New year, new culinary talent (well relatively new!). Now resident at Karma Salford Hall, our historic property in the Cotswolds, James Woodhams grew up within a family of hoteliers, so naturally fell into hospitality. He learnt most of his culinary skills from his father and from years working in kitchens at properties around the British Isles, gaining experience from prestigious chefs along the way. At Karma Salford Hall, James showcases the abundant seasonal produce available in the Cotswolds and surrounding area, which is some of the finest in the country thanks to the abundance of farmland, quality produce and livestock. But enough from us – far better to hear it from the chef himself – who also shares a delicious bread recipe for you to try at home:
1. Full Name. How long at which Karma Group resort?
My full name is James Woodhams, I’ve been at Karma Salford hall for just over a month. I grew up within a family of hoteliers, so naturally I fell into hospitality. Having started out as a waiter, then being thrust into the kitchen to help out. I learnt most of my culinary skills from my father and my time in his kitchen. I then began traveling around the British isles, cooking in numerous places and kitchens, gaining experience from prestigious chefs along the way. I’ve previously gained AA rosettes, and worked with Michelin starred chefs. Also reached the semi-finals of the Chef of Wales competition.
2. What’s the most challenging dish you have ever had to create?
The most challenging dish which I’ve ever had to create was probably a croquembouche for a wedding, so there was a lot of pressure to make it perfect for the Bride and Groom on their special day.
3. Your first ‘taste’ of what inspired you to make your food a career?
My earliest memory of cooking, comes from helping out in my father’s kitchen at a young age. I was helping his Nepalese chef Netra, to make fishcakes stood on top of an upturned saucepan to reach the kitchen counters. And I think from this I developed a passion and intrigue into the world of food.
4. What ingredients do you like to grow in yours (or resort) garden?
My garden is quite small, so I have an allotment which I grow lots of ingredients in. From peas, broad beans, potatoes and sweetcorn. Then my two son’s favourites are strawberries during the summer, which they pick and eat before we have got home.
5. Any local farmers markets nearby the resort? What is the speciality of the region?
In the surrounding area to Karma Salford hall, we are blessed to be in the Vale of Evesham which is renowned for growing great fruit and vegetables, especially Asparagus. They even hold a festival for each year. Just down the road from Karma Salford hall, is Hillers farm shop in the village of Dunnington which is great for getting locally grown vegetables, and game and meat from the local estate of Ragley, owned by the Marquis of Hertford.
6. What’s your favourite breakfast or brunch dish?
My favourite breakfast or brunch is a masala omelette, as it is quick and easy to make, and also full of the flavours I enjoy.
7. Fav sunset beverage?
My favourite sunset beverage depends on the season, during the summer I enjoy a bottle of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc as any occasion is good for champagne. Then in the winter months I prefer a vintage port with some good cheese.
8. What’s the most overrated ingredient or dish in your mind?
For me the most overrated ingredient would be truffles, I enjoy them and the flavour is amazing, however using too much of it can be overpowering and ruin the taste of other ingredients.
9. What are your top 3 foodie destinations and why?
When I’m in London I always go to Bentley’s oyster bar, because what is there not to like about champagne and oysters? My favourite restaurant is Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham, as the food and service is incredible and is where I spent my 30th birthday. Also in Birmingham, I like Carters of Moseley as chef Brad Carter does some interesting and tasty food with British produce.
10. Any mentors?
Growing up I read Marco Pierre White’s cookbook White Heat, which has fantastic photography and also an insight into the mentality of one of Britain’s best chefs, and it inspired me to pursue working in professional kitchens.
Also Anthony Bourdain inspired me with his book Kitchen Confidential and also his travel and food documentaries which gave me an insight into Asian cuisine which I love to eat and recreate.
11. Describe the best dessert you’ve ever had…
The best dessert I’ve ever had is probably my Grandma’s banoffee pie after Sunday lunch at her house.
12. What’s on the menu for this year at the resort? Any local and seasonal ingredients you are experimenting we need to know about?
On the menu at Karma Salford Hall, as it is the winter season we have a lot of warming comfort food, such as Braised blade of beef with roasted root vegetables and mashed potatoes, with a rich red wine gravy. And when spring arrives I can’t wait to get some asparagus onto the menu.
13. What has been the most popular dish at the restaurant this year?
One of the most popular dishes which we have had on the menu here at Karma Salford hall, is the Karma Travellers Gin cured Scottish salmon, with pickled cucumber and dill. It has great subtle flavours, and is a lovely light starter before moving onto a more hearty main course.