Provenance - ethical and sustainable food in Westhoughton

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 March 2020

Sweet treats for sale in the Provenance cafe

Sweet treats for sale in the Provenance cafe

Archant

The people running an award winning restaurant want you to think about what you are eating – it might just save the planet.

Passion is a term overused in the restaurant trade, but you could light every bulb in the house with the electricity generated during a conversation with Brian Tinniswood.

When it comes to the industrialisation of food production, the global cartels controlling what most of us eat and the way we treat the land and the animals that live on it, Brian admits he could do with his own soapbox.

He's no politician - he leaves that to his teenage daughter Ella who is Bolton's Youth MP - but he has some firm views about what we eat and where it comes from. Small wonder Provenance is the name of the business he runs with his wife, Karen, and brother, Rob.

From their base in Westhoughton they operate a food hall, bar, café and a restaurant that made it into the Good Food Guide almost before the paint had dried. It opened in 2015 and Brian believes the calibre of the team is the secret to their continued success.

Head chef, Lewis GallagherHead chef, Lewis Gallagher

A key member of that team is a hugely talented young chef called Lewis Gallagher. His skills are much coveted in the industry. An unusual twist to the Provenance story is that their base in Market Street was once the family toy shop, dating back to Brian and Rob's grandparents. While they now no longer sell to the public, Brian and Rob - who looks after the finance side - continue to be heavily involved in toy supply to many of the UK's top retailers. Not a natural fit for a flourishing food company, perhaps. 'When my brother and I were youngsters growing up in a toy shop, our dad told us to go out and find proper jobs. That's what we did and the shop was eventually sold.

'While we gravitated back to the toy business, Karen wanted to do something connected with food. Her vision was to have somewhere that sold proper food and involved a butcher, a baker and more.

'We were both horrified by what was mostly on offer at supermarkets and she spent all day driving around trying to source proper food for us to eat at home.' Karen decided to find her own solution - a business plan for Provenance was finished just as the old toy shop became vacant.

'It was a bigger than we'd planned but we thought that if we were putting in a kitchen for a café we might as well make it one that was big enough for a restaurant.'

Statement RestaurantStatement Restaurant

The food hall and café plan grew organically into a restaurant business and they recently took over the adjoining former bank so they now have the deli with a café above and, next door, there is a stylish bar and restaurant called - appropriately for its location - Statement. The money theme is developed further with famous figures from British banknotes - Wren to Churchill - adorning the walls complete with notable quotes.

The décor is what you might find in a high-end cosmopolitan establishment and it has become a talking point among customers while the a la carte menu and 'Mini Statements' - their version of tapas - get rave reviews.

When it comes to the ethos behind their food, Brian adopts a tone that's gaining momentum among eaters if not all politicians. He works on the principle that vegan and vegetarian is fine, but there is nothing wrong with eating animal products so long as they are farmed ethically and sustainably and the animals and the land is treated holistically and with respect.

Statement barStatement bar

'There are four or five global grain companies that dictate to the supermarkets and they, in turn, dictate to us,' he said. 'We are supportive of the move towards plant-based diets but we are passionate about animal husbandry and make a point of visiting the places that supply us.

'This is something we are very clear about because some people sell things as free-range when they are not and there are animals that are still kept in squalid conditions.

'Virtually everything we use is local but it has to taste good. We sold Herb Fed Turkeys from Easingwold at Christmas and people have been talking about the flavour ever since. I really believe in regenerative farming and a holistic approach to food production. Look after the animals and look after the land.

'We take meat from stock that has had a good life in the open and only has to travel a few miles to slaughterhouses so they are not unduly stressed.'

Beazley large sausages for sale in the butchersBeazley large sausages for sale in the butchers

Farming, he believes, should be less about exploiting the landscape and more geared to working in partnership to produce meat and vegetables that are high quality, seasonal and sustainable.

They spread the message to new generations by supplying ethically-reared meat to one local school and holding cookery sessions with another. Chef Lewis sits in front of a class and butchers a chicken before showing children three dishes that can be made from separate parts of the bird.

'When I was a kid my grandparents ate a fried breakfast every morning and they lived to their 80s and 90s,' said Brian. 'Now we are told about the dire health consequences but I think it's more to do with the quality of the food.'

Does their ethos work at home? 'We expect our children to eat everything. We cook whatever is in the fridge - it's a bit like Ready, Steady Cook! We don't want them to be fussy eaters - they either have what we've cooked or they go without.

'We are the same at home as we are in the restaurant. We don't tolerate waste. And the good thing about having a food hall is that the chefs can come down and use what is available. There might have been a good catch of sea bream so they'll take ten fillets and produce a dish for the specials board. It means they've got their very own larder.'



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