Britain’s Best Brigade

Earlier this year, Head Chef Leon Higham and his team at The Rose & Crown won the coveted title of Britain’s Best Brigade; proving a favourite amongst guests who voted for them in their droves in a nationwide competition. Leon Higham and his dedicated team of six, rose victorious against brigades from seven other sectors including restaurants, schools, Universities, colleges, event catering and hotels.

After an initial judging stage, our team were then tasked with creating a short video to encapsulate the sense of camaraderie and great cooking. With passion, pride, training and mutual support, the team showcased the importance of each member of the kitchen team, bringing to life the sense of fun, togetherness and hard work that keeps the kitchen ticking.

Winning the title, £1000 for a team night out, plus an exclusive menu development masterclass with a leading UK chef, the team were ecstatic with the result. 50p for every vote registered also went towards their nominated charity; The Peach Foundation.

Celebrating delicious gastropub classic dishes of flat iron chicken, steaks and burgers, and with a keen interest in home-smoking, Leon Higham’s kitchen is the only one in Peach with its own smoker. Because of this, Essential Cuisine invited Ben Tish, an experienced chef, restaurateur, consultant, food writer, and cookery teacher, to come along to our central development kitchen to deliver a smoking and barbecue masterclass to Leon and his team.

Beginning with Essential Cuisine’s very own master chef, Jonathan Harvey-Barnes, our team were introduced to the versatility of the Asian range of stocks. Smoked salmon gravalax, pulled pork lollipops and an incredible Asian-inspired sweet potato soup were the order of the day, really resonating with the pub team, showing how different influences can easily be adapted to gastropub dishes. 

With the barbecue coals lit, and much deserved beers passed around, Ben Tish decamped to the fresh air, brigade in tow, where he began explaining his cooking ethos; a passion for simple yet authentic Mediterranean food, cooked over fire. Beginning by delicately grilling a brace of quail, rubbed with paprika for a smoky flavour, multi-coloured carrots with cardamom and orange were added to the heat, before being wrapped in foil with a generous amount of butter to allow them to slowly cook.

Finally scallops, still in their shells were placed onto the hot coals, letting them cook momentarily before adding a final brush of wild mushroom glaze, alongside a horseradish gremolata, before serving. The freshness and flavour really was something to behold. The vibrant carrots and quail were then served, benefiting from caramelised onions, alioli and a chicken glaze. Simple, delicious flavours prepared with skill and cooked with love. Our brigade devoured Ben’s food with great enthusiasm, making for a really inspirational day. 

Leon Higham summed up what the win meant to him and the team, saying: “Winning this competition is simply fantastic – and a bigger deal than any of us could have realised.  When you look at how many great brigades from across the industry entered, it’s really a great achievement to come out on top.  I think it shows what Peach is all about; when you recruit a team and put the effort in, you get rewards back in spades. That’s what I have in my team, and I can’t wait to go and celebrate with them.”

Nigel Crane, The Stock Father, added: “We were delighted to have The Rose & Crown as our winning pub, for them to go on and win is testament to a dedication to togetherness, mentoring and development and, of course, some stunning food, upon which Leon and Peach insist. Their video entry, while showing off some big personalities, really sold them as a brigade worthy of the win. A fantastic effort. We can’t wait to hand them the trophy.”

Congratulations team!

(See more photos from the day over on our Facebook page)