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Chef Josh Mann: what’s cooking?

Our favourite chefs spill all about their work, lives and top culinary tips. Dishing it this week; Josh Mann from The Camellia at South Lodge near Horsham.

Your first job (in a kitchen)? 

When I was 15 I did a work experience at a local pub called the White Heart. It was such a tough week heating up veg, cutting bread and good old pot washing! It actually resulted in a weekend job so I must have done something right though. I remember the kitchen being so small and really hot, I didn’t enjoy it one bit, but for some reason I did go onto catering college for 2 years, and embarked in a career as a chef.  

Career highlight? 

It would have to be my recent achievement of gaining 3 AA Rosettes at The Camellia.  This is the first time I have taken a restaurant from 2 to 3 rosettes as previously I have just retained those already in place, so this time around is definitely the most significant for me. 

Josh describes his food as modern British with a classic French influence

 Sum up your cooking style/ food philosophy? 

I’d describe my style as ‘modern British with a classic French influence’ using seasonal, local produce. I am also really focused on minimising food waste and the sustainability of the ingredients we use.  

Most memorable moment at work? 

This would have to be when I worked at Restaurant Tristan in Horsham as Sous Chef, and the day it was announced that we had got a Michelin Star will always stay with me. 

Ever cooked for anyone famous? 

Most memorable would have to be Rowan Atkinson, when I worked at the then Michelin starred Olive Branch in Rutland. We had a good laugh in the kitchen when we were told he had set some paper alight on a candle and with Mr Beans mannerisms tried to extinguish it!

Your biggest mistake at work? 

In the first Michelin starred restaurant I worked in, I was making a lemon pickle.  The process was long and laborious, so me being an immature chef skipped a vital step to save time. Of course it was noticed instantly by the head chef who proceeded to shout at me like I had never heard before. It’s safe to say after that I never skipped a step again! 

One of Josh’s exquisite dishes

You’re tired, starving and impatient: what do you cook for dinner? 

Instant Ramen noodles, I can’t get enough of them! I always have a stock of them in the cupboard in case of emergency (or I just can’t be bothered), and chuck some left over chicken, sprinkle some spring onions and add a boiled egg – hey presto and you’ve got a quick winner! 

What would you cook to impress a date? 

Well I’ve been married for 6 years now so I don’t have to impress anyone new, but I love to show off my skills on the BBQ to my wife.  I think I’d have to go for a slow cooked pork belly, some bao buns, an Asian slaw and a nice sweet and spicy sauce – tasty! 

Favourite chef? 

At the moment it would have to be Lennox Hastie at Firedoor in Sydney. His understanding of the way different woods burn and impart flavour is truly inspirational. 

Favourite cookbook? 

Naturally its “Finding Fire” by Lennox Hastie, also one book I always find myself going back to is “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” by Darina Allen, it’s a great reference for anything foraged and also for making charcuterie, just a really good all-rounder.  

Favourite type of cuisine? 

Definitely BBQ. Most, if not all countries in the world have their own take on it and it’s so versatile and the limits are endless 

Favourite kitchen gadget? 

For me it has to be the Japanese mandolin. Super sharp and versatile, it’s a vital piece of equipment for day to day mise en place. 

Favourite Sussex café? Restaurant? Hotel? 

Kaya Cafe in the park in Horsham has great food, coffee and atmosphere. Restaurant wise it would have to be Heritage by Matt Gillan for it’s ever changing menu, stunning views and great cocktails.  And Hotel – well it has to be South Lodge, I know I’m a bit biased but there just isn’t a better one around. 

South Lodge, image Amy Murrell

Your three favourite local markets and suppliers? 

Horsham Food Rocks market on a Thursday and Saturday has a great selection of local producers and street food vendors. I visit most Saturday mornings for an early lunch and to grab a few treats. 

Supplier wise, Brighton and Newhaven FISH are great. They focus on sustainability and have a fleet of their own vessels. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t speak to Alex or Keir, to find out what has been landed for delivery the next day. 

Fresh fish from the market

Also, Hill House Farm in Dorking is exceptional for their rare breed pork. They farm, butcher and deliver to us all themselves.  The pork has outstanding flavour and amazing fat content, and has been a staple on the menu since starting. 

Favourite things to eat when you’re on holiday? 

If I see anything being cooked over fire I’m there, but also anything local as I love to try new things.  

What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make? 

Thinking speed is everything. Speed comes with experience, only once you have mastered something can you work on the speed you do it.  

Favourite ingredient and why? 

Probably has to be wild garlic, it’s just so versatile. You can make pesto, oil, pickle the buds to make wild garlic capers, and the flowers make a beautiful garnish. Oh and it’s free! 

Most over-rated dish/ ingredient? 

Bread and butter pudding or summer pudding, basically anything involving soggy bread – yuck!  

Wild garlic

The dish you’re most proud of creating? 

Line Caught Bass, Smoked Dashi Cream, Pickled Magnolia, Chicken Fat Pomme Anna and Morels.  The dashi cream sauce is made using the bones and trimmings of smoked eel, from a starter on the menu (Asparagus, Smoked Eel, Cherry Blossom Infused Ewes Yoghurt and Umeboshi Plum) the bass is caught with hook and line off the south coast. The magnolia is foraged from the grounds and simply pickled, it’s very fragrant and has a slight ginger flavour. 

Tell us your best ever cooking tip? 

Try pickling some vegetables in a 50/50 sugar to vinegar and add them to your dinner for something extra to excite the palate. You can experiment with different vegetables, sugars and vinegars. 

Three dishes every home cook should master? 

A Bolognese, because leftovers can also be used for a lasagne etc, a hearty stew and a classic Sunday roast. 

The Spa at South Lodge

Camellia at South Lodge Hotel, Brighton Rd, Horsham, RH13 6PS 

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