What do you think about when you think about pepper? Salt? Dr Pepper? Not a whole lot? It’s probably pretty normal that you put a grind or two on your dinner without giving it a second thought. But, you’re not a chef. Chefs should be thinking about how pepper can elevate their dishes, where the best quality pepper comes from and what pepper flavour notes match best with their carefully sourced ingredients, right? Wrong!
Santa Maria Foodservice did some research last year and found that chefs don’t know nearly as much about pepper as you’d think, despite 90% of them using it in seven out of their top ten selling dishes. They spend time and money sourcing the best local meat and seasonal vegetables, then sprinkle any old stuff on at the end, oblivious to the true power of pepper!
Since March, Santa Maria has been running spice enlightenment sessions with chefs in their pubs and restaurants up and down the country, challenging them on their inferior knowledge, and giving them the opportunity to get up close and personal with their pepper – cutting, grinding, magnifying and smelling different varieties to learn what to look for and what to avoid.
This week we joined the team for a session at Steven Smith’s Freemason’s, an acclaimed gastro pub in Lancashire that was awarded number 44 in the 2018 Good Food Guide Top 50, the very morning of the event! The anticipation we felt already increased significantly, even more so when Steven ran us through what Santa Maria spices were going to feature in our beautifully curated lunch menu.
It’s amazing to see experts in their field, so confident in their abilities, realise that there’s still more to learn, soaking up new information then heading off to apply it in their kitchens. And it means only good things for us, the people who get to eat already amazing food improved by the best seasoning.
And for anyone who doesn’t already know, the best pepper is Tellicherry from Kerala in India. Its bigger peppercorns contain less heat with more aromatic oils which contain the flavour. Next time you’re out and about, ask if there’s any Tellicherry for the table and if not, you can send them here