Devon-based Michelin-star chef, Peter Gorton has been cooking with fresh produce at heart throughout his 35-year career, which has seen him reap awards and media attention for what he describes as “modern, international cuisine” at prestigious restaurants The Horn of Plenty Country House Hotel, Gorton’s Restaurant and The Carved Angel. Here, Produce Business UK talks to the now chef consultant about the balancing act of sourcing as locally as possible and within season, as well as enjoying other delights from further afield.
PBUK: What is your fruit and veg ethos?
Peter Gorton: I love eating great-tasting fruit and vegetables, trying to source as locally as I can and tending to focus on fresh produce in season. I believe that if you eat seasonally, you’ll get the best from any fruit or vegetable – the optimum in taste, nutrients and minerals, and quality. I personally tend to eat two pieces of fruit, some salad and fresh vegetables with my dinner everyday – this is reflected in my recipe writing.
PBUK: What is your favourite fresh produce-focused dish and why? Where would you source the ingredients?
PG: My favourite dish, at the moment, is new-season Welsh hill lamb with artichokes, asparagus and beetroot. I love it because it represents the month of June and real availability at that time, at its best. I would source the ingredients from my local suppliers in Devon.
PBUK: What are the ingredients you just can’t stop using in your cookery?
PG: I love Asian ingredients and their different elements: sour, bitter, sweet and salty. I use them a lot, with my must-haves being ginger, lemongrass, daikon, greater galangal and tamarind.
PBUK: What do you think will be the next big foodie trends?
PG: It will probably be eating insects. They are relatively cheap and a good source of protein, as well as low in fat. Eating insects is already huge in other areas of the world – for example, in Thailand, they deep-fry crickets and curry silkworms. I think insect powders will become more available and will be used in food. I also think more unusual Asian ingredients will be imported to the UK – it’s good to celebrate different food types.
PBUK: What were your first impressions/experiences of fruit and vegetable sourcing?
PG: I was exposed to the best available fruit and vegetables on the markets at the time, due to the passionate head chefs I have worked for – instilling a passion that has followed me into my career.
PBUK: When did you realise being a chef was for you?
PG: At 16 years old, when I came off pot wash to help in the kitchen.
PBUK: What are the biggest lessons to learn as a chef?
PG: You have to buy the best ingredients available, keep your food simple and let the main ingredient of a dish speak for itself. You have to be honest when you cook and always be open to learn new things. It’s also very important to go and see your suppliers and build up trust between you and them.
PBUK: What have been your main inspirations and influences throughout your career?
PG: Although it’s taken hard work, I have been very lucky to have been employed by some of the most famous chefs in the UK and abroad, who taught me about various foods and techniques.
PBUK: What is the thinking behind your ‘Food Is Fun’ programme for schools and how did it come about?
PG: The Food Is Fun programme was set up to deliver elements of food technology in schools, and ultimately explaining why fruit and vegetables are good for children. We take fruit and vegetables into schools for children to try, we do cookery demonstrations, and encourage them to eat more varied types of fresh produce. Some of the children we meet don’t even know what an orange or a pineapple, or even broccoli is.
PBUK: If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
PG: Sir Richard Branson
PBUK: Who would you like to cook dinner for you?
PB: The Welsh rugby team – that would be a laugh!
Peter Gorton runs Peter Gorton Consultancy Hospitality Services, which helps restaurants and hospitality businesses with location sourcing, menu creation, commercial-kitchen design and remodelling, kitchen equipment, and recruitment and training for good profit margins. The business also consults on restaurant and hotel staffing including interviewing, reports and inspections, and media and advertising, and Gorton teaches cookery classes at The White Lady House in Devon.
Peter Gorton comperes the chef demonstrations at The London Produce Show and Conference held at the Grosvenor House hotel on June 8-10.