Cooking… Growing… Foraging

05.01.15 | About

I have always lived in Oldstead and my parents are farmers so this gave me a passion for food and nature from a young age. My love for ingredients has led me to spend a lot of time searching for the very best suppliers as I believe the quality of the produce is very important in a Michelin Star restaurant.  Having spent the last couple of years constantly searching  I now have a fantastic network of both large and small suppliers who provide me with outstanding specialist meat and fish.

Foraging is good fun and free, I usually combine it with walking my dog! Be it the first shoots of wild garlic or nettles in March, right through to the last of the plums, apples and nuts at the end of Autumn. I think its great for our guests to have the chance to eat what is growing all around us throughout the year.

This year I realized I had been over looking vegetables completely. I was getting good vegetables and yeah some were excellent, but they were the same that every other restaurant was getting. How had I let this happen? My niche is that I have better ingredients than anyone else, yet with vegetables I had the same ingredients as everyone else.

My search for the best vegetables began. Initially I was looking for a specialist grower to supply me, so I met with Ken Holland and his team at Perfect Produce. I visited Kens farm and tried his produce, I was blown away! It was July and I feasted on tomatoes, cucumbers and incredible baby turnips. After a lot of chat Ken posed the question, “would I rather grow my own vegetables than buy them off him?????”

After much deliberation with the family and the staff we decided that with Ken on board we would take the plunge in to growing. We already had a 2.5 acre field at the back of the restaurant which would be the perfect place.

I was not keen on the idea of employing a ‘gardener’ so decided that I would like the Chefs to be in charge of growing the vegetables and fruit that they would be cooking. So it begins… my aim is to become self sufficent on the very best fruits and vegetables.

So follow this blog to see how we get on turning Chefs in to Growers!!


Tommy Banks

Head Chef/Owner

Black Swan Oldstead