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Garden gourmet

PUBLISHED: 06:26 06 October 2014

Lee Birchnall, chef at Back to the Garden farm shop and restaurant. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Lee Birchnall, chef at Back to the Garden farm shop and restaurant. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Lee Birchnall loves his food - and his job as head chef at Back to the Garden at Letheringsett.

Lee Birchnall, chef at Back to the Garden farm shop and restaurant. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYLee Birchnall, chef at Back to the Garden farm shop and restaurant. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

I always liked art at school and found chefing was a way of fulfilling my creativeness, visually and flavour combination wise. I am also very organised, which I have found to be a massive advantage when working in kitchens.

What is your earliest food-related memory?

When I was little I used to help my nan make scones for her restaurant, although I remember eating a lot of them before they reached her customers, so perhaps more of a hindrance than help!

What is the strangest thing you have eaten?

I took a year out a few years ago to travel, and in Thailand I tried bamboo worms and other bizarre insects. It was a very strange experience!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Cooking for Miriam Margolyes and John Hurt at an intimate private dining event we held at Back to the Garden a couple of years ago.

What do you enjoy most about working at Back to the Garden?

I get to create and experiment with new dishes on a regular basis, for our various theme nights and weddings as well as daily specials and outside catering events, while using the great local and organic produce from this part of Norfolk. I also love the team here – my partner is restaurant manager and with us both having the same goal and vision for the place we have been able to unite the front of house and kitchen teams, ensuring we are all creating the best experience for our customers.

What would you say is special about your menu?

It is all cooked from fresh to order, and it’s a massive bonus to have our own butchery on site. And of course we are linked with an organic farm where we get most of our vegetables from.

What is your favourite local ingredient?

That’s a hard one! I can’t really pick a favourite ingredient. It’s cheesy, I know, but I love all the ingredients I use, because I would only choose to use the best around.

Are there any foods you can’t stand?

Brussels sprouts, although I will eat them if they are cooked with pancetta, butter, wine and chestnuts. I basically love all food as long as its cooked well.

Have you had any cooking disasters?

Not as yet, touch wood. However, I had a close call a few weeks ago when preparing for a private dining function in a stately home. Put it this way, I don’t want to see another lemon air foam for a while . . .

What would your last supper consist of?

Duck foie gras or scallops to start, beef fillet for main, peanut butter parfait or blood orange and red pepper sorbet to finish, washed down with a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Back to the Garden is a café, restaurant, farm shop and delicatessen.

Its organic beef, lamb, chicken, turkeys and geese come from its own farm and many of the organic vegetables are also grown on the farm. Food produced by Back to the Garden takes pride of place on the menu of the Barn Restaurant, open 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, plus 6.30-9pm Saturday, and 10am to 3.30pm Sunday.

Back to the Garden, Letheringsett, near Holt, NR25 7JJ; 01263 715996; www.back-to-the-garden.co.uk

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