Asparagus in April, Jersey Royals in May, game birds in September – seasonality is massive in the restaurant industry and has been for years. And quite right, too; it means less food miles, bolder flavours and more creative cooking. But as a rule, it’s generally associated with savoury cooking – after all, many desserts are made using ingredients such as chocolate, nuts and coffee, which are available year-round. However, there are plenty of reasons why sweet dishes should follow the seasons too, as Daniel Fletcher explains.
‘Seasonality for me is one of the most important parts of cooking and using produce that is in season is essential to any menu,’ he says. ‘When produce is in season it is when it is supposed to be eaten, so it is not only at its peak but tends to cost less as there’s so much of it about. For me, it also dictates the style of my desserts – for example, with strawberries now in my focus tends to be on cleaner lighter desserts to complement the delicate flavour of the fruit but also to complement the warmer weather. It isn’t the time of year for apple pies!’
Of course, some chefs become known for signature dishes, which means they have to find a way to ensure access to the same ingredients year-round. ‘Apple tart tatin to share was always a dish that was on the menu of every Gordon Ramsay restaurant I worked in, but because apples are available globally I could get beautiful Pink Lady apples from New Zealand during the British summertime as they were being harvested through the autumn on the other side of the world,’ says Daniel. ‘I can’t say I totally agree with this as I wouldn’t necessarily go down this route but it enabled us to have a consistent tatin year-round which customers loved. You have to remember that you cook for your customers and not for yourself – after all, they are paying you and your staff.’