Tuddenham Mill's Chef Patron, Lee Bye

A bird looking to impress

22nd November 2017

Our Chef Patron, Lee Bye believes his family’s roots have inspired his field to fork philosophy.

Ssssshhhh, don’t whistle or be loud, the turkeys will go berserk. Big Nana would always keep close reins on my dad rustling through the turkey sheds. It was the time of year that stress was high for my grandparents as the turkeys were being carefully reared and at great pace, now in readiness for local butcher shops and Ely locals ready for the mad rush of Christmas. My dad still laughs telling stories of delivering fresh wrapped birds on Christmas Eve in the back of an Escort van from Pymoor to Cottenham.

Windyridge farm, The Hythe, Little Downham. Land that stands still today, farmed and owned by my great grandparents Les and Annie Bye in the 50s and 60s, and memories we talk about today. I truly believe my roots and my grandparents, even before I was born, have shaped my outlook on cooking and the way I look at the land.

Sharing these stories makes me feel that these relationships with farmers, growers and butchers are what a lot of cooks have forgotten about today. Field to fork philosophies are vital in our cooking at The Mill. As a Chef, adding the finishing touches to a simple plate is the only great ending testament to another one’s commitment and craft. For me this is what cooking will always be about.

Oh my... Norfolk black chickens. Can you remember how chicken used to taste? These have a swagger and a mojo that will give any bird a game at consistency and depth of flavour. Born and raised in East Anglia from traditional, slow-growing breeds, the Norfolk black chicken is grown in small flocks, with freedom to roam across meadows and woodland, encouraged to express their natural behaviour – dust bathing, perching and foraging.

Their black feathers and iconic black legs, contrasted with a striking gold collar make this chicken distinctive. This breed’s instinct to range and forage allows the Norfolk black chicken to slowly develop excellent, dense, traditional flavours. To further enhance the succulence and quality of the meat, the Norfolk black chicken is fed a corn-rich diet, complemented by herbs and berries found while foraging across meadows.

Turkey, dare I say, may be off the menu at home on Christmas day this year.

Stuffed and classically roasted, fenland spuds, buttered leeks, bread sauce and a glass of cold stout...

I think even my great grandparents would have liked some of that...

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