As with so many chefs at the moment, Wendy Rowley has been forced to look beyond the normal method of serving food and delve into the home delivery market. She is currently creating dishes for Little Weighton Kitchen (LWK), which offers recipe meals to cook at home, designed and prepared in the kitchen of the Black Horse pub, where Wendy is head chef. Or, at least, she was when pubs were still open.
Wendy trained at Grimsby College and, after stints in various non-kitchen roles at two five-star hotels in the Midlands, became restaurant manager at esteemed seafood pub the Angel in Long Crendon, near Aylesbury. When the owners left her in charge so they could go on holiday, she suddenly found herself a head chef. She next moved to Beverley to open the popular Wednesdays restaurant with her husband, then to wedding venue Langdon Court in Devon and finally back up north to run the kitchen at the Black Horse.
She describes her food as “rustic”, which means she likes ingredients to be fresh and local.
Can you remember the first dish you ever cooked – and was it a success? I think the first thing I can remember making was at school in Home Economics class. You had to take in the ingredients to make the dish of the week and the first week was kedgeree. I am a twin and we were both in the same class so whatever we made at school, the whole family would have for tea that night. I think that was when I realised I didn’t like smoked things. I still don’t, really.
Who is your inspiration in the kitchen and why? I’d have to say it has been and is Mark Jones, who was the chef/owner at the Angel. I worked for five years with Mark learning all there was to know about super-fresh and seasonal produce. We used to create around 12 seafood dishes on the specials board using whatever fish would arrive daily. I remember a halibut being delivered one day that was so large it needed two of us to clean and fillet.
What was the first recipe book you ever owned? Delia Smith’s Christmas. We even included my version of Delia’s chocolate torte in the Black Horse Christmas hamper last year.
If you organised a dinner party, which three people would you invite and why? I would absolutely love to meet up with all my old friends from my days in Droitwich Spa. I worked at Chateau Impney and the Raven Hotel. Our time there as late teenagers eventually sent us all in different paths and I’d like to find out where we are at in life now.
What is your favourite ingredient and why? Back in the 90s, owning Wednesdays restaurant, one of our staff members introduced me to sushi and from there my love of pickled ginger was born. I always like to have a jar of nice pink ginger in the cupboard – it adds sparkle to anything from lovely tuna and fresh oysters to rare beef or to our favourite tea at home, “Panko-Fest”. It’s panko prawns with pickled ginger, soy and wasabi and it’s delicious.
What have you got up to during lockdown? During the first lockdown, my younger daughter Emily and I made over 200 boxes of chocolate treats. And, with the help of Micaela, the owner of LWK and the Black Horse, we hand-delivered them to most of the households in Little Weighton to provide some Easter smiles. We were blessed with such lovely weather last spring and summer, so the garden and allotment have never looked so good. I also looked forward to evening cycles with my daughter and managed to decorate the house. I mainly used the time to slow down and enjoy time at home with my partner and two daughters.