Pod stars

Vallum Kitchen Garden is awash with Michelin-starred chefs…

I had a rush of adrenaline earlier today which reminded me of the first time I careered down a hill on my boyhood bicycle and realised that there was a distinct possibility I might not be able to stop.

For life here in the Garden has gathered pace since we started inviting some of the UK’s leading chefs to pop up at our fantastic new Chef’s Pod. The Pod, made from reclaimed timber by the brilliant Paul and co at Trunk in Bellingham is now up and running at the heart of the Garden, where the list of visiting chefs is becoming longer and more illustrious by the day

They love the Pod – a cross between a traditional shepherd’s shack and an old-fashioned gypsy caravan, where they cook infront of 12 diners seated at a communal table, working with produce picked as they need it. It’s an honest, rustic environment, and there are even old wooden organ pipes on the exterior walls filled with edible marigolds, pansies and nasturtiums for a splash of colour and taste.David Kennedy, whose restaurant at Vallum overlooks the Garden, has already hosted three pop-ups here, and Terry Laybourne of Café 21 heads here within a few days of this column going to print.The confirmed list continues with Gleneagles’ Andrew Fairlie, Simon Rogan of L’Enclume, Claude Bosi of Hibiscus in London, and the region’s newest Michelin star, James Close of the Raby Hunt.

At the heart of the garden, our raised beds of micro-veg and herbs stretch before the pod, so our diners can feast their eyes on crops of Tokyo Cross turnips (smaller than a fingernail), inch-long Paris Market carrots, Crimson Globe and Chioggia beetroot, and red, green and yellow chard.

And to think that only last spring, this was a rough field, transformed by the team during the March snows, when we built the polytunnels, and the April thaw, when we made the raised beds. As a grower, I’m inspired by a book that described how a French vegetable farmer grew jewel-like vegetables for great chefs. I knew we’d do the same, but I never imagined we might also be hosting those chefs in our own garden.
I just hope I can keep up!

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