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by Matt Vernon

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Matt Vernon: What got me into cooking

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What got me into cooking

I decided to do A-levels when I finished school – maths and physics – very boring stuff, as I’ve always been a very passionate and creative person. After 2 years of skipping class to do more exciting things, I found myself at 18 not knowing what I wanted to do for a career. I had always had a bit flair for cooking, which I’d done at GCSE level (and got top marks!), but was told by teachers is wasn’t a good career choice (what do they know?!).

So after taking a gap year travelling and doing odd jobs, I heard an advert for Birmingham College of Food on the radio and remember thinking that I should check it out. I went to the open day and enrolled myself, they had some really welcoming chef lecturers and I felt at home straight away. They asked me what I wanted to be and told me that I had the A-levels to do a degree course in hotel management. I told them I wanted to be a chef and they put me on the 2 year NVQ course – in hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad choice after all!

I spent 2 of the best years of my life at the college, learning from the very best Michelin-starred chefs and I felt that cheffing is exactly what I was meant to be. I completed the NVQ course and a chef lecturer told me of a potential job at Raymond Blanc’s restaurant. I couldn’t wait to start work in a professional kitchen, so I headed down there, did a trial and got my first chef’s job.

What got me to where I am now with Servest

I first came into contact with Servest whilst working at a Football Club in the directors’ kitchen. A Servest catering manager saw that I was a talented, passionate chef and gave me the opportunity to work at Worcester Bosch as the hospitality chef. I spent my time there implementing a lot of new ideas and concepts that I had learnt along the way, from working in high volume al a carte restaurants, 5 star hotels and gastro pubs. Whilst working at Worcester Bosch I met Chris Ince, our Chef Director, we clicked instantly and so I got involved with some of the projects he was working on. As the company grew larger there was a need for another development chef on the team, which I was offered by Chris and only too happy to accept. I have been working under Chris for almost a year now, this is a perfect role me as it allows me to be at the forefront of food development and work with many other chefs in all of our units and implement new concepts across the board – so exciting.

Hobbies

I am a very keen golfer and like to play almost every week, even in our harsh winter conditions, and summer ones too! I love travelling the globe and going on holiday to exotic locations (when I get time off!), one of my favourite things to see and do is experience the food in other countries, after a recent trip to South Africa I discovered a whole new range of ingredients, dishes and a culture built around food, especially their fantastic wines and vineyards.

What I’ll be doing in these blogs is sharing some of my expertise with you by writing a topical blog and recipe that you can try at home. Give them a shot, I’m sure you won’t leave hungry!

Plum Tarte Tatin with Honeycomb Ice Cream (serves 8)

A recipe very close to my heart, using the best in season British plums, this dessert combines hot spiced plums with a cold, easy to make, homemade ice cream

For the honeycomb

For the ice cream

  • 200ml double cream, whipped until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed
  • 1 tbsp clear honey

For the tarte tatin

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 25g butter
  • flour, for dusting
  • 375g ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 20 plums, stone removed and cut into halves
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 star anis
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. For the honeycomb, place the sugar, honey, glucose and water into a heavy-based pan, insert a sugar thermometer and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet. When the mixture reaches 160C, which is a light caramel, remove from the heat.
  2. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in quickly, then immediately pour the mixture onto the greased baking sheet – it will start to bubble up straightaway. Leave to cool.
  3. When the honeycomb has cooled completely, break it up into small pieces (don’t worry – you’ll have plenty leftover to eat!)
  4. For the ice cream, place the whipped cream into a large bowl and fold in the honey and about two large handfuls of the broken honeycomb.
  5. Pour the mixture into a container and place into the freezer to set for about 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  7. For the tarte tatin, place the sugar into an ovenproof pan (approx 20cm) and heat gently without stirring until it turns golden brown. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir in gently.
  8. Place the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut out a circle slightly larger than the pan.
  9. Place the plums flesh-side down into the pan with the caramel and add the cinnamon, star anis and vanilla. Cover the plums and caramel mixture with the pastry and tuck the edges down the side of the pan.
  10. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to rest for a minute before turning it out. To do this, place a plate on top of the pan and invert so that the tart slips out, pastry to the base, plums on top.
  12. Serve the tarte tatin warm with a scoop of the honeycomb and ice cream
  13. Enjoy with a glass of dry white Muscat!