Jake Buchan is fusing traditions that date back to Cistercian monks with modern tastes to carve out a niche for himself in the world of food retail.
The 40-year-old has spent the last 12 months building up his new venture, The Holy Smokery, at a long-established smokehouse on the Kilnsey Estate in the Yorkshire Dales.
Formerly operated with award-winning success by the Roberts family - who run the estate - the chance came up for a new occupant when the family opted to focus on their other business interests.
Enter Mr Buchan, who spent 18 years living and working in Manchester as a chef but who seized the chance to move across the Pennines when the head of Kilnsey Estate, Jamie Roberts, advertised a year rent-free as an incentive for a newcomer to get started.
“I saw the smokehouse come up for sale and it was exactly the sort of opportunity I have been looking for,” the chef said.
Since moving into the premises last May, Mr Buchan, who has settled in Cononley with his partner Michelle and their children, has been producing a range of delicately smoked fish and meat which he sells into local restaurants and direct to the public at a local farm shop and farmers’ markets.
He uses trout caught on the estate and flavours it using various herbs, from minty hyssop leaves to alexander seeds, foraged from the estate’s grounds.
He has also developed a charcuterie range in collaboration with Ian Smith of Skipton-based online butchery, The Grid Iron Meat Company. This comprises of rare breed lamb and beef which is used to produce smoked delicacies such as pork-based coppa and prosciutto, duck confit, pancetta and herb-fed chicken.
The meat is smoked for 12 hours, the fish for five hours, giving it a distinctive flavour.
“I’ve always been quite creative,” said Mr Buchan, whose experience as a chef includes stints at respected Manchester restaurants Mr Thomas’s Chop House, Damson and Volta.
“My original plan was to have a restaurant of my own but I saw this and I’ve always enjoyed the production side as opposed to the service side of things. This allows me to be creative without the distraction of managing lots of staff.”
His partner Michelle is also his business partner and he said their move to the Craven district, partly so that they could be closer to family, had been worth it.
“I love it here. There is so much beautiful scenery and an amazing amount of ingredients and meat locally, as well as amazing restaurants like The Angel at Hetton and The Burlington at Bolton Abbey. It’s an exciting place to be.”
Visitors to The Cafe by The Lake on the Kilnsey Estate can sample his produce, which is also stocked by Town End Farm Shop in Airton, Malham and from Mr Buchan at Headingley, Baildon and Ilkley farmers’ markets. The charcuterie range is available online from Grid Iron.
Mr Buchan has set his sights on growing the business in a way that allows him to continue expressing his talents, saying: “The plan is to grow enough to supply restaurants and farm shops but I want to keep it small enough so I can focus on creating an artisan handcrafted product.”
By taking over the smokehouse on the Kilnsey Estate, Jake Buchan is both building on the success of a previous venture and indulging in old local traditions.
The Kilnsey Estate where The Holy Smokery is based harks back to the time when Cistercian monks from nearby Fountains Abbey farmed the surrounding lands and would smoke fish and meat for their guests.
Three decades ago, the practice was resurrected by the Roberts family who learned the trade from master smoker Jurg Bleiker before starting to smoke their own springwater-reared rainbow trout.
Then known as The Kilnsey Smokery, it won a string of top food industry awards.