James Sherwin is an innovative Shropshire chef who is part of the Buy-From Shropshire community. Under the name James in a Space he has been forging a name for himself with his Wild Shropshire Pop Up Restaurants. He will be bring his 7 course Wild Shropshire experience to the Ludlow Food Festival on Saturday 10th September. In anticipation of that I wanted to share with you the recent guest blog he wrote for us as it is pretty special. Enjoy….
Pop Ups: Local. Fresh. Foraged.
There are certain buzzwords in cooking at the moment. The word ‘local’ has been around for a long time now and has transcended cooking into all areas of consumerism. ‘Foraging’ has become a trend in cooking now since the rise of New Nordic cuisine, however the pre-professional romantic in me remembers watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstal before I was even aware of Noma and Rene Redzepi.
So why local and why foraged as concept of my pop ups? The answer is very simple, and again goes back to romanticism. Ultimately I want to be connected. Connected to my food but also, connected to my surroundings. The dairy farms, the Oak and Silver birch trees, the farm tracks lined with Hedge garlic and chamomile. These not only equate to the life experiences of myself and my family, but also act as a counterpoint to the brutal sterility of a professional kitchen where quite often produce will appear with little-to-no story or provenance
It may not always be evident when eating but every ingredient has a story and a reason why it’s on the plates I serve, they all act as a much smaller part of a bigger story, one that can’t be told in 1 mouthful, 1 dish or 1 tasting menu but the overarching storyline across “Wild Shropshire” and that storyline should include sustainability, zero waste, modernity while reaching back to traditional foods and ingredients.
Foraging for me again is an incredibly important part of “Wild Shropshire” for three reasons, firstly it connects me to where we are, the Scandinavians talk about “time and place” and that’s exactly what I get from foraging, I find seasonality to be a little too broad a concept especially given the British weather, whereas foraging gives you a snapshot of what’s perfect in that moment, and that is what will go on the plates!
The second reason is due to my love of the unloved ( British sentimentality) scientists often say that we know more about the surface of the earth than we do the bottom of our oceans. Our own native ingredients (what’s a native ingredient is however another argument!!) can be seen in the same way, I’d suggest that 99% of the population knows what pineapples from thousands of miles away taste like but only a small percentage will know what pineapple weed tastes like. These are the things i want to explore, you could always call it Shropshire Terroir, take what the French say about the grapes and wine and apply it to OUR food. The majority of people don’t know what our native plants and herbs taste like.
The third reason is sustainability, why buy garlic that’s been flown in from China when you very probably have hedge garlic growing within a few metres of your house, no waste, zero carbon footprint.
The other aspect to “Wild Shropshire” is the meat I use however this is a massive subject that I’ll cover at another time, as is local producers.
Pop ups, why pop ups? No rules, no limitations!!!
I wanted to do something slightly different to the usual restaurant set up, for me the food is personal and so I want the environment its served in and your experience to also be personal. I want to be able to talk to the guests, answer questions, have some sort of dialogue that goes beyond the usual faceless restaurant experience, it needs to be something more. I almost view it more like going to see a band play, something visceral.
In conclusion and hopefully a way of rounding of my incoherent ramblings, the “Wild Shropshire” pop ups for are a reflection of the personal way I view Shropshire and more importantly the small part that I exist in, it is the flavours and terroir of the view I wake up to every morning and the drive I have everyday as I make my way into work. It’s a celebration of an often overlooked part of our heritage.
To Book onto James’s Sell-Out Pop-Up Restaurants head to his page and click on the link to book your tickets: www.buy-fromshropshire.com/producer/james-sherwin