Essex's chef of the year recommends a menu inspired by local produce
PUBLISHED: 12:57 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:26 08 May 2018
To celebrate the launch of the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards 2018, Essex Life took a selection of the best Essex produce to our 2017 Chef of the Year, Paul Wendholt, for him to add his expertise and create a fabulous menu with a real taste of Essex
Slow-cooked goat leg from Blackwells Farm Produce, with carrots courtesy of Calcott Hall Farm and a hazelnut and buttermilk jus
For the main course
Salt baked rump of Deersbrook Farm beef with an oyster mayonnaise made from Native oysters from The Company Shed and handmade celeriac chips courtesy of Calcott Hall Farm
Calcott Hall Farm pumpkin custard tart, with salted caramel, a pumpkin and apple terrine served with vanilla ice cream from The Saffron Ice Cream Company
And to drink
Enjoy a fabulous selection of red, white or sparkling wine from West Street Vineyard in Coggeshall
And as an aperitif
Why not sample Wilkin & Sons Rhubarb and Ginger Gin, with ice, a slice and tonic to your taste
Being in the kitchen has been a long-held dream for Paul Wendholt and running his own restaurant, Grain in Colchester, is the culmination of that dream.
‘I can remember wanting to be a chef since I was in my early teens,’ says Paul. ‘After following the standard college route, I worked in just about every type of food outlet you can imagine, even a burger van, although it’s much cooler to call it a street food truck nowadays, I’m sure.
‘After bouncing between jobs in my early twenties, I decided to dedicate myself to the job and try and achieve something. Five years later I’m here at Grain, the restaurant I co own, so I think I’m on the right track.’
In October 2017, Paul was named chef of the Year at the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards. This was the first time the competition had involved a life cook¬off in front of a panel of judges, but Paul’s food made him the unanimous winner. But Paul is excited to learn more and expand his skills further.
‘Cooking is a universal language so there are people from across the globe that you get to work with, each of them with a different background, upbringing and approach to food and flavours. It may be a cliché, but every day can be a school day if you open your mind. The same goes for the produce that inspires us.
‘A real artisan producer that has their own niche or devotion to there product can in itself flick the light bulb in your head on.’
And when it comes to great local ingredients, the only was is Essex. ‘Honestly we’re spoilt in Essex,’ says Paul. ‘I wouldn’t be true to my Maldon roots if I didn’t use Maldon Salt and salt is the most important ingredient we own as chefs, but there is so much more too.’
As Chef of the Year, Paul has seen a growing group of foodies search out Grain, making it an exciting and busy time for the restaurant, and Paul.
‘We planned on a gradual build in the level of business through our second year, but we sit here now with a restaurant that more often than not has a waiting list for Friday and Saturday nights and a growing reputation within the region.
‘It’s tough, probably tougher than we thought it ever would be, but it’s so rewarding to see our little restaurant grow from an idea into a thriving business.’
And there is much more to come at Grain in 2018. ‘We just want the restaurant to get better and better. Sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re a young restaurant. We’ve come a long way in less than two years and our job now is not just to maintain the standard, but to continually look at where we can improve and refine what we do.’
Preserves, Spreads and Liquers from Wilkin & Sons
Brook Road, Tiptree, Colchester, CO5 ORF, 01621 815407
Wilkin & Sons Ltd, famous for its ‘Tiptree’ preserves, offers a wide range of products ranging from classic preserves to modern sauces and spreads, such as a nut-free Chocolate Spread. The firm is also developing a reputation for traditional tea rooms, with Essex locations including Cressing Temple Barns, Finchingfield and Dedham.
Seasoning by Maldon Salt
Wycke Hill Business Park, Wycke Hill, Maldon, CM9 6UZ, 01621 853315
Salt makers born and bred, the team at Maldon Salt has been hand harvesting their world famous sea salt flakes since 1882. Loved by chefs and consumers the world over, it is exported to more than 50 countries. It is a prestigious and unique product known for its soft crunchy flakes, delicate flavour and quality.
Goat from Blackwells Farm Produce
Colne Road, Coggeshall, Colchester, CO6 1TQ, 01376 562500
Here at Blackwell’s we pride ourselves on knowing exactly where our meat originates. The meat used here was sourced from a farmer local to us, Bill Hadley of Colne Engaine in Essex, and his cattle graze just four miles away from the farm shop on open park land in a totally stress-free environment.
Vegetables from Calcott Hall Farm Shop
Calcott Hall Farm, Ongar Road, Brentwood , CM15 9HS, 01277 264164
At Calcott Hall, we have been growing in Brentwood for nearly 40 years and produce a variety of crops throughout the year. From pumpkins and carrots to strawberries and squash, plus much more besides, we offer great value and freshness with our fruit and vegetables.
Our farm shop offers a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, which is very different to supermarkets. It’s perfect for finding great value fresh produce, but also some tasty treats. We have a play area with climbing frame and a digger for the little ones, and in the shop our baby shopping trolleys are always popular.
100% Grass-Fed beef from Deersbrook Farm
Shalford Green, Braintree, CM7 5AZ, 01371 850671
As a family-run farm we care about sustainability. That’s why we are the first in Essex to be certified as a 100% pasture-fed farm by Pasture for Life. It’s fantastic for our livestock, the environment and the consumer. Farming native breeds, our pasture-fed meat has the terroir of Deersbrook Farm with outstanding flavour and elevated nutritional values.
Seafood from The Company Shed
129 Coast Road, West Mersea, Colchester, CO5 8PA, 01206 382700
We are a family run seafood restaurant located in West Mersea, Colchester, and we have gained a reputation among locals and tourists alike as being the best restaurant to visit for dishes such as crab, lobster, fish, mussels, tiger prawns and more. Our extensive eat-in or take-away seafood menu, combined with our fantastic friendly service, will ensure that you come back time and time again.
Ice Cream from The Saffron Ice Cream Company
The Granary, Abbey Farm Barns, Wenden Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4JE, 01799 513552
Ice cream from The Saffron Ice Cream Company is artisan made, promoting pride and passion, with knowledge and skill. Our passionate artisan ice cream makers produce our products by hand everyday on a family farm in historic Saffron Walden.
Handcrafted in small batches using good old fashioned production techniques, we create honest products of superior quality and consistency. We proudly use ingredients sourced from other local micro producers and suppliers, so our traditional dairy ice cream and sorbets embrace the heritage of a Great British icon.
Wine From The West Street Vineyard & Visitor Centre
West Street Wine Barn, West Street, Coggeshall, CO6 1NB, 01376 563303
West Street wines are available to taste from the tasting wall just on their own or to accompany fresh local food for light lunches, afternoon tea celebrations or for dinner in the West Street restaurant.
West Street wines are also available from the vineyard shop to take home. The West Street 2013 white wine won a bronze medal in the International Wine Challenge 2014.
Get the taste
Grain, 11a North Hill, Colchester, CO1 1DZ, 01206 570005
Grain is Colchester’s first small plate dining concept. Throwing out the rule book the team have scrapped the traditional three course menu. Instead, everything is starter size and starter price, so you can have as many courses as you can manage.
There’s no frills, just good food, a great selection of drinks and a team of staff that want everybody that walks through the door to feel comfortable and enjoy their time.