Introducing our ambassador, renowned chef and restauranteur, Josh Eggleton.
Josh grew up in Witchurch, South Bristol. At 19 he moved to Chew Valley, home to his first restaurant The Pony and Trap. 15 years and a Michelin star later, Josh has become one of Bristol’s most prolific chefs.
MAZI founder, Melanie, chats to Josh about his career in hospitality, the need for change in the city’s food scene and how to make the perfect Greek salad…
I met Josh at the Arnolfini – a place I’ve sorely missed during the pandemic. Along with the chefs from Arnolfini’s cafe and bar, a joint endeavour by Josh and the Bristol Beer Factory, he was designing the menu for their highly anticipated re-opening.
Listening to the conversation on flavour pairings, textures and ingredients from professional chefs was captivating. The crunch of the lettuce, the perfect accompanying sauce, all intertwined to make a scrumptious burger menu.
A Greek salad was included as one of the sides and Josh asked me how I made mine (I’m originally from Greece for those of you who don’t know). I told him my process and he looked at me with a kind, reassuring smile before telling me:
“You should know this! Get it all out the fridge, chop all the veg, toss it in salt, like amazing f***ing salt – the Cornish sea salt company and then just leave it on the side for 20 minutes. Let that natural water come out to marinate at room temperature. Then you finish with the feta and the dressing and then it’s ready to eat.”
The Greek inside me was embarrassed. How did I not know this?! He also suggested heating up the olive oil, adding some mustard seeds and then cooling it down with some lemon juice! With my hubris hurt I went home, made it Josh’s way and god, it was SOOO tasty! Each flavour was stronger and more prominent.
Salting my veg and meat before cooking is something I’d never really thought about. I used salt mindlessly, not really considering how it works and how it enhances flavour. After Josh’s revelation, as well as watching and reading Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, I’m learning how to use salt correctly. Trust me, it makes all the difference!
“Understanding how food can be elevated with simple seasoning techniques like salt, pepper, lemon juice, good oil, good butter or good vinegar and then serving at the right temperature is fundamentally what it’s all about. My top tips!”
He says with a chuckle
Josh’s phone doesn’t stop ringing. Although you can tell his thoughts are going 1000 miles an hour, his candid demeanour and acknowledgement of the insane demand of his work, reflects the love he has for food. I guess that’s why he’s successful; each meal must inspire, which can’t be easy.
Whether it’s for his Michelin star clients at The Pony and Trap, or for one of the thousand rough sleepers who received a cooked meal as part of the Cheers Drive project, one thing is clear. For Josh, GOOD food should be something everyone can enjoy and can access.
Josh started cooking from a young age, making cakes like Victoria Sponge and selling them to neighbours for a bit of pocket money. He’d regularly cook his nan dinner after school too, with cottage pie being one of his staples.
“When I left school, it was like ‘get a job or get out’ so I thought, what do I like doing? I only had one answer – cooking – so, I will be a chef. That was that. Job done.”
Both Josh’s parents worked for themselves, so he already had the entrepreneurial spirit. He knew that, ultimately, whatever he did he would do for himself. At 15, Josh started at a fish and chip shop in Witchurch, sparking the desire to open his own fish and chip shop which he later did – Salt & Malt, Chew Valley and then Salt & Malt in Wapping Wharf. He then worked at a pub learning management skills, left to work on mass food production at John Lewis in Cribbs Causeway and then went to the Olive Shed “where we were ahead of our time, only serving vegetables and fish,” before he embarked on his travels.
From America to Sicily to France – a week here and there, Josh experienced and learnt from some of the best. In California, he worked at The French Laundry restaurant. At the time, it was the best restaurant in the world, a pinnacle.
“I only found out about it [The French Laundry] by reading about it in a cookery book in Bristol. On my days off I used to go to book shops, sit there and read cookery books. We had no Instagram, internet was just dial up, so I just absorbed it all from books. Didn’t have to worry about 20 f****ing restaurants and 200 members of staff.” He says with a chuckle.
As I’m chatting to Josh, it becomes apparent that when Josh has an idea, he makes it happen. He seems to face challenges that many would find overwhelming with a humbling ease and undivided love for what he does.
Team Canteen is his most recent project. Working alongside Team Love, they’ve created a space at Breaking Bread which will bring people together through food. It’ll provide training and work opportunities for disadvantaged young people.
“We want the young people MAZI works with to feel like they can come to these spaces, have a good time and hopefully inspire them to get into cooking.”
This continued effort of inclusivity translates from Josh’s drive to tackle the cities food disparity;
“Food disparity, food inequality or food insecurity – whatever you want to call it – it does exist, and I want to uncover it. The city needs to work together to create a plan and combine our resources and organisations to shorten the gap and make it work for everyon
Josh has already been a huge help in aiding MAZI to become a part of this fight! He’s introduced us to the community and given us a space to pack our boxes and host events that will include the young people we work with into the Bristol food scene.
“Food is everything…It’s the foundation of our society. We look after our children by feeding them and putting a roof over their heads so why can’t we extend that to the rest of society? If you are in a position of power or you have acquired some resources to do that, then why wouldn’t you?”
Josh is a perfect example of someone who uses their influence and power for good and is driven to help those around him. It’s rare you meet someone so humble and I know he is probably hating the compliments as he reads this but, I’m grateful to be working with him and very much looking forward to an aMAZIng future.
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