MEET THE CHEF: Jah Hemming, The Lost Gardens of Heligan

MEET THE CHEF: Jah Hemming, The Lost Gardens of Heligan

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myCornwall  joined Jah Hemming at The Lost Gardens of Heligan to find out what delicious treats are on offer at The Heligan Tearoom.

Tell us a little about yourself:

I grew up in Cornwall after moving from Gloucestershire when I was six, to live on Bodmin Moor. My first catering training was at Cornwall College after which I worked with Kevin Viner at Sevens and Viners in Truro. I have worked crew catering at a number of festivals, including Glastonbury for ten years, and at various restaurants and hotels around Cornwall. I have also worked as a private chef in France, Switzerland, Austria and the UK. I’ve been at Heligan for nearly two years now.

the lost gardens of heligan

What’s appealing about The Lost Gardens of Heligan?

It has to be the very real connection with all of the produce from the gardens and estate. We have Dexter beef, Devon and Cornwall Longwool lamb as well as Tamworth pork which is all reared here at Heligan. We also have the large productive gardens that grow over 250 varieties of heritage fruit and vegetable. It is all about seasonal eating here, so we try and keep in tune with that.

Do you often create new dishes?

Yes, we love to experiment with the produce and create new things all of the time. We have been experimenting lots over the last year by barbequing produce and utilizing the charcoal made on site. We have also been brining and preserving things and more recently we have been fermenting. One of tour team, Joe, made Sprout and Turnip Kimchi – it’s a Korean dish usually made with fermented cabbage but he thought he’d try making it with sprouts so we’ll look forward to making that again when they’re back in season.

Where do you look for inspiration for your dishes?

the lost gardens of heligan

From the season and the produce available within it, I often take a historical perspective or look at local food traditions for inspiration too as it reflects the garden experience here at Heligan. I think people like to know where their food has come from and here we can trace everything, we don’t talk food miles here we talk in food yards from soil to plate! It is a huge bonus. I think it’s becoming more popular to eat what is naturally growing at that time of year and if you stick with that idea, it will be healthier, fresher and kinder to the environment.

How would you describe your cooking style and menu?

We try and keep our dishes as English and Cornish as we can – although a few curries do slip in for good measure! Throughout the summer we create lots of tasty salads, fresh sandwiches and barbequed treats. We also have our own onsite bakery, so all of the bread is freshly made each day. We try to avoid wine and olive oil and instead use local beer, cider and Cornish rapeseed oil. The gardens produce a bounty of fresh, heritage produce and the estate a variety of tasty meats, in reflection of this we offer a menu of simple and fresh flavours which are in tune with the time of year.

What is your favourite dish?

That is never a fair question to ask a chef! I do really enjoy making our own pastrami (dried, seasoned and smoked meat) with the Dexter beef from the estate– it’s cured with lots of black pepper, coriander seed and chilli flakes. It is something that takes a couple of weeks to make so you do put a lot of effort in; the reward is well worth it though! We have been including it in our sandwiches along with some Cornish Gouda and handmade pickles; it’s very popular.

What rules do you live by in the kitchen?

The rules we live by in the Heligan Kitchen are seasonality, local freshness and authenticity, combined with a passion for food! We want our dishes to reflect what is growing in the Productive Garden so that we increase peoples connection and visitors can taste what they have seen growing. We are all inspired and come up with recipe ideas that we develop together.

the lost gardens of heligan

Have you always had a passion for food?

Yes, I decided that it was what I wanted to do fairly early on and after college realized I was well and truly addicted! I have also gained experience in the art of butchery which has actually proven very useful here at Heligan.

Do you source your ingredients locally?

Yes, always – it’s one of our rules! We also work with a great project called People and Gardens which operates out of Eden’s Nurseries and employs people with learning disabilities to grow the plants. Their produce supplements ours perfectly and we buy their vegetable bags through the summer; it’s literally a couple of food miles for us!

What are your most popular dishes on the menu?

Visitors should definitely try our home-cooked Sunday Lunch, our summer barbeques and our Cornish Cream Teas – reputedly the best in Cornwall! Our Sunday lunch comprises Heligan grown and local seasonal veg, two meat choices and a vegetarian option – for summer this is often courgette and brie crumbles or roasted vegetable strudels.

the lost gardens of heligan

Top tip for cooking at home?

Just to be organised, take your time and most importantly enjoy it!

Would you like to add anything else?

We are open every day from 9.30am for breakfasts and serve seasonal dishes and tasty treats throughout the day which you are always welcome to come and take away for a picnic in the gardens if you prefer.


Opening Hours (1st April – 30th September)

Heligan Tearoom open from 9:30am

Gardens open daily 10:00am – 6:00pm (last tickets 4:30pm)

Heligan Shop and Plant Centre – 10:00am – 6:00pm daily, except Sundays 12:00 – 6:00pm


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