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Brett and Matt foraging for Rosehips 


The last days of summer


It’s been non-stop at the Hotel and The Three Wishes over the past few months, I haven’t had a moment to catch my breath, but as the Chef the things that are keeping me busy are exactly what you strive for. 

We opened the brand new alfresco Bistro with a new menu which we also serve in the Conservatory Restaurant. We’ve had over 20 beautiful weddings spread throughout the summer months, my youngest trainee Ben, has been crowned South West Chef of the Year, and I’ve begun writing a weekly recipe column for our local paper the Western Gazette in addition to my column in the Sherborne Community Times, both of which give me a great opportunity to talk about my favourite subject ­ brilliant local food producers!

As we move towards the final days of summer things don’t show too much sign of slowing down either. In the kitchen we are busy working on new menus for autumn and we are looking forward to our Autumn Supper Club on 3rd September.  Our seasonal Supper Clubs have been a great success, and they provide a real showcase for some of the fantastic flavours and produce we have locally.

The seven course Autumn Supper Club menu includes warm Poyntington, portabello custard with late summer truffle, Vulscombe goats’ cheese with marinated vegetables and for dessert, set tonka bean cream with foraged rosehips. I will also be serving something that most people will not have tried.   Think wild, foraged, plentiful and meaty.  I am prepared for controversy and plenty of comments, but I am convinced people will be very surprised.  Come along and find out for yourself and tell me what you think!

To find out more about the Supper Clubs or to book a table simply call 01935 813131.








Ben is crowned

South West Chef of the Year


Our 18 year old, trainee Chef, Ben Champkin has been crowned overall South West Chef of the Year!  Ben won his category, Young Professional on Thursday 5th August, at Ashburton Cookery School, Exeter and then went on to be awarded the coveted title of South West Chef of the Year, chosen by Michael Caines MBE.

 Ben prepared a starter of seared line-caught bass, crab fritter, gooseberries, rainbow baby chard and red sorrel and a main of, roasted Duroc pork loin, slow-cooked belly, crisp crackling, Burrow Hill cider syrup and summer vegetables. Ben not only pipped chefs of his own age to the post, but also those in the Professional Class, all of which were aged 23 and above.

Ben has only been training with our Head Chef, Brett for a short time but he has already learnt so much, not just about preparation but about the importance of sourcing the very best local ingredients to create menus.

Ben used Burrow Hill Cider from Martock, Somerset, Longman’s butter from North Cadbury, Somerset, carrots and chard from our veg growers Ted and Jane Harris from Longburton just outside Sherborne and purple sage and broad beans grown in our own walled garden at The Eastbury.

At The Eastbury Brett and the team combine traditional British cooking with innovative twists, and Brett has taught the team that the recipes are brought to life by using the very best local ingredients, whether they are sourced from local farmers, grown in The Eastbury’s walled garden, or foraged from the nearest country hedgerow!






The next generation of little chefs


Over the past few weeks I have been working on a very special project with Sherborne Primary’s Class 11. They visited The Eastbury Hotel to learn how to prepare, cook and serve a menu of locally sourced produce to their parents, school governors and class mates and before all that I actually taught a lesson on local food at the School!

This is the second year running that we have worked with Mr Barge’s Class 11’s. Last year my daughter Francesca was in the class and the children enjoyed the project so much that we thought we would do it again this year. The children always have great fun at the Hotel learning about food preparation and serving guests. During the lesson at the school I get them to try different sorts of food from all over the world and then the local equivalent. I did try to get them to appreciate the merits of Dorset Blue Vinny which I love, but I think they need a little more time for their taste buds to mature to appreciate that one!

At The Eastbury, Brett, our Head Chef always tries to source as much as he can from the local area, and the fact that we have so many fabulous food producers in Dorset makes it easier. As well as sourcing produce from great local suppliers Brett and his team of chefs also grow their own veg in The Eastbury’s Walled Garden and go foraging in local hedgerows for all manner of wild fruit, berries and herbs.  In the photo above the boys can be seen picking wild cherries and elderflower from hedges only meters form the Hotel ­ now that’s cutting down on food miles!







Great taste


Over the past few weeks I have been judging for the Great Taste Awards with some of the Country’s finest food producers, experts, journalists and chefs.

At The Eastbury I go out of my way to find the finest ingredients to create menus full of intricate flavours and the Great Taste Awards are all about that ­ unique products full of flavour. The products aren’t presented in packaging and there’s no marketing or promotion taken into account, it’s all about the flavours that jump out at you.

Each year judges blind taste almost 5000 speciality food and drink products from over 1100 producers. Judging takes place in London, Hampshire, Dublin and the Guild of Fine Food HQ in Wincanton, Somerset, where I judged. The results will be announced in mid July 2010.

Whether it’s a perfect piece of smoked salmon, or hand-made black pudding, all that matters is the taste. Not only do I get to try some of the finest food our artisan producers have to offer, the judging process can be a real education. From judging alongside a W.I member that has been tasting the best home baked cakes for over 50 years, to an organic soup producer that appreciates the care and attention required to grow perfect veg, I always learn something that helps me develop my own menus at The Eastbury, and obviously I get to try some fantastic food in the process!







Going for green!


At The Eastbury we have an ongoing commitment to becoming more sustainable as a business but because we know this is easy for everyone to ‘say’ we decided to set ourselves some targets.  In 2008 we started this process by implementing a green energy system for the Hotel, and now two years later we are putting together a portfolio of all the ways we are being green in the hope of joining the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS).

There are lots of ways to help make the Hotel more sustainable and we’re leaving no stone unturned to make sure we’re doing everything we can.

We’ve made all sorts of changes, from the major ­ including our heat extraction system which takes the hot air from the kitchen (eliminating the need for air conditioning) and then channels it to the Hotel’s boiler, reducing the energy used by the boiler, to the minor - using 100% recycled wool blankets outside at our bistro.

We’ve had everyone involved at the Hotel and even some thoughts from our two children! One bright idea is to make our beautiful walled garden as hospitable to bees and butterflies as it is for guests! We’re going to plant flowers and plants that will support these vital insects and we are building food tables and nesting boxes for birds as well.




The Bistro launch 


The Bistro is open!

After months of planning preparation and hard work our alfresco Bistro at The Eastbury is now open.  We celebrated the launch last week with canapés that gave a glimpse of The Bistro menu including: Barrington asparagus with wild garlic leaf butter; Dorset crab cocktail; dark chocolate mousse with griottine cherries and crushed amaretti.

Mike Burks from Castle Gardens has done a tremendous job bringing our creative ideas to fruition, and Brett our Head Chef has done something really special with a menu that offers something unique. If it is warm and sunny then you can experience the new menu in our alfresco area, but on evenings that are a bit too chilly, you can still enjoy Brett’s new Bistro menu in the warmth of the Conservatory Restaurant looking out over our walled garden.  

We already offer fine dining at The Eastbury so with The Bistro menu we wanted to offer something different.  Brett will use ingredients from his herb and vegetable garden which is only a few feet away and soon he will incorporate ingredients from the bushes and trees that line the alfresco dinning area, including a rosemary bush, plum trees, blackcurrant bushes and an olive tree, so guest will literally be eating their surroundings!

The area is covered by a giant, Italian designed umbrella, with fitted heaters and guests can keep their legs warm as the night draws in with the woollen rugs that took me so much time to choose that they only arrived hours before the launch!



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