- Paul Welburn, executive chef at Michelin-starred The Oxford Kitchen, on the local produce that makes him tick
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My style of food is classic flavours with some modern techniques.
I cook food I love to eat – bold flavours taking inspiration from seasons and great ingredients, allowing them to speak for themselves. Occasionally I like to challenge the guests with flavour combinations or use of ingredients that may not be so obvious, as being too safe prevents both the team and the customers from opening and expanding their minds.
I try as much as possible to locate local produce; provenance is important from both a chef’s point of view and the customer’s. Around Oxfordshire there are some great local suppliers and they can really inspire menus and dishes. Although I’m new to the area, I plan to expand my base of local suppliers.
From a chef who grew up in the country but also by the sea in North Yorkshire, Oxford brings a different challenge when locating local produce. We are situated in an area that has the Cotswolds close by, and with the game season in full flow the local game is stunning.
I have always encouraged the use of local farmers and suppliers wherever I have worked, the hardest part is finding these small artisan suppliers but when I do it’s great to champion them for the work they do.
Becoming immersed in your local area is great to push the area and support the region, and these producers and suppliers can be a great part of your offer.
New Wave seafood based close to us in Fairford champion local game and fresh produce – we’re in daily contact to find what’s in season, what’s local and what’s at its best, which helps so much in planning menus.
Huntsham farm, who we have started working with, are based just 60 miles from us near Ross-on-Wye – they are great producers of rare breed middle white pigs which we take now on the menu, great product and amazing flavour.
Meadow Honey Farm in Didcot – it’s from local bees and the flavour is amazing and allows us to create desserts showcasing the honey. The fact that it’s local and not a mass produced product gives it quality and also for the guests, a talking point when we drizzle it over.
Collagin is a great local supplier we have been using on the bar here at the Oxford Kitchen – their use of botanicals, liquorice and rose, makes for an elegant style of gin.
The area has a few hidden gems which deserve a shout out. As mentioned, Meadow Honey Farm create great honey products. I’m a big fan of Cotswold Distillery, and other great local gin suppliers include Spirit of Toad (I also enjoy their vodka) and Collagin.