Adam Simmonds on cooking organic

Adam Simmonds on how organic makes a difference to his cooking

by Great British Chefs 31 October 2016

We know the reasons why we should buy organic ingredients for cooking at home, but is it the same for Michelin-starred chefs? We talked to Adam Simmonds to find out when and why he uses organically-grown produce.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Whether it’s for health, environmental or culinary reasons, the number of us choosing to buy organic has been steadily increasing for the past three years. There’s been a particular boost in the number of independent food shops specialising in organic produce, and even the supermarkets are adding to the number of organic products on their shelves.

In the world of fine dining, however, it’s sometimes a little more difficult to tell how much of what you’re eating is organic. It’s a given that the produce should be the very best, but unless it’s specifically stated on the menu that a dish is made from organic produce, should we assume that it isn’t?

Not necessarily, according to chef Adam Simmonds. He’s been cooking with both organic and non-organic food throughout his career, although he can’t pinpoint the exact time he started noticing it more on menus. ‘It’s difficult to say when organic first became popular in professional kitchens,’ he says. ‘It’s been an ongoing thing throughout time and there wasn’t really one point or moment that created or caused it. People eat organic food for a number of different reasons – it might be because of health or whatever – but I think naturally we’re just becoming more and more conscious of what we’re eating.’

While he certainly sings the praises of organic produce, Adam knows it would be difficult for a chef to use it exclusively in his or her cooking. That’s perhaps why dishes made with organic produce aren’t labelled as such on a menu – the meat may be organic, but the sauce made with non-organic ingredients, for example. ‘I’ll use some vegetables that are organic, some that aren’t, but when I’m serving a simple dish I’ll always choose organic because the produce simply has more flavour,’ he says. ‘When it’s something pure like a plate of vegetables for the restaurant there’s nowhere for the ingredients to hide, so they have to be the best.’

Adam can’t speak for the rest of the industry, but it seems as though many other chefs share his views – the organic food market is now worth nearly £2 billion, and in 2016 the organic catering sector increased by 15.2%, proving more and more are starting to see the benefits. For Adam it’s the simple fact that organic tastes better. ‘Above everything else, flavour is the reason I use organic,’ he says. ‘At the end of the day that’s what’s most important for me. If I could set up my own little kitchen garden and grow organic fruit and veg then that would be the absolute ideal situation, but that’s just my own experience. Other chefs might want something else.’

It would be great if every chef in the world was able to use only the finest ingredients money can buy, but unfortunately budgets and being able to turn a profit can obviously get in the way. While the price of organic food is coming down, it’s still usually more expensive than its non-organic counterpart, which might put it out of reach for some chefs. However, for a Michelin-starred chef like Adam cooking at the very highest level, there’s no excuse for using sub-par produce. ‘I think a lot of the time in food you get what you pay for, and it’s important that as chefs we always try and source the best produce possible which, in my view, is quite often organic,’ he explains. ‘It just makes our jobs so much easier, as we have to do less to the ingredients to make them taste amazing.’