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Meet the Chef: Will Freeman, Head Chef, The Pumproom @ Copper Rivet Distillery, Chatham

What led to you becoming a chef?

I come from a family of foodies. My nan was a cook and my parents are very good home cooks, so growing up food was always at the centre of family life. I was always ‘good’ at cooking (so my mum would say) and I always enjoyed it, from making cakes at a very young age with my mum, to doing the BBQ with my dad.

I think – the same as a lot of chefs – after school I had a choice go to university or go to college; I didn’t very much enjoy school and was working as a kitchen porter in a pub at the time, helping where I could in the kitchen, so was already enjoying the rush of the kitchen…so the choice was obvious.

Where did you train?

I initially trained at Midkent College. Progressing in my career, I started work at The Swan under two of its head chefs, Scott Goss and Lee Edney, which was my first introduction into what I call a ‘real kitchen’. 

Where have you worked before?

Following The Swan, I went to The Beacon in Tunbridge Wells where I learned about simple produce; it was also my first experience of a field-to-fork kitchen, with several acres of woodland to forage and a fully edible garden. My first head chef job was at the Dirty Habit in Hollingbourne, which was my first opportunity to cook the food that I enjoyed and also my opportunity to run a kitchen the way I wanted to.

Why The Pumproom? 

During lockdown, I decided that it was time to move on from my previous job and spoke to a previous head chef, Lee. They mentioned this place and came down to have a look. I immediately fell in love with the building, its history, surroundings and potential.

I wanted to have a chance to have a menu that is 100% me, my ideas and my recipes. 

 

What is The Pumproom’s Concept?

The concept question is always a difficult one for me; I find inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, so it’s hard to pinpoint it. As a chef and foodie living in Medway, there aren’t a lot of restaurants around, so I’ve always had to travel to other areas of Kent for work and to eat out, so I guess part of the concept is to offer the very best that we can offer on Medway’s doorstep and to provide job opportunities for local chefs who have previously had a commute. 

We have a massive interest in minimising waste and sustainability; we are sourcing local and ethical produce, reducing single use plastics and sourcing plastic alternatives, disposing of what waste we cannot use correctly. 

Tell us about the dishes and menu you have created

We are fortunate to be located inside of the Copper Rivet Distillery, so this is obviously a massive focus for us and all of my chefs have spent time next door learning about the processes. We work very closely with the distillery; we use some of their byproducts for a couple of aspects of our menu. We use the spent grain from the production of the alcohol to make our bread and the yeast from the fermentation process to make our very own yeast extract – what I like to call Chatam-ite. 

All of our dishes start from a standout ingredient, seasonality is a must, and we go from there. Our carrot starter, ‘not another carrot’, shows how a simple ingredient can be elevated. We cook the carrot in an emulsion of carrot juice and cold pressed rapeseed oil (with a few aromatics), and simply coat it with a sticky tamarind which we grill to release all the sugars, top with a dukka spice and nut blend, pickled mustard seeds and serve with a cashew puree which is made by blending cashews in cashew milk. Super, super simple.  

 

What is your signature/favourite dish?

Bone marrow fondue, shallot, cockle, smoked eel and spent grain cracker. It’s been on the à la carte since day one and I love it; it’s not the prettiest dish that we do, but the flavour is unreal and it certainly hits the mark for me.

 

What is your guilty pleasure?

Instant ramen, crisps and anything that shouldn’t be on a crumpet on a crumpet. 

Will’s Recipe

Spring Lamb / wild garlic pesto / aged pearl barley / anchovy / radish 

prep time: 10 minutes (2 days prior if you want to use fermented foods)

cook time: 40-45 minutes

 

Ingredients (to feed 3-4)

1 Lamb loin (from the short saddle, bark and sinue removed, and skin scored)

1 clove of garlic crushed

4 sprigs of thyme

100g butter

12 leaves of wild garlic (washed) 

Maldon seasalt

2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts

1 tsp nutritional yeast (or a tsp grated parmesan)

Cold pressed rapeseed oil

400g Pearl barley 

Maldon sea salt

100-200ml Chicken stock

100g butter

1 Tsp nice vinegar (we use a cabernet Sauvignon vinegar)

8 Breakfast radish (washed and cut in half)

Fresh anchovy in oil

Red wine jus/ gravy (optional)

 

Method

  1. to start of the fermentation of the pearl barley, add the pearl barley to a sterilized container, add water to cover by an inch and add 4g (non-iodized) sea salt. Cover this with a tea towel and fix with string or an elastic band, place somewhere cool and out of sunlight. Leave for 2 days minimum, this will grow the natural yeasts in the air and barley and leave you with an amazing acidity that is difficult to replicate. (if you don’t want to ferment this, follow the same recipe, but cover and place in the fridge instead)

  2. pre heat the oven to 180C

  3. start with the pesto, simply place the washed wild garlic (saving a couple leaves for plating), pine nuts, nutritional yeast, and salt in a food processor (or mortar and pestle) start blending and add the rapeseed until loose and continue blending until smooth. (Be careful the garlic doesn’t get too hot, or you’ll lose the green colour) once smooth refrigerate until needed.
  4. for the lamb I like to cook the whole loin and portion after cooking, this way you get all the cuisson running the whole way down, with zero wastage.

    Season all sides with salt and a small amount of pepper, place fat side down in a cold oven proof frying pan, and turn on a medium/high heat, this will start to render the fat. Once the fat is cripsy and golden-brown turn over, add the butter, crushed garlic and thyme, and once the butter has melted, turn over on the fat side again and place in the oven for 4-6 minutes. Leave the lamb in the pan, cover loosely in tin foil, and occasionally baste with the butter.  (It will come out very rare, but it will continue to cook in the residual pan heat.)

  5. whilst the lamb is in the oven, begin cooking the pearl barley. First drain off the liquid in which you’ve soaked the barley in and discard. Put a heavy bottom saucepan on a medium high heat, add the butter and once its bubbling, add the pearl barley and stir (like a risotto you want to get some heat into the grain), after a couple minutes, add the chicken stock little by little and cook off, until the barley is al dente. (You may not need all the chicken stock). Check your seasonings and add a tsp of nice vinegar.
  1. by the time this is done, the lamb should have rested for 15/20 minutes and perfectly cooked and rested, and ready to carve.

  2. to plate add the pesto to the plate in a circle, then place the pearl barley creating a semi-circle inside the pesto, the lamb will fit inside the other half. Place radishes around the circle and place the anchovies around the dish, for short sharp bursts of acidity, and finally the some of the fresh wild garlic leaves.

 

TOP TIPS to make this even better,

  1. we ferment the wild garlic before making the pesto, we use a 2% brine to do so. We also use the oil from the anchovies to make an emulsion, this is easy to do and uses up the oil that otherwise would’ve been discarded.

  2. you could use the fat from the lamb pan to make a gravy, thicken with the same volume of flour, cook out add a splash of red wine, and dark chicken stock and cook until thick.
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