Every morning, a team of at least 20 chefs tackle the day’s prep before service – from freshly baked bread to simmering pots of intensely flavoured sauces. Every element starts, and relies on, the very best produce, making the suppliers that we work with just as important as the chefs themselves.
Ingredients are delivered fresh to the kitchen on a daily basis. If something’s not available or not of the right quality, then that could have a huge impact on the day’s menus. Chef de Cuisine, Matt Abé, discusses how having a close relationship with his suppliers is the best way to manage this.
As an example, the iconic lobster ravioli dish is a fixture on the menu and requires top quality fish and seafood to live up to its reputation. “I speak to the fishermen first thing every morning, often when I’m still in bed!” he explains. “They let me know what’s available, but also what the weather’s like on the coast which helps me govern how much I buy. If it’s going to be bad later in the week, then I’ll buy a little extra today, so I don’t run out tomorrow. It’s always a careful balancing act.”
Alongside the weather, seasonality plays a huge part in the kitchen, but it can be incredibly tricky to plan exactly when ingredients will be at their best. Take beautiful spring asparagus – “One year, the very best French asparagus was available from 1 February, but that’s no guarantee it will be that early the next year,” says Matt. “I’ll set a reminder in my calendar to start speaking to my supplier around that time and see what their forecast is, otherwise, I could plan a whole set of new dishes only to find out it’s a late crop.”
Truffles are another ingredient that are synonymous with Michelin-starred dining, but they can also be incredibly unreliable. “Nothing’s a given when it comes to these ingredients, especially white truffles because they can’t be cultivated. These are more expensive as they’re completely up to mother nature, but even with the farmed black ones, there’s no guarantees – it’s so dependent on the soil, weather, and the skill and care of the truffle hunter, knowing when and where to find them. When I visited a huge truffle farm in Italy I saw how hard it was – only 20 trained dogs and over 70,000 trees in just one plot!”
Matt feels passionately that he and his chefs should fully understand what goes into each ingredient they use, so visits to suppliers like this are incredibly important to build strong relationships and lines of communication. “I talk to them on the phone, or in person. I don’t like just sending a quick text or email because that doesn’t feel very personal. When it comes down to it, I want Restaurant Gordon Ramsay to use the best products, at the best price, but also to have great consistency every service. The best way to ensure this is by looking after our suppliers because then they’ll look after us.”
Find out more about Truffles with Chef Matt Abé here.