Grant Hawthorne at The Plough, Wavendon
Grant Hawthorne of The Plough at Wavendon reveals the secret of his renowned Cape Malva Pudding dessert and why salt isn't all bad
Q: Which dish on your current menu do you most enjoy preparing and why? Cape Malva Pudding. It's a traditional Cape Town dessert, similar to sticky toffee pudding but lighter, caramelised on the outside, light and airy inside. My mum used to make it for us. It's elegant, looks sexy and pushes all the right buttons.
Q: How do you decide your menu? I have a themed seasonal core menu, then look at what the local suppliers have and go from there. I am always looking out the good stuff. It is a small menu to showcase what is available and serve as a guideline to what is in season, but we don't have a blinkered approach - local producers have to understand the quality has to be there too.
Q: Who did you train under and what did they teach that you'll never forget? William Thomas Stafford, known as Bill, Chef of the Year in 1982. He moved to South Africa and opened the best restaurant there. We lived in the same village. I did my formal training with him for three years. As well as cooking, he taught me about cost vs yield, for example whether you had a function for nine or 900, you weighed the vegetables to the gramme.
Q: What is your prediction for the next food trend? Slow food. It's a back-to-basics philosophy I have been banging on about for 15 years. We're going back to simple flavours - carrots and peas, cauliflower pur�e and so on.
Q: What has been your best culinary idea? Adding bitter chocolate to the Cape Malva pudding. I use Amedei's Chauo, made in Tuscany from Venezuelan beans. It has high cocoa content and it just works.
Q: What is your favourite ingredient? Maldon Sea Salt. People think salt is a bad thing but without seasoning, you are stuffed. Any dish that is not seasoned properly just doesn't work. The salt debate comes from mixing politics and food, which produces a lot of rubbish. Maldon is consistent, you don't need a lot of it and it is a good all-purpose product.
Q: What do you think of the cult of celebrity chefs?Britain is too focussed on celebrity. I find it hilarious - all we are doing is providing a service. Young people coming through, they see these people and don't realise they have spent 10 years in the trade working bloody hard, 18 hours a day, seven days a week, to get there. What I do is very simple, but it is hard work. I suppose it's good for the big names, but it gives a false impression. I want people to come for the food, not because I'm on TV.BOOK A TABLEThe Plough72 Walton Road, WavendonMilton Keynes, MK17 8LW01908 587576www.theploughwavendon.com
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