In an economic climate where stretching budgets is equally as important as delivering first class food, chefs have much to consider when it comes to buying in products. For this reason, versatility of use is a hugely attractive quality, as Phil Thomas, head chef at Rosewarne Manor in the Cornish town of Hayle, fully appreciates. If a product can save time and energy costs, even better. Whilst committed to local suppliers to ensure his freshly-prepared dishes contain the best ingredients, Phil has no qualms about sourcing pre-prepared stocks from Cheshire-based specialist Essential Cuisine, which, in his view, ticks all the boxes and more…
Anything goes Undoubtedly, one of Rosewarne Manor's unique selling points is its ‘anything goes' attitude when it comes to the food it offers for functions, from weddings to murder mystery nights.
"Every menu is different for our functions," said head chef Phil Thomas. "We sit down with each organiser and ask, "what food do you like?" and go from there. It's very personal."
As the perfect example of this, Phil and his team have not only planned the likes of a 100% gluten-free soiree, but managed to get their heads round a Cornish-Canadian wedding.
"The groom asked if we could do a specific, regional dessert from Canada, and we spent a day on the internet doing research to make sure we got it right," he said. "In the end, we got a baker from a small village in Canada to email us the recipe. We'll also tailor our a la carte menu for a function if a customer is unsure what they want, but like what we do here.
"We probably do make life difficult for ourselves, but it's what gives us the advantage over bigger venues in the area, and why we are booked up at weekends throughout the year."
Another individual touch at Rosewarne Manor, which has a capacity of 140 in the restaurant, is Phil's commitment to sourcing from local, artisan suppliers. Lamb and mutton, for example, come from organic Nancarrow Farm in Truro, with the farmer phoning Phil on a Sunday to ask what he'd like for the following week. The same principle applies to fish.
"All our fish at Rosewarne Manor is hand line caught by Wild Harbour of Hayle, meaning there are no discards at all, and our fish man will phone me as soon as the boat arrives in the harbour to tell me what he's got. I live 300 yards away and just have to stroll down there and make my choice."
"We pride ourselves on working very closely with our suppliers, and we do not do it for the marketing, but because it really is the best way to get the best produce and ingredients."
Essential supplier Based in Cheshire, Essential Cuisine is an exception to the rule when it comes to Phil's local sourcing policy. Keen to find a time-saving solution to the lengthy process of scratch-making stock in a stockpot, he discovered the company 14 years ago and hasn't looked back.
"I came across Essential Cuisine in the late 1990s thanks to my head chef, who had worked with Nigel Crane, the man behind Essential Cuisine, at The Dorchester," he said.
"I believe I was one of the very first chefs to use their stocks, and, back then, had them couriered down. Today, I won't entertain any other stock in my kitchen."
Stock is considered the bedrock ingredient in commercial kitchens, delivering balance and depth of flavour to a dish, but, as Phil testifies, making stock from scratch is something chefs often do not have the time or skill for, without considering the health and safety obligations.
"In an ideal world, you would have your own stock pot ticking away, but, especially in function season, with potentially thousands of covers to prepare, you just don't have the time, without even considering the environmental health issues," he said.
"In terms of energy costs, gas and electric cost a fortune these days, and, if you are using gas, you now also have the extra costs of an extraction canopy. With stock taking up to eight hours to prepare, it can be a costly exercise. Put simply, we don't use Essential Cuisine stocks as a shortcut, but to give us that extra level of support in the kitchen.
"It's not that we don't ever make our own stock. We teach butchery skills here and that is part of it, but being able to call on Essential means I can spend more time teaching my chefs other things. Plus, Essential Cuisine stocks can be used in many ways, a huge selling point."
Very, very versatile The versatility of Essential Cuisine's stocks stems from the fact that they are powdered, meaning they can be used as a traditional stock, a flavour enhancer and much more.
"I love the fact they are so versatile, and, with the recession, I know a lot of other chefs appreciate products having more than one application," said Phil. "For instance, we do pork belly with apple chutney, pork pie, crackling and Madeira reduction on our a la carte menu at Rosewarne Manor, and I use the Essential Cuisine vegetable stock to make a spicy, African rub for the meat.
"I also use some of Essential Cuisine's fish and the chicken stock in our Cornish fish chowder signature dish, but not in the conventional sense, sprinkling it in when I add the cream. The dish is so popular, we can't take it off the menu, too many people ask for it. We did try it once without the Essential stock and, for some reason, it just didn't work. The stocks, which have a very fine texture, give balance to a dish and help to build the flavour, not disguise it.
"I use Essential Cuisine's fish, chicken, beef and vegetable stocks the most, all of which have all the flavour of the stockpot, but, being powders, are so much easier to use than the grainy pastes, which I find are incredibly difficult to break down and have a putty-like texture."
Delivering a clean and balanced taste, Essential Cuisine powdered stocks offer a superior yield of 50ltrs per 800g tub (around £15), with a low level of fat (c3%) and no MSG or preservatives. Particularly handy if you, like Phil, are asked for special dietary requirements to be met by function organisers, the range is also gluten-free.
Each flavour - from chicken to light vegetable - has an appropriate level of seasoning without losing any of the naturally rich taste of the stockpot. Based on 50ml as a recipe ingredient, the stock contains just 0.28g of salt or 5.6g per litre.
With new Halal Society-approved versions recently introduced to the portfolio to cater for the growing number of Muslims in Britain, the range has a 12 month shelf life, there is no need to refrigerate after opening, and each tub is colour coded for easy recognition.
Phil, who also uses Essential Cuisine's veal and beef jus to complement his own jus and, occasionally, the glace as a flavour ‘swipe' on the plate, said everything Essential Cuisine produced was premium quality, from start to finish. "The products are just perfect," he said.
Nigel Crane added: "Our products are building blocks to strike a balance between the often lengthy process of making stocks from scratch and going down the mass produced route. Also, because our stocks are powders, you can add them straight into a dish at any stage of the cooking process, giving chefs ultra convenience and control during a busy service.
"What you have to remember is that the stock component cost of an average dish is under five pence, and it is nothing short of a false economy to buy cheaper products."
For samples, call 01606 541 490, email email@example.com or visit www.essentialcuisine.com
*T**his press release was provided by Essential Cuisine*