What got you into cooking?
I’m a farmer’s son – my Dad runs Inner City Farms across Bristol – so I’ve always had an interest in food, particularly in taking livestock from the farm to the fork. As a kid I spent a lot of time on Green Farm, a family farm in Rockhampton, which was owned by my grandparents. That experience taught me the importance of having a sustainable supply chain, which is achieved by replenishing the livestock and bringing new and varied animals onto the farm.
To become a Chef, I started pot-washing locally, before working at a beautiful restaurant in Cobham, where I developed a passion for finer cuisine. After two years there I came back to Bristol to be a Head Chef at Hawks House in Thornbury. Eager to explore, I then travelled around the UK and worked with some amazing chefs up and down the country, before returning to Bristol to take up my position at Old Down, where I’ve been for a year.
Tell us a bit about Old Down’s food
We take pride in the fact our meat is locally sourced. Most of Old Down’s meat comes from Powell’s of Overton, a local supplier who sources all their meat within 20 miles before slaughtering and dry-aging on site. Vegetables are sourced from our walled garden – look out for our signature walled garden soup! These are topped up by a local supplier. We make sure to use as much as we can on site, but any surplus goes to other local suppliers – nothing goes to waste.
We try our best to ensure that our food is locally sourced and organic where possible (obviously if something is out of season that’s not always possible).
What does a typical day involve?
I usually get in at 8am and set up for service and prepare sandwich lunches for local companies. We source bread from Joe’s Bakery in Bristol. Lunch service typically involves a plentiful supply of chicken nuggets and fish goujons – both of which are freshly hand-made by us each day.
On Fridays and Saturdays we run Steak Barn. For this we fire up Comodo Joe to 250-300 degrees using wood charcoal. We make sure all the cuts are portioned and seasoned then we’re good to go. The Onglet cut gets special treatment – four and a half hours in a thyme, garlic, salt and pepper water bath. I’ve really enjoyed working under Chris Wicks to fine-tune my skills, and of course I couldn’t do it alone. Jacob is an integral part of Steak Barn, freshly baking the bread for the evening service every week.
What has been a highlight of your time at Old Down?
A highlight for me was when, last summer, we had a group of local school children in to learn about where food comes from. I took them out to the vegetable patch and picked beetroots and carrots, diced them up and made crisps right in front of them. I could tell they really enjoyed seeing a vegetable come out of the ground and turn into their favourite food! I think it’s important that kids understand from a young age where their food comes from, and that vegetables can taste great.
Finally, if you weren’t a chef what would you be?
A farmer or a butcher – I would find it difficult to choose, and I think being a Chef nicely combines the two.