Fruit, Flowers, Foliage & Fungi: The Chefs’ Forum enjoyed ‘A Forest Forage’ at Old Down Manor!

The stunning Old Down Manor was the venue playing host to the latest Bristol Chefs’ Forum which took place on Monday 24th March 2014.

Hospitality students at City of Bristol College, Weston College and a guest group of VRQ level 3 students from South Thames College gathered at this beautiful location to enjoy a day of networking with professional chefs, cookery demos and inspirational industry insight.

The extremely well-attended event saw students being tutored in ‘Barista flaring’ by the talented team at Wogan Coffee and correct Champagne Taittinger pouring by Joanne Finkel of Hatch Mansfield.

The guests then enjoyed a trio of chef demonstrations which were truly excellent with ingredients donated by Chefs’ Forum sponsors Total Produce (fresh produce), Forest Produce (specialist ingredients) Wing of St Mawes (fish) and Walter Rose and Son (meat).

Matt Lord of The Bristol Hotel cooked marinated salmon, scotch egg and crème fraiche – Chefs’ Forum members were then treated to delicious salmon scotch eggs as part of an impressive range of canapés which really showcased chefs and students’ expertise in kitchen skills and front of house service.

Matt commented:
“I have been working with City of Bristol College for the last two years and have sourced apprentices through it.  I really enjoy working with young people and passing on my knowledge and expertise.  At the moment I have two apprentices from the college and they are doing really well.   The students helping in the kitchen today have also been great”.

Next up was Professional MasterChef finalist, Ross Marshall of Berwick Lodge.  His beautiful dish of braised short rib of beef ravioli with asparagus, leek and wild garlic went down a storm.

Head Chef Manuel Monzon of Old Down Manor brought a fantastic finale to the demos with a fascinating master class on curing and smoking meat – The foodie crowd loved his stories of making his own charcuterie in his hand-built curing cupboard made from an adapted shed – A 100 metre menu is definitely possible at Old Down Manor with its fantastic produce crafted and grown on the premises.The Chefs and students were then led on a fantastic forage by Michelin-starred chef Simon Hulstone’s personal forager David Harrison.

David reassuringly announced:
“I won’t give you anything that will kill you” As he led the group around the leafy forest and grassy meadows.

He warned the group of species that look similar to edible berries and leaves but can cause violent allergic reactions or even death!

During our ramble in the woodland we saw nettles, elderberry, hedge asparagus, dandelion, burdock, bitter cress, yarrow, chickweed and common sorrel.

David added:
“With foraging, it doesn’t take long to build up your confidence using books for species research.  Start with someone who knows what they are doing and enjoy it.  It’s a good day out and good exercise. Careful not to feed your harvest to the kids though, try them out on your partner first”.

The forest forage was a great experience and it is safe to say that as a result, more chefs will be incorporating foraged material or wild food into their menus!