Meet the Chef

James Sherwin, Wild Shropshire

 James Sherwin

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?

James Sherwin hare fillet

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?

James Sherwin plating up

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?

James Sherwin dish

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

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William Dimartino, The Ryder Grill, The Belfry Hotel Sutton Coldfield

William Dimartino, Ryder Grill Restaurant, The Belfry Hotel

William Dimartino will celebrate his first anniversary as Head Chef at The Ryder Grill in a few months, so as he launches a new seven-course Spring tasting menu I grilled the chef for his inspiration.

Have you always wanted to be a chef?

When I was at school I wanted to be an accountant, but I always loved food as a child so when I started cooking in a pub on my weekends it naturally progressed from there.

Who taught you to cook?

My nan was probably the first one who introduced me to cooking, all be it a Sunday Roast.

Which chef has been the biggest inspiration for you?

My old boss and close friend Russell Ford, I worked with him from a commis chef and he was the one who gave me my first head chef job, he is a great chef and took me under his wing and really taught me a lot over the years I worked with him.

Where have you eaten your best ever meal?

The best meal I had was very recent and it was at The Frog by Adam Handling, the whole experience was great.

What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

Game, butter, truffle and nuts

How would you describe your style of cooking?

I would say it’s clean and simple, we use great produce so we try and treat it with great respect and get the best out of it without messing with it too much.

What can diners expect at The Ryder Grill?

Diners can expect great produce cooked beautifully, with a relaxed atmosphere and top quality service.

Ryder Grill spring tasting menu The Belfry Hotel

To showcase the very best seasonal produce, William and his team have launched a new seven course taster menu. Available for £40 per person, with the option of adding paired wines for £25. The menu includes:

Amuse bouche

Asparagus with duck egg mayo, brioche crumb, burnt onion powder and edible flowers

Whipped chicken liver parfait, savoury granola, pineapple and vanilla gel

Sea trout with almond puree, charred spring onion, chorizo and purple sprouting broccoli

Spring lamb, charred baby gem, artichoke hummus, red pepper and broad bean

Vanilla crème brulee and poached strawberries

Passion fruit tart, mango, bitter chocolate and coconut.

The Ryder Grill, The Belfry Hotel , Lichfield Road, Wishaw, Sutton Coldfield B76 9PR

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Curtis Stewart, Restaurant 23, Leamington

Curtis Stewart chef

At only 29 years old, Curtis no stranger to fine dining, with his culinary career talking him from luxury Cotswolds hotel Foxhill Manor and the two Michelin-starred Whatley Manor in Wiltshire to Quill in Manchester.

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa Warwickshire

As he is now heading up Leamington’s Restaurant 23, I got the chance to find out about the ‘guy who just cooks the food’.

Have you always wanted to be a chef?

Always. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to cook for a living; think I was around 8 years old.

Who taught you to cook?

My Grandmothers. Coming from a mixed race background, (Jamaican and English) both my parents’ families were great cooks and I would always help out over the weekends.

Which chef has been the biggest inspiration for you?

John Campbell. He was the chef that taught me the foundation of cooking and understanding the fundamentals of food and how to constantly think outside the box and question everything.

Where have you eaten your best ever meal?

It’s hard to pick one definitive best meal, as so many have been amazing in their own right. In no particular order, my top three would be – Casamia (Bristol)  Restaurant Story & The Square (London).

How daunting was it to take over the brigade at Restaurant 23 after Peter Knibb’s decade there?

Taking over any kitchen has its challenges, but if you bring a new, fresh concept that inspires others, then believing in you becomes a much easier task.

Do you use any local suppliers at Restaurant 23?

Yes. I like the feel of community and insist that we source our products locally. We have some great suppliers on our doorstep with incredible products and skill.  This is obviously not always possible, as some items need to be imported or sourced from specialist suppliers.

What can diners expect from you at Restaurant 23?

Interesting, technical, dynamic, alternative British cooking – a  culinary journey.

Restaurant 23 34 Hamilton Terrace, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire @Restaurant23

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