Chefs, Cheese & Caves at Winterdale Cheese Barn









Top Kentish chefs gathered at the picturesque, family-run Winterdale Cheese Barn nestled in the beautiful North Downs in the heart of Kent.

Established in January 2006, the family-run cheese farm prides itself on being 100% carbon neutral and boasts two varieties of award-winning cheese: The Winterdale Shaw and Oak-smoked Winterdale.

World Cheese Gold Award winner, Winterdale Shaw is matured for ten months in a cave underneath the dairy – The cave of flint and lime stone cave maintains a constant humidity and temperature throughout the year creating the perfect conditions in which to age the cotton muslin-wrapped cheese.  The result is a nutty, full flavour cheese with a long finish.

Being carbon neutral, the food miles from field to plate are negligible so this is a great start if chefs are interested in a low food mile menu.

A 200 strong herd of Friesian cows peacefully chew the cud in the 150 acres surrounding the farm and seemed quite curious about the human visitors sporting brilliant white chef jackets as they edged closer and closer to the marquee hosting a mini trade show, highly entertaining cookery demonstrations and culinary wizardry by Fords Food Machinery, MCS Technical Products and Turners Fine Foods.

The Chefs’ Forum launched in Kent in June 2013 (just over a year to the day) and this was the fourth successful convention in the area.

The exciting event saw top chefs and local producers gather together to showcase new techniques and share knowledge and experience within the catering industry.

Cheese expert Greg James of Turners Fine Foods stated:
“Most chefs would choose a cheese course over a sweet on a menu.  It is great to be able to bring them to the source of such a fantastic local product enabling them to talk confidently about its provenance”.

During the event, chefs were given a tour of the Winterdale dairy and caves. Owners, Robin and Carla Betts led the tour and gave an interesting insight into the world of Winterdale cheese making, explaining their carbon neutral policy which includes solar powered lighting and an electric car. It is this electric car that enables them to deliver to The Goring in central London maintaining its carbon neutral promise.

Robin Betts said of the event:
“The Chefs’ Forum is a fantastic opportunity to meet chefs and catering students in the South East region and demonstrating to them the importance of provenance and environmental awareness and still being able to create a seriously great artisan cheese”.

College students from East Kent College worked under Will Devlin of The Windmill by Richard Phillips to help create and serve canapés. They all benefitted greatly from meeting some of the top connoisseurs in the restaurant industry and can’t wait to help out at the next Chefs’ Forum event which will take place this autumn.

Will Devlin commented:
“These events enable us to involve College students and work towards creating great chefs for the future. It is our collective responsibility to indentify and encourage tomorrow’s great chefs to ensure that creativity, talent and passion continue to flow through the catering industry.”

Other top chefs involved in the Kent chapter of The Chefs’ Forum include Shane Hughes (Thackeray’s), Graham Garrett (The West House), Andrew Mcleish (Chapter One), Matthew Gillan (South Lodge) Michael Fowler (Marquis at Alkham) Craig Edgell (Deesons), Canterbury, Alan Irwin (The Vine) and Sam Spratt (The Kentish Hare).

Rob Allsworth, Chef Lecturer at East Kent College, concluded:
“This event was an excellent opportunity for our students to meet and learn from industry experts who excel in the catering field as well as allowing us to showcase our students’ talent and skill”.

An interesting and inspirational day was enjoyed by all who attended and it was great to see so many top chefs supporting the next generation of hospitality professionals.