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Tom Kemble on a Meal to Remember

chalk tom kemble credit xavier buendia.

Festive ingredients

Head chef of Chalk, Tom Kemble, on why the Wiston Estate has everything you need for a Christmas meal to remember

chalk interiors credit xavier buendia
Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

Chalk – the ingredient-led restaurant on the award-winning Wiston Estate, with acclaimed chef Tom Kemble at the helm – has an intimate private dining room for 10 guests. Throughout December chef Tom will serve Chalk’s festive à la carte menu in the private dining space, designed to celebrate the nature, heritage, and community of the estate, with ingredients sourced directly from the estate’s walled garden and neighbouring artisan suppliers..

chalk interiors credit xavier buendia1
Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

Located in a thoughtfully restored 18th century threshing barn, the room has access to a private al fresco terrace in Chalk’s courtyard, which can be used for drinks before or after your meal. Alternatively, for larger celebrations, Chalk is available for exclusive hire for breakfast and lunch Wednesday-Sunday, and for dinner on Saturdays.

chalk interiors credit xavier buendia2 1
Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

Absolutely Sussex sat down with head chef Tom to find out a little more about what to expect over the festive period.

Do you enjoy putting together festive menus?

chalk burrata credit xavier buendia
Burrata – Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

Absolutely. It’s a great time of year where we can utilise game from the estate and showcase produce that we have preserved from the autumn harvest. 

What are you looking to offer with this year’s festive offering at Chalk?

chalk food spread credit xavier buendia
Food Spread – Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

We are offering an a la carte menu available for both lunch and dinner, which will showcase seasonal and local produce. We have decided to leave the turkey off the menu this year. Instead, we will be cooking some stunning free-range chicken and duck.

How important is the Wiston Estate to what you come up with?

It’s fundamental and really comes into play this time of the year. I will be talking regularly to our stalkers and gardeners to see what is coming in and plan accordingly.

What couple of dishes on the festive menu are you most excited about?

chalk food spread credit xavier buendia2
Food Spread – Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

Two deceptively simple dishes that are equally satisfying to prepare and eat: Estate Venison Ragu Rigatoni  & Twineham Grange, and Chicken Liver Parfait, Quince Jelly & Toasted Brioche.

We barbecue the haunches and shoulder of the venison, marinade in Wiston wine and braise low and slow for 24 hours as the basis for our ragu. It’s a two-day process in the end but the results are worth waiting for.

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Cocktails – Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

For the parfait we have developed a new technique to create an even softer texture along with our house made brioche using flour from regenerative farms and paired with quince from the garden. 

Do you think Chalk is the perfect spot to enjoy the festivities?

chalk food spread credit xavier buendia1
Food Spread – Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

It’s really great that we can offer guests a choice of the private dining room (up to 10 guests) or our main dining room. Being able to accommodate for larger bookings helps during the festive period.

How has this year gone at Chalk?

It has flown by. It’s lovely to have to received recognition in both the Michelin Guide and the Good Food Guide for our offering here at Chalk. What’s been equally great is seeing so many customers return. These are solid foundations for us to build upon for 2024. 

What do you love most about overseeing the kitchen at Chalk?

I am fortunate to work with such a dynamic, driven and enthusiastic team. I love dish creation and nurturing an idea from paper to plate.

Will you get any time off over Christmas?

We are closed from Christmas day to the 27th, which gives the whole team space to spend time with their families. Our annual closure in the first two weeks of January also provides time for the whole team to rest up after what has been a very busy year.

Do you still like to cook at home on Christmas?

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Butter Poached Cod – Photo Cred – Xavier Buendia

Yes, I do love to cook at home, but I normally avoid turkey on Christmas Day. I would much rather spend time on a beautiful fish such as a whole turbot. I like to cook this on a bed of fennel with white wine, rosemary and plenty of butter. This makes such a lovely sauce when combined with roasted turbot juices, a Pil Pil of sorts. We also don’t serve Christmas pudding, so a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream will suffice – we have to leave room for a cheeseboard, which must include Mont D’Or. 

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Grilled Mackerel – Photo Cred – Yugi Sugiura

What does 2024 hold in store for Chalk?

In 2024 we will continue to grow and develop our offering along with running more winemaker dinners and some interesting chef collaborations. We are also looking to launch a fixed, five-course dinner menu that allows us to really showcase the beautiful produce on the Estate and from our trusted local suppliers.

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