Six years ago, an unassuming bank manager from the South-East of England blew through the tastebuds of national TV treasures John Torode and Greg Wallace to take the title of Masterchef 2018.
Displaying a delicate touch and a natural understanding of complex flavour profiles, Kenny Tutt seared, smoked, roasted, and caramelised his way to victory in front of a captivated nation. Roast scallops, smoked cauliflower, shimeji mushrooms and pancetta. Squab pigeon breast and bon-bon, heritage beetroot, baby turnip, spiced cherries, bread sauce and game jus. Bitter chocolate, ale ice cream, malt tuille, and smoked caramel. I’ll give you a moment to mop the drool from your chin.
Since then Tutt has established himself as one of Brighton’s favourite culinary figures, with a particular penchant for protein. His Oxblock concept, locally sourced meats cooked over the hot charcoals of a Robata grill, was one of the first outfits to open at Shelterhall. Juicy, tender, dripping cuts accompanied by deceptively simple sides proved a winning formula, Oxblock quickly becoming an integral part of the city’s fiercely competitive food scene. His Worthing restaurant Pitch, offering seasonal, locally sourced food a little further down the coast, stands up to similar scrutiny and is leading the smaller seaside town’s charge towards fine dining to rival Brighton’s own. But as we catch up ahead of his showcase demo at Foodies Festival later this month, it’s his latest brainchild Tutt wants to talk about first.
“Basically it’s a really posh burger, but it’s like a smash truck burger,” he explains. “We’re back at Shelterhall but this time with Patty Guy, our truffle burger and fries and shakes. It’s doing really well, it’s a great burger, it’s what I consider to be the perfect burger.”
Chatty, affable and easy-going, Tutt is more than ready to sing the praises of Foodies Festival, the ‘Gasto-Glastonbury’ juggernaut event he’s been working with since winning Masterchef, and where he’ll reveal the secrets of his Patty Guy recipes to avid onlookers.
“I remember the first demo I did,” he recalls, “I was really, really nervous but Jeremy is famous for being a great host and he really put me at ease. And then I went around the country, because you know they’re up and down the breadth of the UK, from Scotland to Brighton. I’ve done several Foodies over the years, and they’ve become like a bit of an extended family.”
Family is key for Foodies Festival, event organisers putting a clear emphasis on providing great entertainment across the board, whether that be food, wine or song. A plethora of chefs and a host of music stars join Tutt on the line-up, including disco-pop sensation Sophie Ellis-Bexter, piano-tastic trio Scouting For Girls, and everyone’s favourite silver fox crush Martin Kemp, who brings his Ultimate 80s Party to town. It’s unsurprising that Foodies Festival has become one of the biggest annual events in Brighton, a city that prides itself on an obvious love affair with food.
“It’s such a fantastic family-orientated, food-orientated good time,” Tutt enthuses when I ask him what folk can expect for their hard-earned cash. “There are loads of different food stalls, so many diverse foods on offer. They also have markets and (food) producers there, great bands, great drink, there’s fairground rides, it’s just a one-stop-shop for all the great things in life: food, drink, and dancing. I’ll be down there going round all the stalls, tasting the food, listening to the bands.”
When he’s not busy trying everyone else’s food Tutt can be found in the Chefs’ Theatre, doing two demo sessions of his “really posh burger”. As a seasoned Foodies star, his advice, if you want to watch, is get there as early as possible. “With the chefs’ demos it’s best to book in,” he says, “so when you come in the gate, get tickets to the demonstrations then. There are limited seats so it’s best to get your place, it always gets booked up pretty quickly. It’s a good laugh and you can see what’s going on, you can ask questions, you can make notes and get tips for your own cooking. Generally, the tent holds about 40, 50 people, so there are definitely spaces available, but it gets pretty mental in there as well.”
Tutt is now a seasoned hand at demos, thanks in no small part to regular cooking classes at his Worthing restaurant Pitch. “People love learning new skills in the kitchen,” he observes. “(At Pitch) we do cookery school once or twice a week and do everything. Food from the land, food from the sea, pasta making, curry, you name it. It’s a great intimate space, around eight people which is perfect because it means I can go around and interact with people, talk about what they’re doing and what they like to cook.”
Pitch itself revolves around seasonality. “(It’s) a small menu. We don’t freeze anything, we cook everything fresh and do our own butchery, filleting fish,” Tutt says. “It’s just a nice space, a bistro-style, classic-style restaurant where we pride ourselves on really good food, and looking after the people that come in. Good food, exciting, organic wines, decent, strong cocktails – all the things you want when you go out for dinner.”
The restaurant was named in honour of Tutt’s dad, a fresh produce seller. “We used to jump in the car and go to markets at four in the morning just to get the best pitch,” he recollects. “That’s where I first became really familiar with the greengrocers, all the smells, all the spices, the butchers. That was my first real food memory. That’s where Pitch comes from because it’s our own market pitch.”
Tutt has always been surrounded by food, his mum adding to the family love affair by selling fresh seafood. We wonder if a career in food was inevitable. Tutt is inclined to agree. “Even now I’m led by my stomach. Food brings people together, it’s a great thing, but I’ve always had a fascination with it.”
Had it not been for his wife Lucy, his talent might have remained a secret confined to the family kitchen, the rest of the world left unawares. But after years of watching Masterchef as a self-confessed “armchair warrior”, it was Lucy who finally pushed him to enter.
“I’d always sat there and said it was something I could do,” he laughs. “It was actually Lucy who got sick of hearing about it. She said, “if you think you can do it you’ve got to apply rather than keep going on about it”.”
Thanks to that push, Tutt went on to win the show. Six years on, thousands of food fans across the South Coast and beyond can attest to his growth as chef and restaurateur, whether the fine dining of Pitch or the tender, saliva-inducing cuts of Oxblock. Now it’s the turn of burgers, via Patty Guy, to get the Tutt treatment. Promising finger-licking, mouth-dribbling, truffley goodness, it’s a challenge this chef is more than up for – and a secret anyone quick enough to bag a spot at his Foodies Festival demo session can take into their own kitchen.
To get your tickets to Foodies Festival Brighton, head over to www.foodiesfestival.com. Adult tickets come in at £19, kids for just £3.
Foodies Festival Brighton
29th April – 1st May 2023 Bank Holiday Weekend
Preston Park, Preston Road, Brighton, BN1 6SD
Photos courtesy of Foodies Festival and www.kennytutt.co.uk