Silversmiths has been going for five years now since Gordon Ramsay overhauled the restaurant on Kitchen Nightmares, a fact that co-owner Justin Rowntree does not shy away from in our interview. Since opening in 2008 Silversmiths have gone from strength to strength focusing on the fresh, local produce gleaned from farms across Yorkshire producing British cuisine with a modern twist.
In terms of gluten free food, Silversmiths’ menu is a culinary delight for Coeliacs as almost all the items on the menu are either gluten free or can be adapted. A great example of this are their pies which are a staple of Tuesday nights at Silversmiths, “One of the things we haven’t managed to find a perfect solution for is gluten free pastry as I’m sure everyone with Coeliac Disease knows it’s a tricky one. On a small scale it’s not so bad, you can give the pastry a lot of time and attention, but on a large scale it just falls apart and it’s hard to work with. So instead we do a mash potato top with seeds etc, to make it nice and special but without the pastry.”
“It’s less about using gluten free products than us buying the raw materials to make the dish in the first place. Instead of using gluten free suppliers, as we have done in the past, we use a lot of gluten free flours and make our own or we simply produce things that are naturally gluten free.”
Justin’s interest in gluten free food comes, in part, from his sister-in-law who suffers from Coeliac Disease which he describes as a “route of awareness” for the business.
“It’s been really useful to speak to someone who’s a member of Coeliac UK who understands what she can and can’t eat and who is overjoyed when you can produce food that is appropriate without hassle, without making a song and dance about it y’know? Without feeling like you’re different. To be able to go into a restaurant and say I’ll have that off the menu, as opposed to explaining what [Coeliac Disease] is and how it works and someone getting it wrong.”
“When they come in and look at the menu, they can see that it’s either got a ‘G’ for gluten free or a ‘GT’ for gluten tailored, they become relaxed and happy because they see that and they know that we understand. Then when the waiting staff peak to the customers, the customers can see that the waiting staff understands the problem too.”
“It’s about feeling confident that this is a place you can eat. Realising that that is how she felt, then realising that’s how a raft of people would feel, it make a lot of sense to do it. It’s no more difficult than vegetarian really. It’s becoming more and more understood and normal… Because it is. And that’s how we treat our customers and that’s how they like to be treated.”
Obviously it’s not just good from a customer point of view but a commercial view point too with Coeliac UK estimating that, “people with the condition and the family and friends they eat out with are worth a potential £100 million”. This is a fact that Justin is well aware of, “We’re able to produce good gluten free food, if you need to eat gluten free and you’ve got five friends, where are you going to take them? I’ve got a table of six people, one of them is gluten free, and they’re all very happy.”
As every gluten free eater knows happiness cannot be found in the food alone but in the assurance that there will be no cross contamination in the preparation and cooking process. Justin is almost laughing at my question over cross contamination explaining, “Quite simply it’s like having a kosher kitchen. You’ve got an area where you prepare gluten free dishes and on that day that is all that is prepared there.
“Obviously the good thing about a commercial kitchen is that it’s very easy to maintain cleanliness, it’s very easy to maintain a sterile situation because everything is stainless steel and then when it comes to fryers you have one that’s for gluten and one that isn’t. It’s pretty simple to do once you know what to do.”
He makes preparing gluten free food sound so effortless and suggests that perhaps other people over complicate the matter in their own minds; “Maybe a bit of education is what is needed, actually it’s a lot more simple than people might imagine.”
With so many gluten free options and business going well, what could the future hold for Silversmiths?
“We’re continuing to focus on fresh, local produce more and more. This January we’re launching an app is which offers information on what to eat this season, how to prepare it and recipes including this seasonal produce. We’re always looking to take the seasonal, local themes and this way of dealing with food further and further over time.
Not only will the app provide seasonal information and recipes but gluten free recipes too. Last Christmas the star dessert on the menu was a gluten free yule log, “people have asked us, so what’s the recipe? How do I make it? If I could make it for my mum/sister/brother that would be amazing.”
“So something like that is what we would showcase as a gluten free dessert on our app and get people making these things for their friends and family at home.”
As part of Coeliac Awareness week, Silversmiths will be hosting a seven course Coeliac feast on Monday the 11th of May. If you would like to join them for this evening of gluten free gluttony please drop them an email or give them a call, the contact information’s at the top of this page.
As for the future possibility of gluten free pastry, feel free to send your suggestions over to our Twitter @glutenfreesheff and we’ll be sure to pass them on!