Aldeburgh: Chef with a soft centre cooks up a treat

I first met Jason Shaw at the Aldeburgh Food Festival a few years ago. It was his first demonstration and his easy manner and charming delivery won over the audience writes Emma Crowhurst.

Jason, head chef at the town’s White Lion Hotel, is a great advertisement for the wonderful world of catering.

Not only is he a brilliant chef but he’s not afraid to show his softer side - he even writes poetry.

So how did he get into the business?

“My first career move was a place called Shirley’s Pantry when I was 12 year old,” he told me. “I was just doing summer work and thanks to my mum, I found my real passion for cooking.

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“At school it was just me and one other boy in the home economics class with 14 girls! I then found I really enjoyed making pastry and desserts, so decided to study for two years at Braintree College.”

After college his career path is littered with famous names: The Royal Garden Hotel, The Ritz, Langans brassiere, which is now called Baumann’s brassiere, where he worked with two great chefs, Mark Baumann and Doug Wright.

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He then went to the Aldeburgh Brudenell and achieved two rosettes during the two years he spent there before moving to Five Lakes to rekindle his pastry passion and became the pastry chef. After that he went to the High St Kensington Marriot Hotel as pastry chef and on to the Gore Hotel as head chef.

Aldeburgh beckoned again and he was back to the Brudenell. He then spent two years in South Africa and finally back to what he calls his true home: The Aldeburgh White Lion.

“I am very happy here and have a family who love Aldeburgh,” he says.

He is also the deacon at the local Baptist church - something that has been a very big part of his life, thanks to his devoted wife Anja.

With his passion for food and his very genuine personality Jason is a pleasure to watch, particularly when he hosts the Ladies Lunch and cooking demonstration at the White Lion. He loves working and living in Suffolk and really enjoys working with local businesses, producers and suppliers, whose passion matches his own.

I asked him about his favourite suppliers.

“I work very closely with fish supplier Dean’s Shed, situated on the beach across the road from White Lion, Cleveleys Butchers in Halesworth are great suppliers of the famous Suffolk Dingley Dell pork, Sutton Hoo chicken from the lovely Belinda, Thorpeness Leaves & Dunwich Leaves are Two small producers, growing beautiful leaves at different times of the year depending on the soil & weather,” he says.

Jason believes in good local produce with something new and adventurous for every season. He likes Purely Pesto, Sam Coles of Lowestoft, Direct Seafoods, Hazels Butchers from Norfolk, Accent Fresh from Downham Market, Pinneys of Orford, Rod, The sausage expert from The Real Sausage Shop at Trimley, and his pride and joy, the local dairy using his own cr�me fraiche, yoghurts, fresh juices, and speciality ice-creams and Smiths Bakery. just up the road in Aldeburgh.

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