Uğur shares his passion for locally grown vegetables from Home Farm NactonReport by Julie Foster June 2010
Many restaurateurs say that they like to use local produce but few go to the lengths that Uğur does to work with local producers as part of his mission to offer the ultimate Suffolk dining experience. He believes passionately that quality and taste is as much about the fresh local ingredients from suppliers he refers to as friends as it is about the cooking. This simple fact speaks volumes and illustrates his commitment to providing the very best for his customers.
Uğur says “we live in a fast paced world with food often travelling thousands of miles before it reaches the table and I recognise that there is a rapidly growing demand for fresh produce with transparency in terms of where it comes from, how it is produced and how it got to the table. I despair over tasteless food where quality is so poor taste has to be bolstered with the use of additives including over use of sugar and salt. It is not surprising that there is cultural shift towards fresh and local. My customers trust me to serve fresh cuisine cooked with flair using high quality, local produce and with the help of my suppliers, such as Home Farm at Nacton, I pride myself on surpassing expectations”.
“I believe that the source of the ingredients is not just important but essential. It is not just about how it is grown but the people that grow it. Home Farm at Nacton is a people and community focused business. The level of care and attention that goes into producing the finest organic vegetables in the country is matched only by the care they take of the landscape and wider environment. It is far beyond what one would normally expect from the average professional grower. I am a comparatively small customer for Home Farm but nevertheless they know and appreciate the high standards I set in my restaurant and never fail to meet them”
Gavin prentice of Home Farm who is responsible for growing the fine organic vegetables that Uğur Vata relies on says “Quality and taste produced organically is a critical aspiration at Home Farm ... the absolute freshness of locally grown and freshly picked vegetables is unrivalled and we are delighted that it contributes to the extraordinarily good menu at The Galley”
Whilst quality and taste are the main reasons for sourcing locally Uğur is keen to spread the word about the other benefits too …
Buying locally is an environmentally sound business practice
“Some food is shipped thousands of miles which lead to a big carbon footprint and a loss of quality”. Uğur believes that farms such as Home Farm that follow organic and sustainable growing practices and with minimal use of energy minimize food's environmental impact and are “the product of choice for the eco conscious as well as the taste conscious”
Local Foods Preserve Green Space & Farmland
The environmental question of where you food comes from is bigger than its "carbon footprint." By buying foods grown and raised closer to where you live, you help maintain farmland and green space in your area. Gavin Prentice says “At Home Farm we insist on large field margins and we actively support a habitat that encourages a rich array of plant and animal life plus we have some of the most magnificent and healthy oak trees in Suffolk”.
Local Foods Promote Food Safety
The fewer steps there are between your food's source and your table the less chance there is of contamination or deterioration. Also, when you know where your food comes from and who grows it, you know a lot more about that food. Uğur and Gavin share the view that “Home Farm and The Galley restaurants and our mutual customers are all part of the same community...as a result there is a level of trust and responsibility that transcends the commercial transaction”.
Local Foods Support Your Local Economy and enhance the feeling of community
Uğur says apart from the taste and the sheer joy to be gained from eating fresh local produce “it makes sense to spend the money earned from local customers (and the many who visit The Galley from London and other parts of the country) with local businesses. Money spent at Home Farm stays close to home, working to support jobs and the local landscape and wildlife. According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a pound spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction.
I know that when I buy my ingredients locally the produce moves through fewer hands and my spend actually goes to the people like Gavin and his team who actually do the work and grow it not middlemen. That is a good feeling and vice versa as I know some of the staff at Home Farm are also my customers”.
Gavin Prentice at Home Farm says “There is also something intrinsically rewarding about supporting and supplying local businesses and local entrepreneurs. The accolades gained by a high profile restaurant such as The Galley are affirmation that our efforts to grow the very best are appreciated. At 7am in the morning with temperatures below freezing it is nice to look at the vegetables still growing in the field and imagine them cooked to perfection on a warm plate the same evening”
Eating local means more for the local economy. Locally grown produce is about nutrition as well as taste. Produce that is purchased in the supermarket or at a wholesaler may have been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks. Uğur says “I want to know that my vegetable produce is fresh and that the nutritional content as well as the taste has not been compromised. I like to collect the vegetables for my restaurant from Home Farm for that reason. This freshness combined with expert cooking ensures the taste of the food is spectacular and the nutritional content extremely high. With the increased interest in my children’s cuisine this is even more important.”
Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons. Uğur says “I talk to Gavin and the team at Home Farm regularly so I know what is coming when and I buy and cook in rhythm with the seasons and the weather and growing conditions within them. By cooking with the seasons, I am serving foods when they are at their peak taste, are the most abundant, and that has a cost advantage that I can pass on to my customers too”.
Buying locally grown food is part of the story of my cooking. Uğur says “understanding the story behind the food is for many customers an important part of enjoying a meal and appreciating what goes into a wonderful dining experience.” The process of from earth to table is a fundamental human activity that connects us with nature at the deepest level. Gavin agrees adding “it is profoundly rewarding for all of the team at Home Farm to have such a critical part to play in that process”.
For a chef, sourcing your produce locally makes sense – I know exactly where it comes from and I can see it being grown as I travel the short distance between both my restaurants. I know it is truly organic, it’s more affordable, and because it’s so fresh I know it’s going to taste great.
If you cook local food using ingredients form local producers, then you have a local identity and that’s part of what makes The Galley such a unique and very special dining experience.”
About Home FarmHome Farm Nacton is at the heart of the local community on the historic Orwell Park Estate, situated on the north bank of the Orwell estuary in Suffolk. On the opposite shore is Pin Mill, well-known to readers of Arthur Ransome’s chronicles of watery childhood adventure.
The farm is a patchwork of ancient and more recently planted woodland, small areas of heath, permanent grassland and good expanses of arable land — used for organic vegetable production as well as cereal crops. The grassland is grazed by sheep, while some arable fields are used to rear outdoor pigs. Unusual features of the landscape include a duck decoy and a beautiful expanse of wood pasture sloping down to the River Orwell and studded with centuries-old oak and chestnut trees.