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Hillside Nursery, Toftwood, Dereham, Norfolk, NR19 1NP

Member of the Month October 2018: Joe Walker

Here at Nurtured in Norfolk, we believe that our customers are what make Nurtured in Norfolk what we are today and we would like to thank you all by showcasing & celebrating your culinary talents – this month’s winner is Joe Walker, a member who regularly contributes to our project ‘The Nurtured way – showcasing culinary talents and bringing you everything within the chef’s world’. He will also receive a Nurtured in Norfolk goodie bag, full of fresh and flavourful produce.

We spoke to Chef Joe Walker to find out more about him…

Joe Walker is the Executive Head Chef at Hermitage Rd, Hitchin, and been for the last year and a half. He is a true believer in always progressing yourself and your team everyday, without a fail.

Current place of work, position & brief overview about yourself.

The most rewarding part of my role is teaching my team new techniques, flavour combinations or even about new products. My restaurant boasts a large open plan kitchen, which creates a great visual spectacle for my diners in the restaurant, but also creates a brilliant face to face interaction concept. This also gives my chefs a great sense of achievement, since they can visually see the smiles we can create, from the food we serve.


As a chef, I strongly believe in seasonal & local produce, as the skill in cookery is sometimes to let the produce speak for itself. The most important thing to always remember as a chef, is that there will always be new things to learn. And that when you create a dish, your inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere, so never overlook the obscene ideas.


Also when you are in a kitchen, you always find the sense of comradery within the team, no matter how big or small the team is. So I always have a lot of pride & appreciation for my team.


Why did you become a chef?

I became a chef, because I have always been a creative & innovative person. I have had a huge passion for food since a very young age, just the level of intrigue that a single plate can create is incredible. But a little shout out to my older brother, Jack, who helped me develop this passion of mine into a reality. Yet he was always more theory led, this made me more inclined to thrive in the practical side of the industry, he has now gone on to thrive in the food technology industry.


What is your cooking style & what can people expect from the food on your menu?

My cookery style is to never over complicate your dishes. My dishes rely heavily on the produce, if you start with a great seasonal product, you will end with a great dish. Sometimes the best dishes will only include 3 elements, due to the perfect execution of the elements. But again, my cookery style changes with the seasons, as during the summer you could find a light main course including seven elements to give a perfect balance of texture, flavour & techniques. During the winter, you can create a stunning ‘homely’ main course, relying on the quality & provenance of the main element.


But what to expect from my menu, is that seasonality, quality & provenance always come first before I create any dish worthy of a place on my menu.


What is your favourite cuisine & dish to cook?

My favourite cuisine, which links in to my cookery style, is Spanish. I love the cuisine because they rely purely on the quality of the ingredients. Tapas style which is always simple, but always delicious. I have hosted many ‘Tapas’ themed events over this year at Hermitage Road, which have always gone down a storm. I always put on a ‘Modern British’ twist on my tapas dishes, so that they create that level of intrigue. For an example, I always have a Spanish take on ‘Egg ‘n Soliders’ on the menu, which the dish includes: A broken poached egg, serrano ham, manchego cream, chive oil, brioche soldiers. This dish boasts about the simplicity but how flavours & even the sharing concept of tapas can bring a smile to a diner’s face.


What is your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment is reaching my role of Executive Head Chef, at the prime age of 21. But it only shows that if you have enough desire within yourself, you can get to where you want to be.


What do you do to stay current on new trends? Describe 2 or 3 of the most important industry trends.

I stay current with trends, always believing in my own cookery style. Brasserie style restaurants are coming back strong, boasting about the simplicity of the dishes, but yet always packing a punch in flavour.


But the most important trend at the moment & I believe it should always be a staple for every home cook/restaurant & chef to follow, is definitely seasonality & local produce. It is always great to support a local business, but sometimes you are lucky to have an incredible supplier just down the road from you, which I could name a few. For example, I use ‘Mrs Middleton’s Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil’, which is an absolutely stunning oil, and under a five mile radius from my kitchen. As now everybody is aware that if you are buying beautiful tomatoes, which are grown in Spain, they have already travelled over a thousand miles before they arrive in your kitchen. So the environmental impact is a big issue right now.


What do you like about Nurtured in Norfolk’s new launch ‘The Nurtured Way’?

I really like the concept of ‘The Nurtured Way’, as it’s a great way to almost network with other chefs, but without having to be in contact. You can read about the chef’s personal views/blogs/recipes, therefore creating that intrigue about what is on the chef’s day to day menu.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time & are there any plans for the future?

I never look too far into the future, as you never know what can happen tomorrow. But I always believe that I will progress myself every day. But I always think about members of my team first, about where they could be in 5 years time, and it’s almost flattering as you see their progression a lot more than they do.

But I do want to organise a few chef collaborations, as it is a great way to teach two different teams in one night, and of course giving your clientele an out of the ordinary experience in your dining room.


Joe Walker (Instagram; @chefjoewalker)

Do you want to be the next member of the month? Start sharing your images, videos & recipes with @thenurturedway to be in with a chance of winning of a goodie bag of Nurtured in Norfolk produce!

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