Picnic perfection in Ely
by Stevie Parle | Published on 14 June 2019
Picnicking is a fine art, but not something that should require days of preparation. Location of course is key, and as part of my work as a Line Resident with Great Northern, I recently discovered that Ely fits the bill. Roughly 15 miles and a few stops from Cambridge, Ely is steeped in history and boasts those “postcard good-looks.”
As I approached Ely station, I genuinely felt my surroundings getting greener, lusher and richer. I learnt that until the 17th century Ely was in fact an island and the plains surrounding the town still flood regularly. Perhaps it wasn’t just my imagination that it was more verdant in the land around Ely than the countryside surrounding it.
A farm shop transforming more than just food
by Stevie Parle | Published on 10 May 2019
During my visits to niche chef-focused producers – such as Flourish Farms last month as part of my work as a Line Resident with Great Northern – I always expect to feel inspired, but it can still surprise me by coming in unusual forms. On a recent trip to Parma, for example, I visited my parmesan producer, met the handsome and hard-working brown cows and was inspired to reconsider how I use this everyday ingredient. But inspiration can be about things other than new dishes. As part of my partnership with Great Northern, I’ve been exploring interesting food destinations all over the network, and this month I set off to Cambridge to explore the fantastic project that is Darwin Nurseries.
A beautiful 20-year-old nursery that is run mostly by adults with mental health problems and learning difficulties, it’s a lovely cycle, long walk or bus ride away from Cambridge station. The nursery also serves as a farm shop full of delicious veggies and has loads of beautiful little plants crying out to be taken home.
Top of the crops: Transforming an Italian staple with sustainable farming
by Stevie Parle | Published on 12 April 2019
Like all chefs, I’m constantly on the lookout for new suppliers, often travelling around the country checking out new leads. I scour the food pages of broad sheets, search out any name-checked suppliers on menus of restaurants I like, gossip with fellow chefs and restaurateurs, and increasingly check things out on social media - which is what inspired my latest voyage with Great Northern.
Running five successful sites across the UK means I’m constantly in need of inspiration for dishes and recipe development but I’m also working hard to ensure we’re always using top notch British produce that’s sustainable to create great value, simple yet original dishes.
Can the humble sandwich be truly transformed?
by Stevie Parle | Published on 15 March 2019
I think most people are a bit like me when it comes to eating. Food is super important to me and whilst I don’t imagine that many people spend hours a day considering the best way to add texture or depth to a new dish, I do think that everyone finds food can be a fantastic way to improve your mood.
As a Line Resident for Great Northern, I’ve been lucky enough to explore eateries all over the line for many different reasons. What I’ve found is that any struggle can be tackled after a good lunch, or experience made better by pairing it with something great to eat. Okay, well maybe there are one or two experiences that aren’t made better by food but no more than that. It’s of utmost importance. Food is truly transformative. I see it in my kids all the time. Monsters become angels after a plate of good pasta.
A Journey Through the Tastes of Highbury & Islington
by Stevie Parle | Published on 15 February 2019
Many a Great Northern train journey starts or ends at Highbury and Islington. Yet, up until about ten years ago, the area around the station was the last place I’d expect to eat anything except fast food. And then Trullo happened. Trullo was a beacon of civility and one of the front runners in what turned out to be not just a transformation in the area around Highbury and Islington, but the London food scene. Trullo advanced everything.
I opened my first restaurant around the same time, and back then the decent dining options were slim at best. In fact, I started my pop-up project because I’d run out of interesting restaurants that I actually wanted to work in (having ticked off River Café, Moro, Petersham Nurseries, and not really fancying St John or the macho kitchens of the Michelin boys). Luckily, Trullo came along to help fill that void and transform the London food scene.
The Transformation of Cambridge’s Fitzbillies
By Stevie Parle | Published on 11 January 2019
As a chef and restaurateur, I know all about transformation. Transforming some cupboard stapes into a suitable supper, a crop of seasonal vegetables into a crowd-pleasing plate or left overs into the main event of a new main course. As part of my job I’m also always out and about – meeting suppliers, trying new restaurants, tasting new flavours. It’s vital I regularly get out of the kitchen to get inspired and continue my own journey of discovery as a chef.
So when Great Northern approached me to be part of their Line Residencies campaign, celebrating transformational journeys up and down their network, I knew I would relish the opportunity to get out of London and visit some people and places who have experienced some incredible stories of transformation.
More about Stevie
Stevie is chef-owner of Rotorino, Craft London and Palatino, and is both partner at Sardine and an advisor to London Union. In 2017 Stevie opened Pastaio, a fresh pasta no-reservations restaurant in Soho. A pop-up Pastaio also opened in Canary Wharf in November 2018.
In 2010 Stevie was named Young Chef of the Year and in 2014 formed Stevie Parle Restaurants with business partner Liam Nelson. Together they now run four sites, working alongside passionate and highly talented people at both back and front of house, and have plans for future world domination.
Stevie has mentored chefs into high positions in many of London’s restaurants, and has seen Richard Blackwell, Luke Frankie and Anna Garcia Cortes all progress to Head Chef positions within his own restaurants. Stevie lives in Kent with his wife and three young sons, and a collection of pigs, chickens, bees, cats and dogs.