Our bar snacks include juicy smoked pheasant samosas, rarebit made with the estate’s Charlton cheese and the mother of airy pork scratchings, as big as a butcher’s hand and light as a feather. Every piece of meat at Farmer, Butcher, Chef comes from Goodwood’s Home Farm. There’s plenty of talk about local sourcing in the food world, but an entirely joined-up system, from gate to plate with zero waste, is surprisingly hard to achieve. Everyone has their own systems and needs. The farmer must work with nature. The chef has diners demanding prime steak. The butcher stands between them, with a limited supply of meat. The customer is always right.
Darron confronts these contradictions with a chef’s attention to detail, as befits someone whose CV includes six years with Marco Pierre White. Demand must follow supply, reversing the usual trend. “As a chef, you’re conditioned to think you can pick up the phone and get whatever you want,” he says. “A hundred ducks or whatever – they arrive like pairs of shoes. But if John can’t get something, it’s not because he doesn’t want to, it’s because it’s not there. We have to cut our cloth accordingly.”
Necessity is the mother of invention. Nose-to-tail eating is a buzz phrase that brings to mind extremities and internals. But Farmer, Butcher, Chef is just as much about the many forgotten cuts from all over the animal. Chef Darron’s light-bulb moment – when he saw that the idea behind the restaurant could work – came during a discussion about how to make ox cheeks go further. Each animal has just two cheeks and three to four animals are killed each week. John found a particular cut of shin – a V-shaped muscle from the front of the leg – that would offer a comparable texture and taste. Problem solved.
Goodwood’s animals come from within a few miles of your plate. Gloucester Old Spots and Saddlebacks snuffle in the fields, the piglets kept with their mothers instead of being whisked away at a few weeks. Southdown lambs dot the downs. Rusty-red Sussex cattle graze on the herb-rich chalk grassland where they have fattened for centuries. The best traditions of British stockmanship continue here on organic principles; the present Duchess of Richmond was one of the founding members of the Soil Association.