Taste North West’s Young and Talented Host and Chef – London Carriage Works

1 Apr

The local food movement (should you wish to coin a phrase) has been on the agenda for years now, and quite rightly so. Since the inflammatory days of the BSE crisis back in 1996, the need to support independent producers and champion our oft maligned national food heritage has been the subtext to many a food related headline, and as our obsession with all things food continues apace, it’s unlikely to abate any time soon.

Whether its incendiary reporting of a food crisis flooding the front pages (see local butchers reaping significant rewards from the recent horse meat scandal) or tongue in cheek coverage of some high profile chef creatively interpreting long forgotten Victorian recipes (hello Heston), the message to support your local food chain, question provenance and keep our Great British food traditions alive is ever present, but does it really encourage us to be correct?

Even as a card carrying foodie loser, ever susceptible to glossy food photography and seriously concerned about the frankly worrying situation our weather beaten farmers find themselves in, my earnest endeavours to buy meat reared in the North West, enjoy artisanally produced cheeses and hunt down exciting new producers often falls short of my own ideals. Why? Well, as much as I might like to feed back into the local economy and enjoy expertly produced and incredibly tasty food, cash and convenience is king.

As much as the media and foodie elite might rail against it, as a nation we refuse to wean ourselves off fast food and ready meals for a reason. It has been highlighted time and time again, but fatty, belly-filling and quickly acquired foods are easy and cheap to get hold of. Who has the time to drive half an hour one way to your local farm shop, forking out a small fortune on a couple of high quality items that in reality could cover a weeks worth of food shopping. Lovely if you can afford it, but not everyone is so privileged.

So, for all the column inches and earnest endeavours made, unless this expertly produced local food borne of incredible passion is made more affordable and/or accessible, the local food revolution that has been threatening for years will never be fully realised, though some are having more success than others. Booths are a perfect example (and firm favourite of mine) through opening new stores across the North West and bringing some of the finest regional producers that bit closer to home… if they would just do home delivery!

The recently launched Flavour First is also showing signs of cutting through the media bullshit. This collective of our of nation’s foodie elite are aiming to educate food professionals on the great producers out there, and if this can encourage more hotels, restaurateurs and deli owners to bring local producers into their supply chain and promote them in turn, then we have another means of bringing great British produce to the fore, literally shoving this fantastic food down their throats in an affordable, accessible way.

However, unless these hospitality businesses are particularly savvy or PR friendly, it’s not always easy to trace the places supporting regional producers. Rarely making a feature of the produce on their menus, you may never know you’ve eaten a Lyth Valley Damson of hunk of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese, though thankfully, a few local initiatives are looking to rectify this by hosting educational events or restaurant evenings bringing all things lovely about local to the fore – Meat Club Manchester as case in point.

Most recently, I attended a talented young chef and host evening at organised by Taste North West at the ever popular London Carriage Works, a long time supporter of Merseyside producers. Using a tried and tested method of not only highlighting great regional produce but developing burgeoning chef and front of house talent – not to mention giving these restaurants some much deserved publicity for their supply chain efforts – hopefully these events turn a few new food fans on to the cause.

Taste NW Talented Young Owen West

Taste NW Talented Young Owen West

Using Anglesey Mackerel in an unusual fennel and orange salad, (a brave take on the traditional rhubarb pairing perhaps?) followed by an impeccably cooked slow braised rose veal cheek from Cumbria that fell apart as you looked at it showcased our young chef Owen West’s keen palate and deft touch with quality ingredients. Gracefully fronted by Eleanor Vacca, the evening ran beautifully, and at £25 a head including two glasses of paired wines, is a steal considering the quality of produce on show.

With these kind of events, currently organised by Taste North West across Cheshire and Merseyside (where I work), these kinds of events provide the perfect opportunity to indulge my ideals – not only do I get to put my money where my mouth is, but I also don’t have to go too far out of my way feast on the kind of food I love best. Best of both worlds really, and with an accreditation scheme to recognise those hospitality businesses making a meal of local food, I’ll no longer have to look too hard to feast well either.

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