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Michelin unites local businesses for a good cause

Sauce caught up with Mike Lawton, Head of Global Marketing and Communications – Brand Licensing, at Michelin to find out more about the company’s 2019 charity dinner in aid of…

Sauce caught up with Mike Lawton, Head of Global Marketing and Communications – Brand Licensing, at Michelin to find out more about the company’s 2019 charity dinner in aid of Dougie Mac. Click here to watch our behind-the-scenes video.

The sell-out event took place on Monday 21 October at World of Wedgwood in Barlaston, following on from the success of the first dinner back in October 2018. You can read more about the origins of the Michelin charity dinner in the Autumn 2019 edition of Sauce magazine, but we chatted with Mike to find out more about the success of the most recent event.

Rob Palmer smoked eel dish

Through ticket sales, along with the auction and raffle on the night, the event raised more than £60,000 to support Dougie Mac’s work providing end of life care across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. It was made possible by Michelin (whose employees chose Dougie Mac as the Stoke site’s charity of the year and volunteered to provide table service on the evening), World of Wedgwood (who provided the venue), J&J Wines (who supplied the wine pairing), and the two visiting chefs and their teams.

In the kitchen at World of Wedgwood this year were John Williams MBE, executive chef at The Ritz London, and Rob Palmer, head chef of Peel’s Restaurant at Hampton Manor – both Michelin starred chefs.

“It was a fantastic honour to bring such names up to Stoke-on-Trent in support of the charity,” says Mike. “Frankly, the two chefs and their teams were amazing. Of course I was expecting to see Rob Palmer and John Williams when I arrived, but I wasn’t expecting that John would have brought Spencer Metzger along too.”

Chef John Williams MBE

Spencer won the prestigious and highly competitive Roux Scholarship this year. Past winners in the scholarship’s 35 year history have included Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains and Simon Hulstone, along with many others who have gone on to create starred restaurants in their own right. Also in the kitchen from Peel’s was Monty Stonehewer, a contestant on the current series of MasterChef: The Professionals. As Mike explains, the amazing level of talent working in unison in the kitchen was a key factor contributing to a fantastic evening of food and fundraising.

“I believe Dougie Mac were truly thrilled with the evening,” he expands. “The people that I spoke to said it was one of the best fundraising events they’ve attended and the results would suggest that as well. We’ve not had one single negative comment. There’s nothing more pleasing than seeing lots of happy, smiling faces at the end of the night and having achieved a fantastic objective for the hospice.”

Having proved such a success last year, this year’s dinner had sold out a month beforehand. The lucky guests enjoyed snacks and canapés, followed by five mouthwatering courses including a lobster, carrot and lemon verbena starter from John and a smoked eel, kohlrabi and sea herb dish by Rob.

“The feedback from the chefs was tremendous,” says Mike. “I’ve had some lovely emails from John, Rob and their teams. Their experience and skills made it a really successful and unique event. World of Wedgwood were delighted to be a part of it too. Their involvement in donating the use of the dining room, kitchen and all the beautiful tabletop items is pivotal in putting on the event. It depends on a lot of factors, but if everything lines up correctly, there’s no reason we couldn’t do it again next year. And yes, I have already been asked about next year!”

Michelin UK employees

Mike’s colleagues at the Michelin Guide have also been delighted with the positive outcome of the event. So delighted, in fact, that the model is set to be shared so it can be rolled out across the world in the 38 countries where the Michelin Guide currently exists.

“It’s hard work because there are 150 people to serve, but the Michelin and World of Wedgwood employees who took part really enjoyed it. It was great to see Craig and the front of house team from Hampton Manor training them and giving them the confidence to deliver the food in such a great way. You’ve only got to look at some of the pictures to see how engaged everyone was.

“Last year we had around 20 volunteers; this year we had 37. That tells you the kind of reputation the event has got after such a short time. We had some employees from World of Wedgwood volunteer to take part too, so it was a great coming-together.”

For Mike, that’s what the event is all about.

“Once again we’ve proved what local businesses coming together can achieve,” he concludes. “The collective activity of Michelin, World of Wedgwood and all of the other businesses that were involved is much, much greater than any of us individually could achieve on our own.

“I’d just like to say thank you to everyone for believing in the concept and for supporting us and Dougie Mac. For them, the fact that almost £60,000 could be raised in a single night is really very meaningful.”

Watch our video for a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the dinner.

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Flavours from around the world

Stoke-on-Trent based chefs Ant Snape and Jon Riviere have known each for seven years, since they met while working at Chester Racecourse. The friends are soon to open what was…

Stoke-on-Trent based chefs Ant Snape and Jon Riviere have known each for seven years, since they met while working at Chester Racecourse.

The friends are soon to open what was formerly Zest on Hanley’s Piccadilly as a casual dining bistro, but their first venture together was Trotting Potter Salts. The unusual name stems from the fact that Ant is originally from Bolton, where football club Bolton Wanderers are referred to locally as ‘the Trotters’, while Jon is a Stoke-on-Trent native.

Jon had been experimenting with flavoured and blended salts for a number of years before meeting Ant. When he mentioned it they found it was a shared hobby – Ant had made similar things to gift to family members.

Since starting Trotting Potter, they’ve found that chefs are sold on the benefits and are receiving great feedback from their customers, while the general public are yet to be fully convinced.

“I think it’s been hammered into us that salt is salt and it’s bad for you,” Ant speculates. “But like anything, it’s good for you in moderation. But as our generation has grown up, salt is what you put on your chips and that’s that.”

“I think it comes down to the food culture,” adds Jon. “For example, in the places where these salts are produced, they’re used locally. If you go to Cyprus everyone will be using the local Cypriot pyramid salt and embracing it, whereas over here the food culture is different.”

Now more of us are starting to enjoy cooking (and preserving) more seriously at home, we are learning and starting to appreciate salt’s uses and its role as a flavouring in its own right.

“We’re not claiming that our salts will make you healthy, but it’s all about making little changes,” says Jon. “If you can get a salt that is less refined, and has got a slightly different flavour, and you sprinkle it on your chicken after you’ve cooked it, you’re going to taste it more and use less.”

Ant and Jon’s extensive range of salts can be split into three categories: single origin salts, flavoured salts, and blended salts.

“Single origin salts, like the Himalayan salt, mined in Pakistan, come from one location,” explains Jon. “We’ve got some that are Hawaiian, one from Peru – that’s a single origin which can be traced back to a single source. The single origin salts each have slightly different colours, tastes and chemical make-ups.”

Black Lava is a Hawaiian sea salt, which is coated with activated charcoal – normally coconut charcoal – to give its characteristic colour. Jon recommends sprinkling it over butter and eating with bread to fully appreciate the flavours.

Red Alaea is also from Hawaii, from the same source as Black Lava, but this fine-grained version is mixed with a red clay that is local to the island, which means you’re getting different minerals as well as the stunning colour.

Persian Blue salt from Iran is speckled with beautiful blue crystals formed when it was compressed by surrounding rocks millions of years ago. Taste-wise, it is Trotting Potter’s least salty salt. Ant recommends it for drinks and cocktails: “If you’re having tequila, try this instead of harsh, bitter table salt.”

The relative saltiness of the various origins is down to their sodium content. The Persian Blue contains less sodium than, say, Atlantic sea salt from Portugal which is their saltiest tasting salt due to its high sodium content.

Inca Sun comes from Peru, near Machu Picchu, and is so named because it is reputedly still processed the same way it would have been by the ancient civilisation. A salt water stream that springs from the mountains is dammed into a series of pools where it dries it out in the sun and is later harvested.

Probably the most popular and widely recognised salt Jon and Ant stock is Himalayan salt. The majority of it is actually white, with deep red and pink veins giving the ground rock salt its recognisable pink hue, but it’s one both chefs keep in their cupboards for everyday use.

Jon and Ant also make their own flavoured salts, including a deep red Merlot salt, infused with red wine and then dehydrated. “It doesn’t really lose its colour, so I like putting it on bread rolls before baking, on roast potatoes or brushed onto the pastry of a beef Wellington,” says Jon.

A pure liquorice compound is used to make their distinctive liquorice flavoured salt, which is great for making salted caramels, sprinkled over popcorn, and with chocolate desserts. Other flavoured salts in the range include raspberry and snowy coconut, perfect with rum cocktails.

The third category, blended salts, feature more added ingredients and include Trotting Potter’s pastis salt, which recently received national recognition from the Guild of Fine Food in the form of a two star Great Taste Award. Following the award announcement, with judges describing it as ‘a masterful blend of spices’, they have had a wave of interest from farm shops and delis wishing to stock their products.

“Our pastis salt is a blend of fennel seed, star anise and citrus zest, among other things, and it’s one of the first salts we actually blended,” Jon tells Sauce. “It works especially well with white fish and shellfish. Because of the crystal size I use the Portuguese sea salt for gravadlax, but if you’re making a ceviche the pastis salt will go very well as the cure.”

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