Local food hero Ken Holland's legendary veggies are a growth area. As well as stocking the North East’s top restaurants, he’s now supplying a number of Michelin-star eateries. KATHARINE CAPOCCI digs for details.
VEG man Ken Holland is something of a legend in his own lunchtime. A true local food hero, Ken has made his name with his super-fresh organic veg and salads, in particular his weird and wonderful heritage varieties, and more recently the micro living baby vegetables, which arrive in restaurant kitchens still in trays, their roots embedded in soil from Northumberland.
Now that’s what you call fresh ... almost straight from the field to being artfully arrayed on a diner’s plate and then devoured.
For all Ken’s burgeoning fame, this quiet, rather shy man, has never lost the plot but remains totally grounded. He’s now supplying Michelin-star restaurants up and down the country, including Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, and his new Roganic restaurant in London, as well as Tom Kitchin of The Kitchin in Edinburgh.
Ken says: “I work with Simon Rogan who has a little farm at Cartmel. And with Tom I’ve been supplying him for the last few weeks with some living vegetables. Chefs pick them out of the trays.”
Chef Steve Smith at Michelin-starred The Devonshire Arms in North Yorkshire takes Ken’s heritage tomatoes and baby carrots.
That’s in addition to the string of top restaurants he supplies in the North East.
Ken’s really rather reserved about the starry development as he’s very loyal to his local customers, many of whom have become friends over the years.
Catching up with Ken at a special veggie dinner he was hosting at Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle, he tells me his favourite time of year is when the new seed catalogues come out!
He loves nothing more than leafing through the glossy pages and plotting the next year’s veg and salad patches.
And he even consults with chefs over the varieties he grows, so they also have a say.
Ken launched his business, North Country Organics, about six years ago, and he has more than made his mark in that time.
Ken, 46, is married to Tracy, and they live in Newcastle with their children, Kayleigh, 15, and Kyle, 11.
The family business is a growth area with wife Tracy and brother-in-law Mark also involved in the running of the venture.