Glorious sunshine glistening on the Chew Valley Lake provided a stunning backdrop for the fourth Chefs’ Forum event on Monday August 20th, held in a tipi on The Community Farm at Chew Magna. The cream of Bristol and Bath’s top chefs and catering students gathered alongside local producers and suppliers for a meeting of minds, knowledge swap and ‘Pick it, Cook it, Eat it chefs’ challenge’ led by Josh Eggleton and Toby Gritten.
Guests were welcomed by Chefs’ Forum Founder Committee member Josh Eggleton of the Michelin starred Pony and Trap (a field away), then handed over to passionate Farm Manager Andy Dibben, who, after an introduction to the farm, proceeded to lead Forum Member Chefs on a tour of his crops. Foraging expert Toby Gritten (The Pumphouse) also show-cased the hidden bounty nature has to offer growing in and amongst the cultivated fruit and vegetables!
The attending chefs were then challenged by Josh to create a dish using gathered and foraged produce to accompany the freshly cut steak BBQ provided by local butcher Nigel Buxton following his steak butchery demonstration.
The Chefs’ Forum launched in January 2012 and has since expanded to include highly accredited chefs, catering colleges and top suppliers on a South West regional level.
Catherine Farinha, Founder Committee Member of The Chefs’ Forum and event organiser stated:
We are so lucky to have such a naturally beautiful venue like this on our doorstep. The Chefs, most of whom were on their only day off, relished the opportunity to meet with their peers, network and find out about the provenance of the fantastic vegetables available from this unique growing project at The Community Farm. It is also important to educate chefs as to the detrimental effect adverse weather conditions can have on the annual harvest – this year has been the worst since its inception.
Andy Dibben added:
‘It would be like you chefs collapsing a soufflé, then inviting everybody in to come and see it. That’s how I feel about showing you around the farm today but I also hope to show you how good it could be given the right conditions – It’s important to learn about the good as well as the bad in terms of growing’.
The Community Farm grows organic vegetables on 22 acres of land in the Chew Valley just south of Bristol. From here, it operates a vegetable box delivery scheme, as well as providing wholesale supplies to local eateries. Open days are also on offer, as well as courses and volunteering opportunities to promote knowledge and understanding of sustainable farming and food provenance.
Alison Belshaw, Community Farm Project Director commented:
“The Community Farm was delighted to welcome the chefs – it brought a real buzz to the Farm. Our farm manager, Andy Dibben, gave them a tour – and let them know how tough this year had been for growers because of the weather. We’re now looking at adding a ‘Chef’s Box’ to our range of vegetable boxes so that restaurants can order the freshest and best in seasonal organic veg direct from us and we hope to supply some of the Chefs’ Forum members – many expressed a real interest in buying from us.”
Suitable footwear for the occasion was provided by event sponsor Hunter Boots, and a talk on responsible shooting by Chef James Graham of Allium restaurant, Fairford, further enhanced the rural tone.
The Chefs’ Forum is sponsored by some great brands including Bristol Audi, Champagne Taittinger and Total Produce. Partners include fabulous local companies like Lovely Drinks, Bramley & Gage, Clifton Food Range and A.David.
New Forum Member Gary Gardener, Head Chef at Combe Grove Manor, Bath said of The Chefs’ Forum:
“This fantastic movement has been a long time coming and opening up communication channels is something really positive for the industry.”
The Chef’s Forum is a group of 150 chefs in the South West, all recognised in their industry, with awards including Michelin Stars and AA Rosettes, and is led by Catherine Farinha, Josh Eggleton and Chris Wicks, and Adrian Kirikmaa of City of Bristol College.
Members present at the well-attended event at the farm included Sam Moody of the Bath Priory, the chefs from The Ethicurian, and The Star and Dove team, who have recently added the Totterdown Shakespeare to their portfolio.