15 Questions with Byron Wheeler

Describe your perfect breakfast
Coombeshead Farm’s breakfast is out of this world. From the home cured bacon and sausages to the kombucha and Bircher muesli it is absolutely on point.

What is your favourite Cultjar?
Honestly; whichever one I am eating at that particular moment. I am like the quintessential proud parent! Most recently it was the kohlrabi kimchi.

Give us a top tip for eating Cultjar
Eat them with great ingredients served simply; let the lactobacillus do the work! Plain grilled chicken with Curtido or alternatively some beetroot and garam masala with Westcombe cheddar, some salad leaves and bread. What more could you want?

What’s your other favourite jarred food / condiment
In March 2020 I panic-bought about 6 jars of Belazu rose harissa… It adds great depth of flavour to so many dishes.

Tell us the three best things about living in Somerset
Great local food producers, the Levels and the Mendips

What is your favourite restaurant?
Of all time? Probably the Brackenbury circa 1992. The food was so honest and affordable that I could go often even on a commis chef’s wages. It felt like it was all about what was happening at the table and not in the kitchen. More recently I’ve had similarly unpretentious yet glorious food at Kiln in Soho.

Tell us about your most memorable meal
I’ve had many very memorable meals, unfortunately I have a terrible memory and they stretch back over 30 years! The most recent (and therefore most memorable) superlative meal I had was Sunday lunch at St John (the first time I’d been since the month it opened; another fantastically memorable meal) where just everything was delicious and lightly handled. The ingredients sang for themselves.

Are there any foods you just can’t stand?
I enjoy almost every form of offal, but terrible school dinners put me off liver and kidneys for life. I still enjoy cooking them though as they are very responsive to how they are treated.

What is your earliest food memory?
Collecting mussels while camping in St Ives Bay aged about 7. Steaming them and eating them with my fingers  hot from the pan. It was a revelation. I got home, saved my pocket money and bought a jar of mussels in malt vinegar from the local chippy and was disgusted when they weren’t just the same as the perfumed sweet treats I’d eaten before. So began a lifelong love of shellfish.

What is your most thumbed cookbook?
I am a big fan of Richard Olney. Probably Simple French Food. His description of how to make aioli is hilarious and the original gastro porn.

Tell us your favourite cocktail
I am not very adventurous with cocktails. I really enjoy a negroni as my aperitif of choice. It really whets the appetite and sets me up for a great evening. I am also very partial to a Tommy’s Margarita
Can you give us a recipe for a delicious super quick supper?

Kimchi Fried Rice
This is a great way to use up yesterday’s leftover steamed rice, and is very quick to prepare and delicious!

½ clove minced garlic
¼ jar Cultjar Kimchi, including juice
100g steamed rice.
Coriander to garnish
1 tbsp sunflower oil.

Heat wok on high, add oil and cook garlic for about 10 seconds without browning.
Add the kimchi and cook while stirring for about 30 seconds.
Add the rice, stir and heat thoroughly
Meanwhile, fry egg/s in a separate pan.
When rice is hot, serve on plate, add the egg and garnish with coriander.

What is your favourite sandwich?
Easy! A classic ‘Reuben’. Toasted New York style salt beef, sauerkraut, dill pickles, gruyere, russian dressing on rye. I love it so much I named my son after it 27 years ago!

Are there any foods you miss when you go on holiday? 
I tend to go ‘self-catering’ and take far too many ingredients, so it hasn’t been a problem.

What are your top 5 store cupboard staples
Belazu Rose Harissa (see above)
A lemon; can lift and rescue so many dishes as well as making a refreshing drink. Zest is powerful magic too. 
Whole Earth crunchy peanut butter. I think I may have a clinical problem I get through so much. 
Half-jars of ferments. I love the way they develop their flavours and they are like the gregarious party loving housemate: they bring out the best in otherwise ordinary, perhaps even dull, companion ingredients. Always a pleasant surprise.