A cheeky take on food
bu John Woodhouse
Adam Whittaker comes from a Sunday roast and 'chippie on a Friday' family. Now, though, the 40-year-old communications manager, from Basford, has brushed off his taste buds and become a champion of Staffordshire food and concoctor of recipes. He talks to John Woodhouse about all things 'potteriesnpans'
I don't come from a particularly foodie family. When I was a kid – like a large part of the population I suspect – you had one meal for every day of the week. This on Monday, that on Tuesday, chip-shop tea on Friday.
Thankfully, I think things have moved on since then. There's more of a willingness to take a look what's out there. The advent of celebrity chefs has made people more willing to give things a go.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
It's in the past four or five years that I've really started getting into food. I lived in London a while and it sparked this whole interest in what's out there – when I came back to North Staffordshire I brought that with me. I saw what brilliant local producers there are here. I started experimenting with cheaper cuts of meat, the ones we've forgotten, the ones that have fallen out of fashion – the cheeks, the trotters. Not only are these cuts cheaper, but they're so tasty. I made a meat and potato pie for my sisters and didn't tell them I'd used ox cheeks 'til after – they couldn't believe it – but they loved it!
With people not having much money at the moment, I think they're going to be more willing to give these cheaper cuts a go, and they'll be surprised at the results.
I'm self taught when it comes to cooking. I'm reading all the books – trying to put my own slant on things. I'll just pick up a cut of meat and see what I can do with it! I'm still learning – sometimes it goes in the bin, sometimes the plate!
I cook for friends and take stuff into work and that's something I enjoy. Seeing your creations come together is a great thing, and seeing other people enjoy them is even better. That's something I'd really like to develop. I'm interested in creating recipes, the whole food writing industry.
Last year I was invited to Stars, Food & Art, a really big culinary event featuring six Michelin-starred chefs in Amsterdam. I found that fascinating.
I think the horsemeat scandal is really making people think about where their food comes from. There's been all sorts of stuff in processed foods for years and now we're waking up to it. I get my meat from my local butcher in Hartshill. He orders my ox cheeks in for me. You always know what you're getting and where it comes from. There's this myth that getting your meat from a butcher is more expensive, but it's simply not true. The cuts you get are just as good value as the supermarket.
I do see myself as a champion for local food and drink. There's a temptation to see Staffordshire food as just being oatcakes. But I think, in the industry particular, people are very aware there's some absolutely incredible produce coming out of this area – cheeses, beers, jams, chutneys, all sorts. You only have to go down to Brown And Green at Trentham Gardens to see the incredible range of stuff that's out there. And again, these things are not, as is commonly perceived, ridiculously expensive.
It's one of the reasons I started my own website – potteriesnpans.blogspot.co.uk – to talk about the great produce in Staffordshire, the places to go, and my own recipes. I love writing about food – film and travel too, and I tweet about it too (@adscomms). I see myself more as a cook who writes than a writer who cooks. I'm also in the early stages of writing a children's book for seven to 11-year-olds.
I work with the NHS in Hanley, Monday to Friday, 9-5, so some days I'll pop down to the butcher in the indoor market, or maybe the fresh fruit and veg stall on Fountain Square. Two or three times a month I'll maybe have lunch at Fat Cats. But I prefer cooking at home to eating out. Three nights a week I'll try to knock something up from scratch.
I'd like to see more places to eat in the city centre than there are now. I think that's one little bit of culture that's lacking. Hanley needs to attract people who enjoy eating out, not just drinking. That's not to say there aren't some good venues. I also like the Church Bar and Restaurant, while Newcastle has got places like Hector Garcia's.
I moved away to London for a while, and also Australia for six months, but I was always going to come back – when it comes down to it, I'm a Stokie. I'm very proud of the area and it's just a shame we don't shout about ourselves a bit more. I'm not always sure people who live here realise what great things we've got. If I can help change that a little then that would be great.
Soon I'm going on a fishing, foraging, and shooting weekend with a few other chefs. We're going to strip it all back to basics – cook what we catch, gut fish, the lot – see what ideas we come up with.
My next project is to build my own smoker, so I can smoke fish and meat at home. I also plan to brew my own beer. I want to show that these things are cost effective both in time and energy.
I'm pleased with the progress I've made but it's not always been easy. At first I thought the idea of not having a roast on Sunday was disgraceful! Gradually, though, I'm getting used to it!