20th September 2011
Editors' Award winner for Best Alfresco Restaurant, the Vineyard Café, Ashprington is an object lesson in how to deal with the vagaries of British weather, with every climatic eventuality covered. Head Chef Rosie Weston produces incredible food from a very small space, making the Vineyard Café a genuine hidden gem.
You'll have to be quick if you want to sample her food this year though – with autumn starting to get into its stride, the Vineyard Café will be closing for the winter at the end of September. We caught up with Rosie as the Café's summer season comes to an end.
What does winning The Good Food Guide’s Al Fresco Restaurant of the Year Award mean to you?
I am elated. It is the recognition of all the hard work my team have put in over the years. It means so much to all of us at the Vineyard Café.
What are the greatest challenges involved in running a restaurant?
I think it is about keeping consistent standards and treating triumph and disaster the same.
Which chefs do you admire?
My mother, for her generosity and hospitality. Joyce Molyneux who set up the Carved Angel in Dartmouth. She really pioneered the use of local and seasonal produce and I think she is an unassuming genius. Also Skye Gyngell (head chef at Petersham Nurseries Café in Richmond). She keeps everything seasonal and simple, with the best possible understated standard.
Do you have a favourite recipe or ingredient?
I love the old fashioned Devon WI recipe for green bean chutney which we serve a version of with our selection of Sharpham cheeses. I also love the bags of fresh salad leaves that we get from The Husbandry School in Ashburton, Devon. They are full of freshly picked herbs, leaves and edible flowers – delicious.
Who would you invite to a dinner party for six people?
My husband Steven Copsey, Nelson Mandela, Simon Weston (no relation!), Dolly Parton and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
What’s been the worst culinary trend of recent years?
The requirement for fast and cheap junk food and anything that involves battery hens.
…And the best?
The sourcing of local produce and being aware of what is available to you and when.
What is your favourite job in the kitchen?
Talking to Ben the gardener in the walled garden at Sharpham every morning, and bringing down freshly picked warm tomatoes from the greenhouse and occasionally eating one with a dash of salt!
What kitchen gadget could you not live without?
My magimix and a sharp knife.
What is your top culinary tip?
Keep it simple, clean and fresh.
What most excites you about the restaurant industry today?
The awareness of seasonality and the value of a farmer growing something. It is wonderful to be able to buy food from its source.
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