Chef wins gold star for jam after setting up chutney business
FIVE years ago chef Ian Jennings was brewing up batches of his own recipe chutneys in a London pub kitchen.
His blend became popular with customers so he decided to quit and found his own business, Kushcuisine, with his partner, Sadie.
A keen jazz fan, Ian took the name Kush from a famous tune by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Now, the couple's efforts to produce quality chutneys, jams, pickles and sauces have been recognised by the Guild of Fine Foods, which has awarded Ian's tomato chilli jam a Gold Star in its annual Great Taste Awards.
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The jam underwent a rigorous testing procedure by 16 judges from the food industry, who looked at flavour and texture.
To win the award it had to be rated by eight of the judges.
The jam is a fusion of a traditional Italian tomato sauce with ginger, fish sauce and a variety of other spices.
Ian, 46, said: "In the food industry getting this award is the equivalent of a one-star Michelin award.
"This is a real stepping stone in the growth of the business. We will now be featured in a book produced by the guild which goes out to smaller independent delis and shops across the country.
"The one star shows to them we are making a quality product and hopefully the effect will be a greater interest in the chilli jam and the other products we make."
The one-star logo can also be displayed on the tomato chilli jam jars, which Ian says is an important pointer for customers looking for quality.
Ian and Sadie, who work from their home in Lower Road, Kenley, have seen a growing interest in chutneys and pickles over the past five years and have now extended the range to ten recipes created by Ian.
They include jerk marinade, Jamaican chutney, coriander, shallot and chilli jelly, beetroot relish and apple and rosemary jelly.
Ian said when he first started he was selling around 100 jars a week, but this has risen to 400.
He added: "When I am making the products I spend around six hours a day on the cooking."
When away from the stove, he and Sadie are busy travelling to food festivals and farmers' markets which form the backbone of the business.
But Sadie, who is handling the marketing side, is working hard on developing online sales and building on supermarket contracts, which they have in a small way with Budgens and the Co-op.
She said: "We would like to get into a supermarket like Waitrose as a next step and I want to do more business online."
Ian has also set his sights on entering the award scheme next year, with the hope his products will get two or even three stars.