cheryl urges chefs to take the time to go direct to local farmers.

"Buy a whole animal," she says. "Use different cuts for specials, work in harmony with your other suppliers, and be

assured of the quality of your product."

She adds: "A lot of farmers can bend to your needs."

Are you game?

Alexia Robinson, of Game-to-eat, a campaign dedicated to raising the awareness of game to caterers, described game as the "meat of the moment".

She says that the game market is now worth £38m, having seen 15.2% year on year growth in the value of sales in the last

four years.

Alexia adds: "Game is one of the few seasonal foods which hasn't been flown half way around the word or been produced

out of season.

"Consumer interest in seasonal and locally-distinct foods means there is an increase in demand for game, and this -

coupled with its low fat, nutritious qualities - means that it is the perfect addition to pub menus."

Dave Whitby, head gamekeeper at Petworth Estate in West Sussex, described venison as "a magical meat" and described

how it is now endorsed by the medical profession as a healthy choice for people with heart complaints, as it has less cholesterol and fat, as well as higher protein, than any other meat.

He says pub chefs need to find out more about the origin, species and how the venison is raised to guarantee the quality of their venison, and they need to specify their requirements to game dealers.

Chefs at PubChef Live also heard from Allan Ellis, a game dealer from Rushyford Game, in Shildon, Durham. All game supplied by Rushyford Game is wild, not farmed, and sourced locally. He says game, such as wild pheasant, has a better flavour than farmed, as the birds have a natural diet of things such as wild berries, which enhance the flavour.

Allan supplies game, including pheasant, partridge and venison, through farmers markets and also via the internet, with a next-day delivery service.

For more information and recipe ideas for game visit www.game-to-eat.co.uk. For more information on game supplier

Rushyford Game contact 01388 779095 or email info@rushyfordgame.co.uk.

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