Kitchens usually run on a strong chain of command, ultimately they tend to be dictatorial. The vision of one man or woman, with input from others certainly, but with the final decisions and choices being made or sanctioned by one person. So how on earth does it work when, over a period of three days, you have a group of nine or ten head chefs working together, four or five of them in a kitchen at once? Well, in the case of the first Eat Jersey Food Festival, I have to say extremely well. Some nerves and a degree of tension at times during service, yes, but no egos, no histrionics, just a very talented group of people working together not only to deliver their own dishes to an extremely high standard but helping each other and working as a team. Of course, it helps significantly when everything is well organised and a huge amount of credit must go to Mark Jordan and the whole team at the Atlantic Hotel. I have heard that organising chefs is similar to herding cats (I am sure we are not that difficult!), so a special mention should go to Stephanie Paddock, marketing and communications manager at the Atlantic, Scott Andrews, general manager, and the Dovetail agency who produced fantastic itineraries for us all and generally made sure we were extremely well looked after and in the right place at the right time!
The whole idea behind the inaugural Eat Jersey Food Festival was to promote the island and showcase the superb produce available there. Oysters, scallops, crab, lobster, beef, cream, cider, turbot, mushrooms, all of it local, featured on the menus across the three days. The Thursday night saw a five-course dinner served with matched wines and Taittinger champagnes, followed by a six-course dinner on the Friday, again with matched wines and champagne. Saturday brought a change of venue and style with a superb menu of Jersey lobster and Mark’s renowned local beef burger being served at Mark Jordan at the Beach.
I am always hugely flattered to be invited to take part in dinners like this, even more so now that I am no longer running a restaurant. It is nerve-wracking and the numbers are always significant for me. In the two nights I cooked at the Atlantic, we served around a hundred covers; that would be about seven days worth of business at my old restaurant, Sienna! Despite some nerves though, the whole experience was superb. There is so much to learn working with other chefs in this way; you see how different kitchens are set up, learn new techniques and get to see and taste some completely different food.