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Top Ludlow chef Joe Gould: Do we have to toe the party line?

Dining out | Published:

Top Ludlow chef Joe Gould, of Fishmore Hall, shares his thoughts on local produce and creativity in cooking...

Joe Gould, head chef at Fishmore Hall, Ludlow.

I do not have a food style.

For me, the most exciting element of being a chef is the ability to create. To have the platform that allows us, to turn being inspired, into a physical creation, is key to the passion of cooking. If we were to put our food style in a box and label it, then we must consider that description whenever we have an idea. If we have to ask ourselves if a certain technique, dish, ingredient or pairing fits the chosen style, before we can expand on it, then we have diminished one of the most important elements of what we do.

I do have a food philosophy.

I believe our sights should be set firmly on delivering food that is consistently pleasing to eat. There is a phenomenal amount of information and resource available to any chef in 2018. Although I believe this is a good thing for industry, I also believe it means that everyone can now “talk the talk”. Almost anyone can open a book or google a technique and create a wonderful looking plate of food.

The 'molecular gastronomy' fad has had its day and is most certainly on its way out. The elements that have remained, have genuinely earned their place in gastronomic practices.

Behind semi-gels, liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and smoked cloche, food must be utterly gratifying to eat. The very best cooking can come from many different styles and methods, but ultimately, enjoyable occasions and memorable clarity of flavour is what will keep people coming back. If we are passionate and we stay true to our core values. The only reasonable prediction, is progress.

Produce seasonality is something that is intrinsic to how the menus evolve. Fresh ingredients are at their best, most affordable and most abundant when in season. Aside from the obvious benefits this brings, it also dramatically reduces the risk to consistency when an ingredient is unavailable.

Good, politically correct so far.

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But, using local producers and suppliers is something I feel is thrown around as such a marketing buzz term now. “Menus centred around the best of locally sourced British ingredients.” OK, that’s all well and good, but it’s almost at the point where if you don’t proclaim to live by those exact values, then you’re ‘doing it wrong.’ It’s like when a politician says “We want a Britain that works for everyone.” (Well, duh!) Or when a priest says that Jesus love you. There’s no sense in arguing the point. You can yawn though.

Maybe I’m just irrationally irritated when people use predictable tag lines at the end of a speech to add legitimacy to their points, when really it just pulls on the sentiment strings instead of adding substance to a view.

I am not a believer in choosing a local product on the basis that, it is simply, local. An ingredient being local does not mean it is of high quality, ethically produced or cost effective. I am always excited to explore locally produced food, if I choose to use a local ingredient; it will be because it is the right product to use, not because it is produced near-by. Shropshire lamb is fantastic. I’d try and buy it if I lived in Australia. We use it because it’s good.

Let me be clear, I am not bashing or disrespecting any person or any chef that has a different approach and totally disagrees with all of this. I still have so much to learn and wouldn’t be surprised if my opinions on all of this change over the years. It’s the differences of opinion, culture and perspective that make the culinary world so addictive and fascinating. Furthermore, Great Britain is at the heart of what we do. As a nation I think it’s fair to say that we do not have the culinary heritage of our European neighbours. I know most French chefs would agree with me in that. French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and many more have classic food that is instantly recognisable and internationally renowned. I see Britain’s relatively narrow food culture as a huge positive for British chefs and restaurants. We are free to draw on traditional and contemporary cuisine from all over the world without losing authenticity.

God save the Queen.

> Share your thoughts with Joe on Twitter at @JoeGould3

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