Independent Shopper: Aiden Blakely-May, Rastella

29 July 2022, 07:33 AM
  • Aiden Blakely-May, head chef at Rastella, tells Speciality Food about his passion for Cornish produce and the region's incredible seafood offering
Independent Shopper: Aiden Blakely-May, Rastella

We are based in the beautiful Cornish town of Falmouth. I was born here in 1993 and my primary school is literally opposite the hotel. It’s kind of a full circle moment for me coming back here as head chef.

The hotel is located in the centre of Falmouth and only a quick 10-minute walk away from the neighbouring beaches. We incorporate Cornwall into our menus in a big way. Everything is sourced from my home county. If we can’t source a product from here, we will not use it, or we will come up with a fermentation method to make such ingredients Cornish instead.

Cornwall is famously known for its incredible seafood offering. It is utterly world-class. What I love about our coasts here in Cornwall is the variety of produce. Fresh fish is in abundance and every now and then you get some special surprises.

For example, a couple of months ago my scallop fisherman text me one night about something truly special. “Aiden would you like some Cornish langoustines?” I couldn’t believe it. In the 10 years (on and off) I’ve worked in Cornwall, I’ve never seen Cornish langoustines. They were the most beautiful langoustines I’ve ever tasted. These kinds of discoveries inspire me and the team to do our absolute best with amazing ingredients, day in and day out.

I am so lucky to have a bounty of local suppliers who supply me with the very best of Cornish produce. In the last four years, I have developed firm relationships with some of the best veg growers and producers on the land. Soul Farm, Trenow Fields, Patricks Patch and Rob from Zucca Farm to name a few. They all practice regenerative sustainable methods when growing, no-dig and no sprays. A much harder and longer way of growing produce, but the flavour difference is huge.

The way these farms support local ecology ties in with my Cornish ethos. They are regenerating soil minerals and building diverse habitats whilst producing very high-quality food. It’s a topic I’m learning more about myself and something very important to me.

What is great is that all of my suppliers grow something different. They all text or email me a list every week of what’s available and at its best. I then plan out what we want and start thinking about how the menu will look that week. I send my order to them; the produce then gets picked that morning and brought straight over. Super fresh. I’ve even gone to pick up the veg myself when they’re too busy!

Over the course of the year, we receive spring onions, garlic, onions, cauliflower, squash, all types of brassicas, fennel, courgettes, tomatoes, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, edible flowers, asparagus, potatoes, every variety of herb, berries, grapes, the best salad and even lemons! The list really is endless.

I’m also always happy to receive a large volume of produce. This allows me to preserve it in some way so when we go into the hunger gap, we have local produce still ready to fire away. I’m very lucky to have made great friends with these incredible producers, it makes my job a dream.

more like this
close stay up-to-date with our free newsletter | expert intel | tailored industry news | new-to-know trend analysis | sign up | speciality food daily briefing