The Culinary Classroom guys are a fearless bunch, and they needed to be in January when they had to brave a very chilly Scotland in search of some of the best game Britain has to offer.
This session was the organised and arranged by John Fleming, Development Chef for Scotland, as he wanted to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for game with everyone. John grew up in Scotland on the game estates, he often helped raise the birds and so was involved in the whole cycle. It was exactly this experience that helps drive his respect for the ingredients we cook with – and something he wanted the Culinary Classroom chefs to experience first hand.
As always, it was a bright and early (dark and cold!) start to the day in Scotland, with the group arriving early in the morning. Luckily, as always, John was well prepared with a much needed supply of piping hot Groundhouse coffee. The group was split up into two for the first drive, one off with the beaters and the other with the guns. So it was time to scramble into the back of a trailer or to put those boots to good use (and find out how warm they really are..).
What followed was a crash course in Scottish game; from the way the birds are reared, to the training of the dogs, the history of the estate and through to traditional cooking methods and modern attitudes towards it. One of the reasons we set up the Culinary Classroom is to bring craft skill back to the forefront of cooking – something that was on the wane. Sadly, the same is true of game and the skills needed are slowly being lost.
It was great to get the chefs out into this environment, as there was a real mix of experience within the group. We believe it’s vitally important for our chefs to understand where their ingredients have come from, and the love and dedication that’s gone into producing them, way before they make their way into our restaurants and on to our plates. It was a real eye-opener for some, while others had grown up on similar estates and were keen to share their knowledge.
It was time to say goodbye to the staggeringly beautiful Scottish countryside and get the team back into their natural habitat of the kitchen. So we bid our farewells and went back to one of our nearby units to do what we do best.
It really was a fascinating day, and something that is very much removed from our day-to-day roles. It’s so important for our teams to be able to step outside of their comfort zone (literally!) and to seek inspiration and knowledge from less well trodden paths. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next..