As Head Chef of one of London’s most fashionable fine dining restaurants in the early 1980’s I was a regular visitor to Covent Garden Market buying the best fruit and vegetables for my kitchen. In those days the most exotic veg on the market was Mangetout and the trending salad leaves Lollo Rosso. The market was a busy wholesale environment, loading, unloading, buying, selling, haggling, lots of swearing …………..and the market café ……always full.
All that has changed, the old buyers walk busy with boxes of produce and barrow boys is long gone. Supermarkets now account for a huge proportion of the fruit and veg sales in the country and have their own, packing and processing plants, lots of the produce, though pretty to look at, lacks flavour, supermarket fruit never ripens it just goes off!……
Lets do Supermarkets another time…..
Sounds a bit bleak ……but all is not lost and the lucky chefs cooking today have a fantastic choice of produce to use on their menus. New… Exotic …Heritage… Wild… .Foraged….Forced…Flown in…..that they can Vac Pac ….Dehydrate …..Gel …..Evaporate ….Slow Cook …..Compress and Ferment.
A new breed of supplier has had to evolve to cater for this.
This is still a family business and the team at Mash have a tireless energy and passion for their trade. They are working closely with growers from all over the world to develop, import and promote this produce. They are a thoroughly modern company but with traditional core values, strong on customer service, emphatic about food provenance and so passionate about quality. From this, and not overnight, they have created their own unique niche market. Others will follow suit and copy for sure but Mash are now champions of every Michelin star kitchen in the capital and thoroughly deserved.
Earlier this week I was fortunate to spend a totally inspirational morning with one of the company directors David Swain tasting produce, learning about out how they source, stock and deliver the fantastic array of ingredients they now have on offer. David is so passionate and committed and knowledgeable it was a pleasure to just walk alongside him as we toured the storeroom.
Any chef short of ideas or inspiration should just spend 20 minutes here to be completely blown away. In the old days veg was an accompaniment to meat and usually shared the plate with a potato. Chefs today have out of this world produce to choose from. I saw Calcot onions from Tarragona, Butterfly Sorrel flowers, delicious Apple Blossom, Sea Fennel, 3 Cornered Wild Garlic, (60Kg foraged each week)
Fiddleback Ferns, Forced Sea Kale, Friseline, Oca Tubers, Skirret, Finger Limes from Australia, Sea Beet, the most delicious Muscatel Grapes, was like eating wine, new season Gariguette Strawberries, perfectly graded Leeks, Goldrush Apples, Olroyds Rhubarb (2 grades) Israeli Etrog and superb Black Truffles
The customer base at Mash includes all the top London restaurants, these chefs are at the peak of their careers, they are incredibly demanding, standards are exceptionally high and they do not tolerate second rate produce or sloppy service. Mash are delivering a unique product in this very challenging environment and raising the bar every day.
I was Gobsmacked…………….