How to grow your own like one of our star chefs

Is the Shutdown or Brexit making you seriously consider growing your own food? Here’s how the great chefs do it
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 Petersham Nurseries, Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond, UK. All images taken from The Garden Chef
Petersham Nurseries, Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond, UK. All images taken from The Garden Chef

For most of us, food comes through the restaurant kitchen doors, the delivery guy’s top box, and the supermarket’s shelves. However, when times get tough – such as today, when government workers in the US are enduring the longest shutdown in US history, and Brits are facing prolonged uncertainty due to Brexit – many might be considering digging a little deeper, and cultivating their own food.  

In this way, we’re not only going back to older ways of feeding ourselves, but also reaching forward. After all, many of today’s greatest chefs are extending their craft beyond the kitchen and out into the natural world. Our new book The Garden Chef offers an exclusive glimpse into the gardens of the world's leading restaurants, detailing their kitchen gardens, and reproducing some of their innovative recipes. 

 

The Ethicurean, Somerset, UK
The Ethicurean, Somerset, UK

A few, such as Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy of Twins Garden, in Moscow, are both ambitious livestock and arable farmers; the twin chefs have more than 150 kinds of vegetables, fruit, berries, and herbs under cultivation in their plot, alongside goats and dairy cows for cheese production, and are working towards complete self-sufficiency. 

Others, however, aren't trying to go completely off-grid; instead, some treat their patch of green space as both a gastronomic and social resource. In Napa Valley, Chris Kostow started his organic garden within a 10-acre (0.4-hectare) farm developed by the Saint Helena Montessori school, and his staff now provides lessons in growing for its pupils. 

 

 Petersham Nurseries, Petersham Nurseries Café,  Richmond, UK
Petersham Nurseries, Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond, UK

Nor is a big city necessarily an obstacle to great kitchen gardening.  In 2002, Gael and Francesco Boglione bought the plant nursery next door to their home in Petersham, which sits on the River Thames just southwest of London. Two years later, after a major overhaul, they reopened it along with the Petersham Nurseries Café—a charming, casual yet sophisticated restaurant, set within a glasshouse. 

 

The Ethicurean, Somerset, UK
The Ethicurean, Somerset, UK

You might find that by growing edible plants, your style of cookery changes. "When you are growing ingredients yourself, you can grow things that aren’t available at the market, and you gain a real connection to what you’re cultivating," writes Jeremy Fox, of California's Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, in our new book's introduction. "In the garden or on a farm, everything is growing, and there are bees and birds and worms, there’s wind and sun, and everything is happening right there, and it definitely changes how you think."

And marginal land shouldn’t be a setback either. Slippurinn, on the Western Islands of Iceland, manages to get a good crop out of its volcanic suroundings, despite being constantly whipped by fierce off-shore winds. 

 

Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, California, USA
Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, California, USA

You don’t even have to eat seasonally to enjoy home-grown food. Matthew and Iain Pennington’s menu at the Ethicurean in Somerset, southern England, features plenty of pickles and fermentations, all drawn from their beautiful walled garden, making summer's harvest last all-year round.

 

The Garden Chef

For the first time ever, The Garden Chef presents fascinating stories and signature recipes from the kitchen gardens of more than 35 of the world's best chefs, both established and emerging talents, with a wealth of beautiful images to provide visual inspiration. To find out more about all these places and much more besides, order a copy of The Garden Chef here. No matter what the year ahead brings for you, you can still bring in a bumper crop for yourself.


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