James Sherwin describes himself as an experimental chef and keen forager. As the chef behind jamesinaspace pop-up restaurant nights and Wild Shropshire concepts, you may recognise him from his appearances on the Channel 4 show The Taste and Masterchef.
The 38-year-old father of four from Whitchurch was previously a paediatric nurse before following his passion for cooking and he has evolved from a home cook to a professional chef who is not afraid to push the boundaries.
As he prepares for his next tasting dinners, at Alderford Lake on Friday 6th and Saturday 28th October, I got to ask him a few questions for this month’s Meet the Chef feature.
Have you always wanted to be a chef?
I didn’t want to be a chef until I hit my 30’s, I think it was a midlife crisis 😉
Who taught you to cook?
This is a difficult one, ultimately I think I’ve taught myself, there were certainly people that helped along the way (my first head chef etc). However in terms of my style and what I do, a lot of it has been self-discovery. I’ve always had a very clear idea of what I’d like my food to be, so I’ve always pushed my learning in that direction.
Which chef has been the biggest inspiration for you?
I think the answer to this is two fold, ultimately (and I’ll sound very uncool saying this) but Jamie Oliver inspired me to cook, without his tv shows then i doubt that I’d have started at all. From a professional point of view and what I’m doing now then it would be Magnus Nillson of Faviken. His whole approach just spoke to me, the first time i read his book it was like a switch had been turned on in me. The hard part is taking that inspiration but turning it into your own thing. Other than that then I’d say Simon Rogan of L’enclume or Christian Puglisi of Relae.
Where have you eaten your best ever meal?
I know the cool answer would be some obscure street food stall (I hate street food, completely bored of it!) however it would be a toss up between L’enclume or Relae. L’enclume was brilliant across all 19 courses and I got engaged there, however Relae was like nothing else, the plates were so minimal in design that the amount of flavour they contained was shocking……I’ll never forget the carrot dish I had there!
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
I started an allotment this year so that I could be sure of the quality and freshness of what I use (if you’re food is minimal then the ingredients have to be banging). So it’s not one ingredient but basically anything that I can pick myself. It does mean though that I’m doing a lot less cooking now, I’m enjoying the ingredients in their natural raw state as they have so much flavour.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
This is hard without sounding like every other chef, ultimately it’s modern British food. As I came into this older I missed the Marco Pierre White/Gordon Ramsey heyday so I’ve come in and been influenced my Magnus of Faviken, James of Biota or Christain of Relae, so very natural, vegetable based cuisine delivered in a minimal way.
I hate that people feel the need to fill a plate with things that aren’t needed for the sake of making my the dish look bigger. Everything is hyper seasonal – we don’t have seasons anymore in the UK and hyper local.
What can diners expect from your Wild Shropshire events?
My guests will get a multi course surprise menu. It’s a surprise firstly so that I can come up with it at the very last moment based completely on what is perfect at that time and also to bypass any pre-conceived ideas anyone may have about any of the courses.
I feel that people can quite often decide whether they like a dish before they’ve even put it in their mouth based on previous experiences with ingredients. By having a secret menu that is revealed at the end of the evening, guests can eat each course without past experiences colouring their opinion of what is in front of them.
Find out more about James at https://www.jamesinaspace.com