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 6th March, over sixty top chefs from Devon and Cornwall flocked to fascinating forage led by wild food expert David Harrison.

Glistening with spring rain, Hotel Endsleigh’s impressive grounds were slightly moist, but that didn’t dampen chefs’ spirits as they embarked on a flora and fauna adventure. 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.

Student making canapesToday’s event involved Hotel Endsleigh’s Head Chef Jose Graziossi working with eight apprentices from the Rick Stein Academy at Truro and Penwith College and Hit Learner Vicky Taylor from HIT Training to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2017.

Vicky, a HIT Training learner at Britannia Navel College said:

“Today has been really great, I really enjoyed working with the Rick Stein apprentices and they really made me feel part of the team today. It has been really different to what I normally do at work but wonderful to learn about other chefs’ menus and cooking styles.”

Hotel Endsleigh, a Grade I historic house owned by Olga Polizzi in the Tamar Valley is shrouded in beautiful gardens and fairytale woodland, follies and grottos.  It perfectly lent itself as the perfect venue for the cheffy wild food hunt!

CanapeJose showcased his menu in preparing stunning canapés for around forty of his peers from across Devon and Cornwall.  The chefs really enjoyed the chance to get a snapshot of this popular chefs’ menu, who has, at some point or another worked with most of the chefs in the room.

Jose said:

“I’m really lucky to have these beautiful grounds on my doorstep – I am truly spoilt for choice.  I thought the event today was brilliant and it’s great to be able to educate and enthuse fellow chefs and the next generation.  Foraging makes up a big part of my menu here at Hotel Endsleigh – Last year I picked 40kg of wild mushrooms!”

David Harrison ForagerThe culinary experts went on a tour of Endsleigh’s impressive grounds, learning to find and identify the abundance of edible plants, seeds, nuts, flowers and fungi that grow wild in the beautiful Devon countryside. They learnt that provided you are furnished with a permission from the land owner (in this case the Polizzi family), 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:

“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.  Its great to see so many chefs in attendance – I hope that foraging with the young apprentice chefs today spikes and interest in foraging and encourages them to bring this old skill back into the kitchen” 

Jose cooking demoJose then showcased the plethora of delicious ways that David’s foraged ingredients could be incorporated into his restaurant menus in two demos of turbot and venison.  BBC Spotlight turned up to film the whole event which was a real coup for The Chefs’ Forum, Jose and the entire Devon and Cornwall chef scene. It is cookery demonstrations like these at Chefs’ Forum events that inspire young chefs and make for constant updating of skills and expansion of culinary skill sets.  The televising of Chefs’ Forum events will hopefully encourage more young people into the industry by showing exactly how exciting chef life can be!

The event was a great chance for chefs and students to learn about foraging for their menus and the copious amount of amazing wild ingredients growing all around them.

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

Hotel Endsleigh was the perfect venue to hold an unusual and absorbing day of 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.

The Chefs’ Forum launched in Devon in 2012 and has gone on to see many young chefs find work placements and apprenticeships in the best professional kitchens across the county and beyond!

The Chefs’ Forum Forage in Milton Abbot can be seen on BBC Spotlight:

Photography by