As we move into spring and the menu changes with the new season, our head chef Nathan Eades, tells us about his influences in creating his dishes and reflects on his time at The Wild Rabbit so far.
What is your earliest childhood memory of food?
Coming from a working-class background in Birmingham, food wasn’t really a focus for my family. Meals mainly just got fitted in around football. Sunday was a big day – the family would get together for a meal, usually a roast; but food was simple. My nan’s cooking was a highlight – to this day nobody in our family can make the Christmas sprouts like she does – but I had little experience of cooking beyond making mince pies and baking the odd cake. Food and my interest in cooking began to develop when I started work in a pub.
So how did cooking and being a chef become a passion?
I starting out working part-time in the local pub, waiting on tables. It was initially just a means to make pocket money to fund the weekend’s football excursions. Then one Saturday night the kitchen was short staffed and I was asked to chip in and help deep-fry the breaded mushrooms. That was it: I caught the bug and I’ve never looked back. It wasn’t the cooking or the food that drew me to the kitchen initially; it was the camaraderie, the feeling of being in a team, being part of something that made other people so happy and of course doing something that I enjoyed. And then as I worked in different places with different chefs, the love of cooking and the produce grew and it’s stayed with me. Being a chef offers instant gratification – the smile on somebody’s face when they’ve enjoyed your food – as much as it attracts criticism and I enjoy both aspects.
What drew you to The Wild Rabbit?
From the moment I arrived to meet Carole Bamford and saw Daylesford’s Market Garden, there was no turning back. I knew I was being offered a chef’s dream – the produce we can work with from there is just amazing. And when I was taken over to The Wild Rabbit it was love at first sight: the log fires crackling, the attention to detail in the furniture and the rooms, just the feel of it. But it was also because The Wild Rabbit is really focused around our guests and their enjoyment of their time here. That sounds like an obvious thing to say, but so many restaurants can be all about the kitchen and what the chefs want to cook. At The Wild Rabbit everything we do with the food, with the menu and with the bar area is for our customers and what they want to eat.
Where do you find your inspiration – how do you go about creating your menus and dishes?
The first thing I’ll do is talk to our producers and farmers – they’re the experts and they know how to ensure we’re using produce at its best, at its peak. And of course everything we do is seasonal so that drives the way we create the menu. Eating anything out of season just doesn’t taste right.
I’m trained in French cooking so we look to France and to a classic French repertoire of dishes when create the menu – we’ll look to borrow the flavours but then are constantly thinking about but we can we put our twist or spin on a dish. Sometimes this is simply adding wonderful local British ingredients such as gooseberries, cobnuts or quince, or else it’s taking the essence of a dish to create something new. We’ll test something four or five times, tasting it and refining it each time, before we put it on the menu.
What produce are you excited about as we go into spring and summer?
I love this time of year, the season’s produce arrives in quick succession, so each week can bring something new. The asparagus and Jersey royals are quickly followed by elderflower and that means that strawberries are just around the corner and raspberries aren’t far behind. I love using all those ingredients and being able to have them straight out the Market Garden at Daylesford means they’re as ripe and fresh as they can be.
And what’s in your store cupboard – the three or four ingredients you could not live without?
Here at The Wild Rabbit, we always have Roscoff onions – I love the sweetness they impart when you cook them down and caramelise them; Daylesford’s butter is beautiful; some really good Daylesford milk; and then a really flavoursome stock that we make ourselves – a chicken stock. You can’t do a sauce without butter and stock so these really are the base of our cooking here.
At home I’ll always have a bottle of Sriracha sauce for instant flavour; basmati rice; eggs; and my own guilty pleasure – corned beef.