Celebrating Welsh Pasture to Plate at The Douglas Willis Farm

Douglas Willis butchers played host to the Welsh Summer Chefs’ Forum on its family farm in Monkswood, Usk. Top chefs from across Wales gathered in the balmy sunshine to see the farm in all its splendour and learn about the complex processes employed by the Willis family to produce the best possible beef for its customers.

The Chefs’ Forum sponsors Total Produce, Koppert Cress, WSET, MCS Catering Equipment and Clifton Food Range all took the opportunity to join Douglas Willis showcasing their excellent produce, services and professional kitchen equipment in a mini trade show that took place in a marquee in the garden.

Carl prepparing canapesChef Carl Cleghorn, Senior Sous Chef at Epicure by Richard Davies (Celtic Manor) produced some excellent canapés in the Chefs’ Forum Field Kitchen to showcase Douglas Willis meat including steak tartar with charcoal mayo, parmesan polenta and pressed ham hock with piccalilli.

Pretentious BurgersPretentious Burger fired up the BBQ and served up delicious mini sliders loaded with garnish, boasting equally wonderful names such as ‘The Goat’ ‘The Pretentious’ and ‘The Kevin Bacon’ all available in their funky Newport restaurant.  Pretentious Burger is proud to make their burgers from prime Douglas Willis Jacobs ladder, chuck and brisket – The Kevin Bacon is crowned with Douglas Willis home-cured back bacon!

Carl's demo 2Chef Carl then performed a fantastic cookery demonstration of quail, spiced lentils, asparagus and hazelnut – The flavours worked perfectly to make a wonderfully fresh dish.  Carl showcased sousvide cookery in the Clifton Food Range Waterbath and finished it on Cooktek Induction hob.

Cows!Greg Willis, third generation farmer then led chefs on a tour of the farm. Greg gave a fascinating talk and tour of the mature cattle that are kept in a barn for just the last 120 days of their lives in order to control their diet, which has been devised by an animal nutritionist. The specialist diet includes a mix of molasses, straw, grass silage, maize silage and processed bred to finish the cattle off to market standard, ready for slaughter.  Typically 20 to 30 months old, Douglas Willis meat is predominantly from Welsh Black, Hereford, Limousin, Aberdeen Angus and Charolais cattle to give the flavour and conformity required for truly great tasting beef.  The beef is allowed to hang and mature naturally for up to 21 days before being passed onto our master butchers who take great pride in carefully preparing the vast range of cuts requested by Welsh chefs.

Butchery demo 2Next on the action-packed agenda saw Sean Willis join forces with butchery manager Tony Mould to showcase their enviable butchery skills to the chefs. The talented duo were timed by the audience as they produced expert cuts including shoulder of pork, leg of lamb and best end of lamb.

Man v Food competitionPretentious Burger challenged Greg Willis (29) and Epicure CDP Jon Pring (22) to a ‘Man v Food-style’ burger-eating challenge.  The pair were equally matched in weight so it was a fair contest. The chilli sauce proved too much for Jon and he conceded to Greg who polished off 32oz of Pretentious Burger. Greg didn’t manage to beat the 18 minute record (said to have been devoured with chips too), but he did complete the challenge in less than 20 minutes which was an amazing feat!

A great day was had by all on the farm yesterday and it was fantastic to see the provenance of such high quality meat whilst giving the chefs a chance to network and learn about Welsh Produce and ingredients.  Any chefs wishing to talk to Douglas Willis Butchers about supply should contact Sean Willis on 01633 877777.

Photography by Sea Aitch Photography: www.seaaitch-photography.com