Chef Steven Sumpner is no stranger to pressure – over the last few years he has cooked for luminaries including Mick Jagger, Anthony Hopkins and Jamie Oliver. But he is facing his biggest challenge to date in Sheffield on Friday...
Steven is swapping the comfort of the George Hotel in Hathersage for a pop-up restaurant at Birkdale School. Here, he and a team of friends will give up their night to cook a lavish dinner for 50 guests – with all proceeds going to Children in Need.
“Every year I watch the show and, just like everyone else, say I’d really like to do something to help,” he says.
“Last year I was asked what was my greatest achievement as a chef and I went blank – nothing stood out. The following day I came up with the idea of a one-night-only pop-up restaurant to raise money for the cause… and Jack in the Box was born.”
Steven has 14 years’ experience, working at Silverstone, Ascot racecourse and in some of the area’s top restaurants, as well as on stage with Antony Tobin and James Martin as part of the Ready Steady Cook show.
He’s good in a crisis: thanks to him, disaster was averted when a former head chef forgot to order the turkeys for a Christmas party.
“They turned up at the last minute and we put them in the oven. The head chef had gone into meltdown and we just hoped the starters and intermediates would take up enough time for the turkey to cook properly.
“Needless to say, they didn’t. So with one last desperate throw of the dice, I smashed the fire alarm!
“By the time they’d carried out the safety check and established there was no danger, 30 portions of nicely cooked turkey were served and disaster averted.”
He’s a far more organised chef himself and is confident that tomorrow’s six-course meal will present no such challenge.
He has also roped in an army of family and friends to help him.
Steven is giving those who can’t be part of the evening a taste of what they’re missing by sharing his main course of fuggle bunny braised pork belly.
“It represents all the hard work and endeavour I’ve put in to the Jack in the Box project,” he says. “The Fuggle Bunny element represents my love for good ale (it’s produced in Halfway), braised pork is my love of a good barbecue and development of the dish represents my love of being a chef.”
There are still a few seats left: places are free, but guests are asked to donate what they feel the evening is worth, including live music from pianist Peter Anderson and a silent auction with gifts donated by local businesses.
Recipe by Steve Sumpner: Ale braised pork belly
1.2g piece belly pork, skin off
3 tsp olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 small leek, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs sage
1 pint of good quality bitter ale or stout (I use Fuggle Bunny’s 24 Carrot)
3tsp demerara sugar
2 pints chicken stock
2 tblsp cornflour
Preheat oven to 150ºC
Cut pork into portion size pieces.
Heat roasting tray with olive oil; when hot, add the carrot, onion, leek, garlic and herbs and fry until really brown – the browner the better. Not only will this give a good, dark color for the sauce, it will also make the veg very sweet which will help later on in the dish.
Add half of the sugar (be careful as this should quickly caramelize and may spit).
Deglaze roasting tin with the ale and continue to cook, reducing until the required taste is achieved, adding remaining sugar to help achieve a balance of bitterness and sweetness. (Bear in mind that the carrots and lentils will be sweet, so the bitter pork belly will complement the finished dish.)
Add the stock, cover with foil and braise for about 2 hours.
Once pork is soft and tender, remove from liquid and roast in oven to achieve a nice glaze/colour
Meanwhile strain the braising sauce, reduce to required taste and thicken with cornflour.
Remove pork belly from oven and serve with barbecued carrots, puy lentils, hazelnut dukkah and sauce on the side.