Eddie Shepherd

5 Questions To: Eddie Shepherd

Eddie Shepherd

Described as “the Heston Blumenthal of the vegetarian world”, Eddie Shepherd is an award winning modern vegetarian chef based in Manchester, who made his name by creating exciting and unique dishes.

His experimental style and use of new modern cuisine cooking techniques won Eddie Shepherd the prestigious Cordon Vert’s “Chef of the Future” competition in 2009.

Expect to be blown away, Eddie’s recipes are vibrant, scrumptious and aesthetically stunning. While some may sound a bit daunting at first, they are certainly worth the effort and will add an instant wow effect to your next dinner party.

Packed with delicious and inspiring meat free recipes Eddie Shepherd’s latest e-book ‘Modern Vegetarian Chef’ is available for download.

I was keen to find out more about this astonishing talent who takes vegetarian food to new heights.

What inspired you to become vegetarian?
ES – I studied philosophy at university and one of the things it brought into focus for me was that for a while I had been uncomfortable with the idea of eating meat but without really acting on it or  altering my eating habits so I decided to try giving vegetarianism a try just to see how it suited me and it turned out it made me feel much more at ease in myself and my choices and really worked for me.

I don’t try to necessarily persuade other people they should be vegetarian and many of my friends and family aren’t vegetarian which is fine of course but it was what worked for me and I think it’s a good thing for people to look at their dietary choices and try to be aware and honest with themselves. Really I should probably be vegan based on a lot of the moral and ecological arguments but that would be a step too far for me, as a chef I really want to be able to use dairy and eggs, so I can see why no one choice is going to be right for everyone.

Which chefs and cuisines are your biggest influences?
ES – I think one of the chefs that had the most influence on me was Grant Achatz of Alinea. They do such beautiful, artistic, intelligent food. I saw him talking at the Madrid Fusion culinary conference a few years ago and he had such a unique and fascinating take on modern cuisine I immediately got his book and it blew me away, it wasn’t like anything I’d seen anyone else doing and showed me just how beautiful and exciting food could be, it made me really want to raise my game.

I think the other chef who has been a big inspiration is Marc Wilkinson of Restaurant Fraiche. He has a michaelin star but it is just him on his own in this small kitchen in his restaurant, serving just a handful of customers a night. It’s really inspiring to see someone working at that level, creating delicious, modern food on their own, without the sort of team most high end  restaurants rely on. It makes you think there is no excuse not to push to be the best you can be, and shows in some ways it’s even adds value to what you are doing if you don’t have the set up of a big restaurant.

Your dishes are very artistic. Where do you get your inspiration from?
ES – I don’t know really. I quite often like the aesthetic of contrasting natural and manipulated shapes and elements of dishes. The focus and starting point is always flavour and deliciousness, then once I have the flavours and textures of a dish working the way I want I will start to think about and play with the presentation. Usually the dish you are working on will give you natural suggestion of what directions to go in, I might sketch out some ideas then I try to refine these and create something that I like and suits my personality.

You have been described as a modernist chef. What is a modernist chef?
ES – Actually I’m not sure if I would describe myself as a modernist chef, but I guess I partly fit into that category.  Modernist cooking generally refers to people using elements of newer technology and ingredients in their cooking, and perhaps having a certain philosophy about being creative in their cooking. Those things apply to much of what I do but also I’m using a lot of very traditional or even ancient techniques, and some of the most traditional elements of cooking are my favourite things, like making bread etc..

Molecular gastronomy is captivating. Can you share an easy trick with our readers?
ES – Molecular gastronomy isn’t a term I like, nor do most chefs labeled with it really, it sounds alien and cold and far removed from real cooking. But there are some modern cooking techniques I would recommend people try out. Sous vide cooking has now become affordable for home cooks and there is a lot of information & recipes freely available for it now.  This method for generally lower temperature, longer cooking time can be a great way to control texture and develop flavour while cooking.

And various modern ingredients like hydrocolloids (gelling agents) are now more accessible, and if used sensibly can be a great creative tool. I will often make really smooth purées by taking a juice, setting it with a gelling agent like agar, then blending this set gel to a purée. It can give you a really nice texture and carry flavour fantastically. Generally the key piece of advice I would give though is to get good fresh ingredients and don’t over complicate things too much.  It’s great to learn some new techniques but keep focus on making things that taste delicious and let the technical and artistic side of things develop from there.

Eddie Shepherd also runs www.Modernist-Chef.com an online shop for modern home cooks & chefs, as well as acting as a chef consultant and teaching some cookery classes.

You can find out more about Eddie Shepherd here, follow him on Twitter or visit his Facebook page.
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