Foraging has been popular for some years now, and professional chefs’ enthusiasm for gathering food from wild and natural places is only increasing. On Monday 16th April, forty top chefs from Birmingham and surrounds flocked to a fascinating forage led by wild food expert David Harrison.

The picturesque gardens of Eckington Manor were slightly moist from rainfall the day before, which made it glisten in the sun. It was the perfect weather for the chefs to embark upon on a flora and fauna adventure in glorious spring sunshine. Harrison is Michelin-starred chef Simon Hulstone’s personal forager and sources wild ingredients exclusively for Simon and his small team of talented chefs at The Elephant, Torquay.

Mark and studentToday’s event was hosted by husband and wife culinary team, Mark and Sue Stinchcombe.  The couple have a tremendous hall of foodie accolades between them; Mark won Masterchef: The Professionals in 2015 and Sue has multiple awards under her belt including Worcestershire Chef of The Year, an Acorn Award and a MAC Award.

The couple met at the 2 Michelin-starred Champignon de Sauvage and then embarked on a culinary adventure taking them to Australia, Thailand and New Zealand.

CanapesThe gastronomic gathering commenced with a canapé and fizz reception where Mark, Sue and the students prepared a stunning array of bite-sized morsels for the culinary guests.  The canapé menu comprised:

Mark Hyde Catton joined Chefs’ Forum Founder Catherine Farinha in welcoming the guests and talked them through all of the successes achieved in securing work placements for his students through The Chefs’ Forum Academy.

Mark Hyde-CattonMark said

“Events like these are brilliant for our students.  Working with such high level, accomplished chefs as Mark and Sue was very inspirational for them. Our level three students said that they really enjoyed this event as they got to do lots of work both in the kitchen and front of house.  The Chefs’ Forum helps them forge relationships with employers and is a very valuable platform for them to secure work experience and job offers.”

Claire Mansfield on the Synergy GrillDemo chef Claire Mansfield joined forces with Jack Cook of Walter Rose & Son to showcase the award-winning Synergy Grill, searing top quality Wiltshire meat to perfection.  A double draw Adande refrigerated drawer unit completed the perfect BBQ terrace equipment solution as the top drawer was used as a fridge to store Walter Rose meat and the bottom drawer, as a freezer from which to serve delicious Alicia’s Ice Cream.  Jack Cook and Karl Pendlebury


Jack then showcased his butchery skills with Claire cooking the various cuts of top quality Stokes Marsh Farm beef and Cameron Naughton’s multi-award-winning pork.  Karl Pendlebury from the AHDB told the chefs that British Beef week is fast on the approach and invited them to come forward with any queries they have on the quality standard marks.

Eckington Manor, nestled in the Avon Valley perfectly lent itself as the perfect venue for the wild food hunt with David Harrison.

Venison Demo DishMark and sue joined forces to showcase one of their signature dishes; loin of venison, confit suede, hispi cabbage and pumpkin seeds.

Mark said

“The students were excellent today – It’s the first time we have worked with Gloucestershire College and we were very impressed.”

Sue added

“We were delighted to see so many girls in the kitchen today – I cannot wait to further our relationship with the college and teaching in The Chefs’ Forum Academy.”

The culinary experts went on a tour of Eckington Manor’s grounds, learning to find and identify the abundance of edible plants, seeds, nuts, flowers and fungi that grow wild in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. They learnt that provided you are furnished with a permission from the land owner, the only real cost of foraging is time, a valuable resource for chefs. Most foraged produce is perishable and requires picking for service daily or every other day.

Forager David Harrison told chefs:

Forager David Harrison“Once you pick something, it immediately starts to lose its peak flavour and texture. So we do not store for that reason; we forage every day.  It’s great to see so many chefs in attendance, we found lots of species today including hogweed, cow parsley, cleavers, nipplewort, hedge mustard, lesser celandine, bittercress, white nettles and red nettles. I hope that foraging with the chefs today spikes and interest in foraging and encourages them to bring this old skill back into the kitchen” 

The event was a great chance for chefs to learn about foraging for their menus and the copious amount of amazing wild ingredients growing all around them.  Once the chefs returned from the forage, they were treated to a beautiful afternoon tea of Clifton Coffee served with the following sweet canapes:

Catherine Farinha, Chefs’ Forum Founder and event organiser concluded:

“Eckington Manor was the perfect venue to hold an unusual and absorbing day of butchery grilling and foraging.  It is great to see that the chefs are so keen on foraging and trying new cooking techniques with wild ingredients. Chefs’ Forum events provide a great opportunity for them all to meet up, touch base and share expertise and see the best products and produce available to them.”

The Chefs’ Forum launched in Birmingham in 2017 and has gone on to see many young chefs find work placements and apprenticeships in the best professional kitchens across the county and beyond!

Photography by