Hus Vedat: Creating the perfect menu

Yosma's executive chef on channeling his heritage, connecting with producers and borrowing recipes from his gran

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(Image credit: © Patricia Niven)

Yosma is the first time I'm tapping into my heritage professionally. I was classically trained – I've cooked French, Italian and dabbled with a little bit of Peruvian. Then, when I opened up Caxton Grill, I started to experiment with fire and that's when I started to think of fire as an extra ingredient, it's got a kind of rawness about it – it's an ancient way of cooking. Caxton Grill was very British: small farms and great produce; then I went to Barbecoa with Jamie, which has an American angle. Now I'm still cooking with fire at Yosma but with Turkish influences.

When creating new dishes for the menu at Yosma and at Hovarda, it all starts with the ingredient. You have to respect the ingredient. If you understand where it comes from you will treat it with respect. It's important to give each one its own integrity. I like to use ingredients that are from here in the UK, which ensures that we are quite seasonal. I like to meet the producers so we can decide whether we want their product on our menu or not. If they are passionate about what they do then they're going to give us a really great product and that makes the chefs' job much easier because you've got a great ingredient that you don't really need to do much with. Someone's already put loads of passion into all these products. It's about knowing where the chickens and cows have been grazing and how they've been treated.

(Image credit: (C) Patricia Niven)

We like to support the suppliers as much as they support us. When we went down to meet fishermen in Cornwall, we met with a supplier called Wild Harbour, which works with day boats and fishermen. There's produce coming in every day but when it's windy and stormy, it can be dangerous so instead they'll have clams and mussels, things that are close to the shore, so they don't have to go all the way out. If you support all those suppliers by ordering those mussels and clams when there isn't fish, then you get first dibs when the fish does come in.

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I was a butcher before I was a chef. I've seen the farming industry change quite a lot over the years. All our meat comes from a butcher called Philip Warren in Cornwall, who is amazing: the farm, the way they treat their animals. It is cracking beef and I trust them, they do a great job. I think it's about supporting UK produce. With Brexit happening we're in a situation now where there's going to be less EU funding, if any, for our farmers, so they are going to rely on selling their produce to the UK market. I think chefs should be supporting that, especially as our beef is some of the best in the world.

Once I've got the product I start to look at the dishes. It's important for me when creating a dish to consider history and tradition – through the Ottoman Empire, around Turkey and Greece – then consider what they would have done with this piece of meat or this aubergine and try to get a feel for it. Then I try to replicate it before trying to improve it. It usually takes about three tries per dish to get it right. I'll do a first take and then I'll taste it and I'll think, it needs more citrus or it needs a crunch, you know it needs a leaf. And then I would add that and then I would try again.

I also eat out loads to see what everyone else is doing but I find my "wow" tolerance level is really high now so I'm rarely surprised by food. There isn't really a new evolving cuisine as such at the moment. What I think I'm going back to is proper cooking that people enjoy eating – losing all the bells and whistles. It's about the flavours. It's about the history and the story of the dish and what you put with it rather than being overly creative. I like to enhance the flavour of an ingredient and pair it with something else rather than turning it into a gel or foam. For instance, if I order an apple pie, I want a decent apple pie. There are people who put apple pie on the menu and it's nothing like apple pie, it's an apple foam with a tuile and I'm like, "stop it!". Something that's overly creative is probably not going to be memorable and if it is, it's probably not for the right reasons.

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(Image credit: © Patricia Niven)

My gran is one of my biggest influences when it comes to food; she was an amazing cook. I grew up eating Turkish cuisine. Weekends were huge affairs: massive tables, loads of dishes, loads of family – all the time. Cooking with fire is a family tradition. Once a week on a Sunday, we'd all be around the barbecue. If it was snowing, no problem, if it was raining, we’d do it under an umbrella. I do it every day, now.

Lamb kofte is a big dish from my childhood that is on the menu at Yosma. There's also a dish that I'm doing now, which is a little bit playful – it's a version of a dolma using sardines. I fill vine leaves with sardines and then stuff it with garlic, shallots and soak-dried mulberries. Then we burn French vines from Bordeaux and cook the dolma over fire. It's my take on the dolma but my gran would shoot me. Her cooking has been passed down through generations of learning and they would never dream of changing those recipes. But as a rebel, I see it from a different perspective. It's having a chef background where there aren't really any rules – that's part of the fun of creating something a little bit different. Some things on the menu are absolutely classic and traditional and other things are twisted but they still have a classic or traditional foundation, they're not just plucked out of the sky.

I do have a unique perspective on Turkish cuisine. I don’t think there is another modern Turkish restaurant like ours, it's modern Turkish through a Londoner's eye.

HUS VEDAT is an award-winning London-born Turkish chef. He is the executive chef at Yosma in Marylebone and also created the menu at the recently opened Aegean restaurant Hovarda in London's Soho; yosma.london, hovarda.london

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