Innovative chef Greig Young tells us how tackling food waste and sustainability are entwined in his creative ethos at The Northgate, in Bury St Edmunds
Greig Young’s journey to The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds has been a winding one, taking in Scotland, England. . . . and the other side of the planet.
Those travels have brought the chef from Oban a unique outlook, not just on his food but also on important issues such as sustainability and food waste, which he hopes to highlight as one of Culture’s new food columnists.
Greig began his life in kitchens at the age of 13 and after tasting the buzz of the industry, he decided to spread his wings.
“I went to Australia when I was 17 to see what I really wanted to do with my life and worked around different restaurants and stuff and really liked it. It was just so addictive, so I came back to college to study it at Glasgow Metropolitan College,” he explained.
“But it was a bit slow-paced for me as I had started in kitchens quite young, so I went through it quickly and qualified by the time I was 18. My first job after that was working at a small three rosette hotel near my mum’s house in Port Appin.
“It was in the middle of nowhere and very seasonal so we did lots of things like foraging for mushrooms, and that got me fired up because it was always new and you get addicted to the work and the knowledge side to it.”
But it was to be his next trip to Australia’s East coast, which took in Brisbane and Sydney as well as time in New Zealand, that helped build the 30-year-old’s style of cooking.
Greig said: “Going there has made my cooking really quite light, less starchy and makes the way I bring a dish together quite different from most chefs in Suffolk.
“I like to think of it here as East Anglian cuisine with a Scottish accent – relaxed and quite modern.”
It is not just the chef’s cooking that has a different spin due to his travels, but also his view on how food waste can be given a second chance to enhance flavours.
“For example, we utilise our used coffee grounds – which sometimes add up to about 10kg a week – by taking inspiration from an old New Zealand technique called a ‘hãngi’, which is where you make a big fire, clean it all off, dig a big hole in its place, bury the food then put the ashes back on top so it cooks the food.
“We thought we would play with that idea, so we took the coffee grounds and put our carrots in them, then slow cook it all in the oven. The flavour is incredible and gives the grounds a second life.
“I feel we all have to actively look at product waste as it’s quite lazy getting rid of a product straight away without looking into other possibilities it can be used for.”
Greig says he is always actively looking for other ways to use produce that most would throw in the bin and hopes this and his views on sustainability will make for a good read.
Explaining his food style, he said: “Some go on the seasons, but we are more fluid here. I will change the menu tomorrow if the mushrooms aren’t very good or if it is raining I know certain fish are better than others, so we will change it then, too.
“We work on a daily basis, so we can really utilise what is best quality – it’s creative cooking with the right intentions.”
Before arriving at The Northgate around 18 months ago, Greig worked in Berkshire and the Cotswolds, ran a pub called the Shepherd and Dog in Forward Green for three years, and The Gore in South Kensington. His thirst for the industry knows no bounds as he looks for new and interesting ways to take his food.
“I like to know things, the industry is always changing with trends. . . it is exciting. I also like to go and see my suppliers on site to find out the most I can about what they do for us. I have great working relationships with them.
“I am quite a creative guy, so the background work that goes into a dish is very important to me.”
Greig’s open and relaxed style of cooking is reflected in The Northgate restaurant and at its chef’s table, giving customers an insight into his culinary processes. He also offers kitchen experiences, giving food enthusiasts the opportunity to spend three hands-on hours with Greig and his team in the kitchen.
“When you come in to do either here you are seeing it as it is, you see our chefs making bread and things, it is not a show. We like the customers to ask questions and be inquisitive about what we do.
“It is nice and relaxed here – it’s a place where people can enjoy good food, and I hope this is what I will bring when I do my pieces for Culture. I want to look at ways we can all bring ingredients full cycle, how sustainability affects us, and take a look at some of our suppliers and what they do, as well as provide some really nice recipes to cook.”
The Northgate is part of the Chestnut group which owns inns, pubs and restaurants around East Anglia, including locally The Weeping Willow at Barrow, Black Lion at Long Melford, The Packhorse at Moulton, and Woodditton’s Three Blackbirds.
The Northgate, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds
Read moreFood and Drink
More by this authorKevin Hurst