Chef James Sherwin's Wild Shropshire Journey

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Chef James Sherwin become Head Chef at the Drayton Gate in Wem on Monday 16 January 2017. This is incredibly exciting with this dynamic chef, committed to Shropshire and its local culinary treasures teaming up with a stunning forward thinking restaurant. Here I talk to James about his unique style and how he feels about this new venture for him.

 

In three words describe your culinary style:

Nature. Focused. Modern

 

You have been running Wild Shropshire PopUps for some time now. How did these begin?

They began as I felt frustrated working in restaurants and not being able to express what I felt was important and worth showing people. It's important to me that we look at what we have and explore our ingredients and traditions. Ultimately I have no connection to French or Italian or Asian food other than enjoying the flavours but I certainly can't do it with any degree of sympathy.

 

What are you looking forward to most about becoming Head Chef at the Drayton Gate?

The pop ups were great as it gave me the chance to attempt certain things, however things were never as good as they could have been due to compromises made by not doing them in a proper kitchen. It will be great to be in a proper kitchen and really start to explore what can be done and what we can produce. 

The other part that really excites me is being able to work with farms/growers/gamekeepers more closely, this way I can get products when they really are perfect. The Japanese call it Shun (I think) - this is the precise moment when something is perfect. This is what I want to strive to work with.

I'm also very excited that it's a beautiful venue in a nice location and with great owners who want to do something special. Finding Drayton Gate was a definite stars aligning moment.

 

How will your Wild Shropshire concept influence the menu at the Drayton Gate?

"Wild Shropshire" and its concepts are who I am as a chef so it will influence and underpin everything I do. However, there will be some changes: fish will be the big one as obviously we don't have a lot of sea fish in Shropshire! Fish, therefore, hasn't been done on the pop up menus so it will be great to start using seafood again.

 

What can you tell us about the seasonal impact on your Wild Shropshire menus? 

The impact is very simple, if it's in season I'll use it if it's not I won't. If it's not in season it will taste terrible and as a chef it's my responsibility to give you food that tastes great! Strawberries in December taste of nothing so why use them?! I think that sometimes there is a belief that once we get to the winter we have nothing left however, if we are creative with how we use things or we spend time preserving/fermenting etc then we can have access to these things all year round and without losing the qualities that make it great.

 

Do you have a favourite dish you have created on your Wild Shropshire journey so far?

The one that sticks with me is a dish simply called Peas and Bread. Essentially it is not a great deal more than a bowl of incredibly fresh peas picked at the right time and served raw. They were simply dressed in a juice made from fermented peas, a sourdough infused mayonnaise, burnt toast ketchup and Borage flowers. The dish is so simple but has layers and complexities that aren't obvious when you initially see it.

 

How important is Shropshire to your work? 

I'm not sure if it's Shropshire or Locallity that lies at the heart of what I do. If I lived on the coastline of North Scotland would I feel the same? Would I be doing "Wild Highlands"? I'm not sure to be honest, however since moving to Shropshire 10 years ago I have fallen for it as a county and can't imagine doing this anywhere else, so maybe I wouldn't be doing "Wild Highlands"!

 I love that with Drayton Gate I'll be in restaurant that is only minutes away from the countryside. I'll be doing food based on our environment in that environment, it feels very natural!!

 

With all that has been achieved in your career so far, what are you most proud of?

I think the one thing I'm proud of is that the opportunities that have come my way have been as a result of my own hard work. The Drayton Gate opportunity came as a result of work I'd put into the pop ups and working with suppliers. I have Tom from Paso Primero wines to thank for speaking about me to them. 

 

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