When the topic of food came up in the planning session for our recent networking evening, the question was asked; “So Pete, what do you want to do with the food?” Ah, that old number! We knew just by the nature of the event that it had to be a canapé style service but since nothing makes me happier than making my life harder than it needs to be – the wheels in my head started to turn.

I have been to quite a few canapé events in my time and I knew that the people attending that night would have also so I was conscience of doing something that no one had seen before. Chick on sticks and nameless meats on some kind of pastry which had been plunged into a hot fiery bath of oil, accompanied with the standard sweet chilli sauce, is not how I roll.

I wanted to reflect my strong belief that vegetables can be just as good as any meat or seafood dish. There would of course be a meat and fish option but it would be focused heavily on vegetables.

First stop – our farm in Kent. I can spend hours writing menus, or planning dishes in offices or kitchens but my best work comes when my mind is able to wonder and can become truly inspired – this usually happens in the car!

I won’t bore you with the whole thought process behind each of the dishes (as there was 12 of them) but the ethos behind them was all the same. We wanted the best in season produce and to be able to do something amazing with them that people won’t have seen before. Simple really.

The presentation of the dishes has to be along the same lines. Out with the shot glasses, flats or platters; and in with the gardening books to plate our radishes, spoons wrapped in dry corn husks for our corn and meadow sweet dish, fresh out the ground lodgepole pine for our pigs head and pine dish and pebbles from the beach for the bones and stones dish. It was a great night and great for all the chefs I bought along with me to do the event. They were able to understand first hand why we had created this type of food and to get them to buy into the ethos behind them as well.

Some of the dishes were a hit, others a miss but one thing was for sure – people were talking about the food, thinking about it and wondering why. This is exactly what I was after. No one talks about chicken satay on the way home or why the chef used that type of wooden skewer.

I don’t want to challenge the norm or be the weird kid in the corner trying to stand out and doing things weird for the sake of being weird. All I want is to never default. I want to push forwards, never stand still and show all the chefs and our customers that maybe there is another way.

Pete Redman
Executive Chef