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Key & Quill’s Kent food heroes

The Small Holding's Will Devlin © David Pearce/Slice of Kent

11th March 2019

Key & Quill’s Kent food heroes

From publicans to pop-up pioneers, we introduce some of the movers and shakers who make our county the vibrant culinary melting pot it is today…

The alchemists
Let’s raise a glass to the winemakers, distillers and brewers who keep us topped up. In viticulture, Julian Barnes, Frazer Thompson, Nick Hall, Andrew Weeber, James Osborn and Ruth and Charles Simpson are all part of the English wine explosion in recent years. Elsewhere, top of the hops include Robin Wright, Bob Dockerty, Paul BournazianSean Calnan and Robert Wicks, or there’s William Boscawen producing mead, and Will Edge in the gin corner.

The chefs
Kent is full of top-class chefs who are raising the bar. The likes of Will Devlin, Scott Goss, Patrick Hill and Graham Garrett, in addition to Petrus Madutlela, Ben Crittenden, Matt Sworder and Robert Taylor, are at the very top of their game, as are Mark Constable, Andrew McLeish, Lee Edney and Greig Hughes. With their innovative menus and dishes, these guys are elevating the standards and potential of dining in the county.

The cooks
After some inspiration in the kitchen? Louise Robinson at Cygnet Kitchen, Anna Stanford of Anna’s Family Kitchen and Natalie Seldon’s Pretty Edible Stylist are well worth checking out, as is Mandy Miller Simmonds at Simply Food by Mandy. For parents at the stove, Adam Shaw of At Dad’s Table is ideal for pregnancy meals, or Severien Vits’ More Than Just Carrots and Alex Thurman’s Feed the Brood are perfect when cooking with kids.

The drinkers
As well as its award-winning vineyards, Kent boasts a wealth of experts who love their wine. The Bottle Bitches drink, talk about and share the vino they love ‘without any of the wankery’, then there’s Jonny Gibson, whose Kent Wine School educates anyone with an interest or passion. Sam Caporn’s The Mistress of Wine and Rowena Hawtin’s Discover the Vine offer private wine tastings, and James Viner’s posts are always entertaining and enlightening.

The indies
You can’t beat Kent’s thriving independent food and drink scene. This is where pub owners such as Jason Dormon and Richard Simm come into their own, not to mention family-run ventures from Maurizio and Ivan Di Santo, Maria, Franco, Alessandro and Barbara Biscardi, and Dane and Sarah Allchorne. Daniel Hatton, Juliet Proctor and Hollie O’Callaghan are likewise key players and hardworking business owners who make up the lifeblood of the region’s foodie fabric.

The influencers
As For Cocktail Sake, mixologist Tammy Jackson blogs about the concoctions she creates, while Adam Brown showcases the best places to eat with Good Food Tunbridge Wells. Caroline Kings profiles unmissable hotspots at Eat Around Tonbridge, plus Bibi Roy posts about her ‘people, passions and food’, Rachel Phipps and Katie Smith’s The Humble Pescatarian spread their love for food and travel, and Jules Serkin’s Scoff & Quaff Show is a local radio gem.

The operators
In the transient world of hospitality, there are movers and shakers who have grown their brands from small businesses to regional institutions. Matthew Sankey, Richard Phillips, Pete Cornwell and Mark Sargeant are some of these, alongside Brian Whiting, Martial Chaussy and Richard and Leslie Balfour-Lynn. These publicans and restaurateurs have retained their independence, but their savvy, visionary approach to the F&B trade has made them big players to rival the high street chains.

The organisers
Julian Leefe-Griffiths, Steve Wood, Joanna Gurr and Bob Taylor have a knack for getting things done. Julian spearheads The Pantiles’ biannual food festivals, and Steve orchestrates not one, but two annually as well, the latter as part of Tunbridge Wells Food Month. Joanna and the team at Produced in Kent, meanwhile, co-ordinate the Taste of Kent Awards, Kent Food Trails, Kent Young Chef and more, and Bob oversees the Kent Farmers’ Market Association.

The pop-uppers
We love it when chefs bring their food to a one-off location for a limited time, treating diners to a truly unique experience. Will and Matt Devlin’s No Fixed Abode, Ben Sulston at Sulston’s Kitchen and Sam Goode of the Old Fire Station have pioneered pop-ups regionally, along with fellow traders like Jamie Tandoh at The Bicycle Bikery, Alex Greig at Fuggles, and The Plough at Ivy Hatch’s Dale Bentley and James Norton.

The snappers
Taking an unforgettable picture of food can be a real art form, which photographers Jason Wain, Fleur Challis, Severien Vits, David Pearce and Joe Josland know all too well. Jason shoots for The Poet at Matfield, and Fleur for organisations like The Chefs’ Forum, whereas Joe snaps at The Small Holding, Severien was instrumental in the creation of Tree of Hope’s Cook Book project, and David showcases his work in Slice of Kent.

The supper clubbers
Hari Covert’s Underground Restaurant in Yalding paved the way for Kent’s perennially popular supper club trend. Started in 2010, Hari’s belief that eating out shouldn’t cost the earth has led to an explosion of further home entertainers since, including: Ghana Supper Club’s Adj Hagan-Mensah and Vicky Andrews; Emma Priestley of Emma’s Nomad Kitchen; Aurora Allen’s The Calypso Kitchen; Sofia Baguley at Sofia’s Columbian Kitchen; and Jack Harrison’s British Kitchen in East Sussex.

The suppliers
Kent’s restaurants are brimming with quality produce from outstanding industry wholesalers. Between them, Dion Massey at Penshurst Fine Foods, Linton Neill of Enotria & Coe, Andrew Wickham’s Weald Smokery, Zach Emett at Bibendum Wine and Graeme Anderson of Sankey’s Fishmongers supply hundreds of eateries. In Southborough, you’ll find Rob Rusbridge heading up Rusbridge Family Bakery and Chris Wickens leading Southborough Butchers, with Steve Fuller fronting Fuller’s Butchers & Farm Shop in Tunbridge Wells.

The teachers
As regulars on the Garden of England’s cooking demo circuit, there’s barely a food festival or farmers’ market where you won’t see Bruce McMichael, Matthew Kearsey-Lawson, Rosemary Williams, Joanne Banks or Julie Friend. Bringing their creative flair to life onstage with talks and tips, they’re all prolific in their output of events and demonstrations each year. James Palmer Rosser at Kent Cookery School and Rosemary Shrager have similarly made cooking accessible to all.

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