A 90-minute tasting session with the Dish Cornwall team is sheer joy. Budget for an extra half hour, even the full 60 minutes in their kitchen in Pool – because once you’re in there, you won’t want to leave.
Chefs Mark Devonshire and David Vazda are friendly and chatty, and as such riotous company. Mark is bouncy and enthusiastic, Czech-born David just awfully nice, while front-of-house colleague Sophie Teague adds a down-to-earth female perspective to the dynamic.
Their motto is “Food and wine bring people together”, and they certainly proved this over Christmas when they hosted 19 family members in the industrial but spacious surroundings, which were transformed by foliage and the warmth of human friendship, and laid out with a fabulous buffet spread to boot.
For client tastings, a sturdy, rustic wooden dining table will be dressed and groaning with a delectable array of food, from canapes and roasts to street food and woodfired pizza. If the cutlery and crockery don’t match, that’s because the team is keen for you to see all the options.
David came to Cornwall three years ago, with the catering team feeding the extended cast and crew of German TV adaptations of Rosamunde Pilcher stories. Mark had spent 17 years at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, and has extensive experience in teaching, at Padstow Seafood School, Cornwall College and wild cookery school Fat Hen (with whom he indulges his love of foraging). “Food has always been my passion – is there anything else I could have done?” he says. “I despise the word ‘foodie’, but that’s what we are.”
The pair met by chance on Newquay’s Fistral Beach; Sophie had worked with Mark at Cornwall College, where she was trainer and assessor in the catering department. “She keeps us in check,” laughs Mark, “as well as being great on the planning side. She’s also got a real eye for detail, and is good at making things look nice.” Adds Sophie: “I love talking to brides, and their mothers.”
A wood-fired oven in Mark’s barn was the inspiration for a new business venture, which has allowed them to tap into their love of local produce. “When we visit a producer, say our tomato man in St Agnes, I know they are home-grown with love on my doorstep, which ticks a box for me,” says Mark. “David loves ingredients and will take it off the vine, smell it. I feed off his imagination. He can create something out of nothing.”
“That’s because I grew up in the Communist era, with a single mum,” adds David. “There was never enough money for food, which was expensive. Nothing was wasted. Every last bit was used. That’s my philosophy now.” They use their own beef, from cattle grass-fed at Zelah, while other meat sourced from Chapman’s of Perranporth: “They know what’s in season, and use old-fashioned cuts,” says Mark. “I love it.”
Since launching (as Wood-Fired Kitchen), they have catered for 20 weddings in 10 months, for venues including Boconnoc and Launcells Barton near Bude, as well as an outdoor venue: Polgoda Paddock, near Perranporth. Their Tuscan grill is ideal for fish and meat marinades, while the wood-fired oven turns out luscious pizzas and succulent roasts. There’s a paella pan on the way, too, all of which taps into the current trend for feasting – social dining with shared platters and boards. Should you book a venue book for the weekend, the boys can sort you a Sunday picnic.
The chaps are amazingly accommodating. “We once catered for 37 different dietary requirements at one event,” remarks David, wide-eyed. “It’s the new normal.” If you want pizza but your mother-in-law doesn’t, “we can do something to make her happy”, says Mark, the UN negotiator of
A tasting session costs £150; this is waived if you have already booked, or subtracted from your subsequent booking. But don’t get hung up about budget. “When people ask how much it costs, we ask: how much do you want to spend? Then we’ll try and work within that,” says Mark. “I have no desire to see young people start married life in mountains of debt over a single day.”
“That’s why we invite people to meet us, so we can make suggestions,” adds Sophie. “You can have extended canapes instead of starters, or wedding cake that doubles up as pudding.” If you want, you can even go out foraging with Mark: “It makes the journey and experience more personal.”
All this from a chance meeting on Fistral Beach. “It was pure coincidence that we were both chefs,” says David. “Three years later, we are sitting here, creating our own brand, making amazing food and making people happy –
To book a tasting session with Dish Cornwall, call 07805 207625 or visit www.dishcornwall.co.uk