10 minutes with: Kevin Tickle

The  Staff Canteen
At the heart of Cumbria, a new fine dining experience is about to reveal itself in the form of a 19th Century hotel. This might not initially sound too alluring, but after a £4 million refurbishment, The Forest Side Hotel has been completely renovated, bringing modern British style cooking together with the historical and iconic Victorian kitchens. We spoke to the head chef, Kevin Tickle, about his award-winning past, his passion for foraging fresh food to incorporate into the ever-changing menu, and what we can expect from one of the most exciting launches outside of London._PHI1318 After a eight year long career at the two Michelin star restaurant L’Enclume, Kevin Tickle has moved on to a project of his own; heading the 50 seated restaurant, The Forest Side. Born and raised in Cumbria, Kevin knew he wanted to be a chef since he took on his first job. “I was at school and took a part time job, just to get a bit of beer money, I started washing pots and it progressed. As soon as I got into the kitchen I enjoyed it, so that’s where it all started. I turned down a fireman position, and a job as an electrician, to work for a company and do an apprenticeship in catering. “Once I had done a couple of years of my apprenticeship scheme, it was 100% for me, and that was when I decided I wanted to push to work in a top end restaurant and be the best I could be.” Kevin, who trained at Kendal College, later went on to win Rising Star at the 2014 Cumbria Life food and drink awards. The award isn’t however all Kevin is recognised for. He is known for his talent to forage for fresh and natural ingredients which he makes into unique and innovative dishes. He said: “I have spent the majority of my life exploring the country for bits and bobs. We are very lucky to own 42 acres of private woodland and its prime mushroom territory. You get your patches up that way so the last couple of weeks we have been getting some fantastic girolles, to have them all to yourself…that’s priceless.” _PHI1363Both an A La Carte menu and a 12 course tasting menu will be available for diners, although it’s never certain what will be on the menu, as it depends on what Kevin has available in the kitchen garden at the time. The inventive chef has also started on-site lacto-fermenting, curing, pickling and distilling. He explained: “We are in a cracking area for foraging, so the menu will be very seasonal and lead by what we can get hold of, obviously if we can’t get hold of it we won’t be using it. If we were opening next week we would be having some good Cumbrian girolles as they’re in season now. “We have also been doing some on-site experiments. We started preserving things in January, mainly forage produce, and with that we can’t afford to miss a season. We have been doing a lot of drying, like dehydrating blossoms to make wines later in the year, we have been making a lot of wine and beer to sell in the restaurant. “We have also been playing with curing, but not that much at this point as we aren’t in a proper hygienic kitchen, we have got a proper curing cabinet downstairs being installed so we do intend to cure our own meats professionally, on a much bigger scale when we get up and running.” The grade II listed building has been purchased by entrepreneur Andrew Wildsmith who owns two Foraged and preserved ingredients including Kevin’s spruce spritzerother hotels in the area: Hipping Hall in Kirkby, Lonsdale and The Ryebeck in Bowness. The whole hotel and grounds have been going through a total transformation, turning the existing bedrooms into 18 en suites and three luxury duplex suites. The dining room has been extended to open onto a new garden terrace. Kevin has been in charge of building his dream Victorian walled kitchen garden with 60 planting beds. He said: “It’s a brand new refurbishment so it was nice to design the kitchen from start to finish, and have it exactly how I wanted it. That opens the doors to many things like a brand new team which is larger and more capable of producing a bit more, and it seemed like a really good challenge. When starting something from new, there’s no rules put in place and you’re free to do what you want. The planting options here are endless and we plan to grow as much produce as we possibly can. “You can install a lot of things into a hotel and do a lot of different techniques to make it stand out in that way, but when you are in the location that we’re in it’s a massive head start, we have beautiful views and great terrains so we can go out and forage. _PHI1277“It’s a privilege to be working in this area, it’s not that often you can walk out of your kitchen and get the views we get.” The Forest Side has sourced almost everything locally, from the vegetables in the Victorian kitchen garden, to the furnishings and art work. Even the tables have been up-cycled from old floorboards, and an old bandstand from the nearby Abbot Hall has been restored for outside events; even local wool has been used for the Herdwick wool beds in every bedroom. “It’s all about supporting the people around you. For me, it’s massively important that I support the local farming community around here because it’s been a part of my childhood and it’s a part of the heritage up here in Cumbria. There’s not many places that aren’t actually farmlands and it’s important that we give them the support that they need to produce excellent quality produce for us. If you put your support into the community you’ll get it back tenfold in the quality of produce you receive.” By Katie Pathiaki
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th August 2015

10 minutes with: Kevin Tickle