Adam Stokes grew up in Northampton, in a family that “always wanted to eat well”. His father cultivated (and still cultivates) all the family’s vegetables in his allotment. “I grew up knowing what a carrot tasted like, I knew it was something pulled out of the ground, rubbed with a scourer, then cooked. It was not supermarket stuff you can buy these days.” He told us: “That probably sparked my love for food – maybe it just came out of a love of eating, because we were exposed to decent, quality food when we were young.”
After two years at college, studying hotel and catering management, Adam Stokes began his professional career, spending seven years learning his trade at Hambleton Hall, in Leicestershire, under Aaron Patterson. Of this time he says: “He taught me the basics, but I also learnt huge amounts about game and the importance of sourcing quality ingredients.” Leaving this role as sous chef, in 2008 he became head chef at Glenapp Castle in the lowlands of southwest Scotland, aged only 26. In the four years he stayed in Scotland, he secured a fourth AA rosette and his first Michelin star, only a few days before his 30th birthday.
At Glenapp he featured locally shot game, lobster and crab fished nearby, and fresh produce from the castle’s own greenhouses, enhanced with savoury hits of umami from truffles, ceps and flavour-packed sauces, in the finest tradition of British country cuisine. His Grouse with beetroot, spring onions and girolles with an intense blackberry sauce is an excellent example of this style.
Adam Stokes has since moved on to the less rural surroundings of central Birmingham, where he and his wife Natasha have set up their two-year trial restaurant, “adam’s” – bringing his extraordinary food to a wider audience. The Good Food Guide says of adam’s restaurant: “Adam Stokes’ impressive cooking has a vibrancy all of its own”, highlighting his Whiskey, cream and honey dessert in particular as drawing “sighs of sheer wonderment from around the table”.
Strong flavours are a theme that runs through Adam Stokes’ food, even as his style develops “from quite fussy and complicated dishes to much cleaner and fresher creations”. Although he no longer has ready access to the foraged delights of the Scottish sea and woodlands, he still sources the highest quality ingredients from around the British Isles, finding “the best British ingredients as close as possible” and crafting them into dishes that “allow the ingredients to really sing”.