Produce Business UK catches up with Michelin-starred and London Produce Show and Conference demonstration chef Graham Garrett as he publishes a unique cookbook-autobiography titled Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls, which touts the importance of working with great fresh-produce ingredients and their suppliers
As the drummer with 1980s rock bands Dumb Blondes, Panache and Ya Ya, Graham Garrett was used to rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Freddie Mercury and Talking Heads. Later, as a chef, he has worked for and alongside some of the biggest personalities and talents in the restaurant business.
In his new cookbook, Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls, Garrett’s recipes, and the inspiration behind them, are interspersed throughout, including one for the eponymous sausage roll. Yet at the core of all Garrett’s food are his suppliers.
“There is no substitute for speaking to a supplier,” he insists. “I ask them what they’ve got and what I should be using. Years ago, you would just order it and it would come in. You would order asparagus or raspberries, for example, because you had to have them. It was always more about appearance than taste, but that has changed and that is one of the positive aspects of the trend for seasonal produce.
You have to talk to your suppliers every day and know what’s short. You can’t cook good food without a good supplier.”
Highlights from the book include Sika deer with mashed swede, chanterelles and twiglets, including a spiced damson sauce, a roast duck breast with mushroom tortellini, pickled turnip and Lapsang Souchong.
“Produce is the most important thing,” says Garrett. “You can make a half-decent dish if you have the right produce, but you can’t make a great dish without great produce. It is about treating those ingredients with respect.”
An ingredient that pops up more than once is the banana shallot. “I like banana shallots and I find them reasonably sweet,” enthuses Garrett. “They are an interesting shape and you can use them whole or halve them. A lot of chefs prefer them to brown shallots because of the ease of peeling and chopping them, but you don’t see them a lot in supermarkets.”
There is also a beautiful dessert called simply Hedgerow that features all the early autumnal seasonal favourites Kent has to offer; cobnuts, Cox apples, elderberries and brambles.
Each dish has its own story and Hedgerow is no different. “There’s a car park behind the restaurant that’s surrounded by hedges,” explains Garrett. We just started walking out the back and gathering what was there – elder flowers, elderberries and lots of brambles. Then beyond the hedges are two small apple trees and a quince tree. Year by year we have changed the dish slightly and now we’ve gone a little bit further and included cobnuts. They are all flavours that go together. I was going to call the dish Car Park, but it didn’t sound very glamorous!”
When Garrett is not demonstrating his passion for interesting products and encouraging the next generation of chefs at London Produce Show, Garrett’s haunt nowadays is the kitchen at The West House, in Biddenden, Kent which he set up in 2002 with his partner Jackie, and where he has held a Michelin star since 2004.
Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls tells the astonishing story of his journey from childhood in London’s East End to the dizzy rock-star days to those as a chef for royalty, featuring nearly 60 recipes with stunning images by Adrian Franklin as well as archive photography.
Written with acclaimed food writer Cat Black, the book is therefore a revealing account of the 1980s music business from the glamorous to grim. The story carries on into the 1990s when Garrett cooked privately for the Queen as well as working with some top culinary names including Nico Ladenis, Gordon Ramsay and Richard Corrigan who has written the foreword in his book.
Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls is published by Face Publications in a limited edition of 5,000 copies, each numbered by hand. The book costs £35 and those ordered from the Face website will be signed by Garrett.