Sunderland teacher turns chef for garden centre supper club

Ross Weightman with Bill Smithson who is running a Supper Club at the Plants R Ross Garden Centre, Easington.
Ross Weightman with Bill Smithson who is running a Supper Club at the Plants R Ross Garden Centre, Easington.
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A FORMER teacher who showed students how to be creative in the kitchen is putting his own talents to use.

Bill Smithson worked as a technology teacher at Hetton School for three decades before retiring last summer.

Now he is putting his pinny back on to help run events for other food fanatics.

Bill was invited to lead a supper club by Ross Weightman, who runs Plants R Ross, in Easington Village.

They ran a series of trials before Christmas to see how customers took to the idea, before following-up their success with the launch of a fortnightly club.

The nights have brought in between 20 and 46 diners enjoying themed menus including Mediterranean, Greek and a spice evening.

Local produce, including meat from Hetton butcher McMurchie and fish from Hodgson’s in Hartlepool, is used wherever possible.

In addition to the knowledge he gained to teach students, time spent working in restaurants and researching recipes, 59-year-old Bill picked up inspiration from a three-day placement in the kitchen of Raymond Blanc in Oxford.

Bill said: “I’ve know Ross for years from when he first started up the garden centre, as my son Ian wanted to do work experience with him about 10 years ago.

“He found out I retired in August and we started chatting and the idea started for the supper club.

“Initially, they were going to be monthly, but after word spread we decided to make them fortnightly instead.

“The centre has a coffee shop and it already has a well-equipped kitchen.

“The feedback has been really positive.

“All tables are pre-booked, so we have no wastage and we aim to produce restaurant-quality fare.”

The set £15 menu, with only a single choice for each of the three courses, is published two supper clubs ahead of the nights and places must be booked.

Unlike some clubs, particularly ones run in London, the menu changes each time and does not rotate between a small selection.

Diners enjoy asparagus and Serrano ham with a tomato, mint, sweet pepper and courgette salsa, followed by beef paprikash with champ and vegetables with mandarin marmalade, pear and ginger cake for dessert, with alternatives available for vegetarians.

To book a place at the supper club, tel. 527 3562.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham