Meet the Chef: Luke Holder Spills the Beans About HH&Co

Meet the Chef: Luke Holder Spills the Beans About HH&Co

Hampshire Fare caught up with Luke Holder, Chef Director & Partner with Angela Hartnett of Hartnett Holder & Co (HH&CO) at Lime Wood, the luxury country house hotel in the heart of the New Forest, to talk seasonality, sustainability, food chats with Angela Hartnett, and beans.

What do you like most about your role?
I am a hands and heart person. I like working with my hands and love being led by my heart. Having a relationship with Mother Nature in a fast-paced environment where no two days are the same is brilliant. I love seeing young people grow within this environment and find passion and purpose, especially those who have found academia may not be for them.

How do you and Angela collaborate on the HH&Co menus?
Angela and I have become great friends over the years. We certainly share the same values when it comes to food and often eat out or go round to each other's houses to eat. When we are together food is always in the conversation mix. When it comes to menu planning Angela trusts us at HH&Co, but when she's in the kitchen she will always offer her thoughts. It’s a collaborative effort. I have a sweet tooth which Angela certainly doesn’t, and our differences complement each other. I have become a better chef and the kitchen has grown by having her palate around us.

We are now in our 11th year of HH&Co and I have been at Lime Wood for 14 years. The food has evolved a lot since the early days. You have to keep moving forward with the changing attitude of the modern diner. Hotel cooking is slightly different from restaurant cooking as we have an audience who might be here for various reasons apart from the food. We must be able to offer daily changes on the menu for longer staying guests, and the needs and wants of various customers’ dietary needs. I think we do that really well and a lot of the dietary dishes sit well under the HH&Co philosophy. Currently we are focused on making a non-alcoholic offering that really hits the grown-up market - watch this space!

Can you give us some idea of your culinary journey, your inspiration and career highlights?
I have lived and cooked in London, Thailand, Italy and Dubai. Career highlights include cooking at the three Michelin star restaurant Enoteca Picciorri – Living on a beach in Thailand going to the fish markets and writing the menus half hour before service starts! Also cooking alongside Michele Roux at HH&Co – something I will never forget!

Do you have any go-to Hampshire ingredients?
Hampshire has so much wonderful produce. Tunworth cheese is truly world class cheese! New Forest asparagus is just so good! New Forest strawberries! All these things mapping out the seasons; I love them! Then there is the larder within the forest: wild garlic, porcini mushrooms, pannage pork… So much to enjoy!

How do you facilitate local, seasonal and sustainable within the demands of a busy, top kitchen?
We are now working with Four Acres Farm, a small, no-dig, community-led farm in Ringwood. We take as much as they can give us and love cooking with the gluts that the farm produces. Our menu reacts to the produce coming out rather than trying to dictate and ordering in produce; we are happy to receive the items and then write the menu.
We are now starting to put together the most amazing bean growing season – I love beans – having lived and worked in Italy, Tuscany specifically, where the locals are known as the bean people. I want to be able to reproduce that here! Kate at Four Acres Farm is just amazing and has such a passion for sustainability and low impact farming which sits right alongside our philosophy.

Do you have a signature dish?
Definitely the polenta ravioli with truffle  - one of the most popular dishes at HH&Co!

Tell us about the inspiration and choices behind you new spring menu
Always be led by the produce – things that grow together go together! So asparagus, wild garlic, morels, crab, rhubarb will all be featuring heavily on our spring menus.

Do you have a favourite springtime local ingredient?
Asparagus – it always represents hope for me. The long dark winter is behind us – longer days are coming – asparagus is mother nature letting us know change is constant and the future is bright!


The recipe for HH&Co's New Forest Asparagus with Isle of Wight Black Garlic Mayonnaise can be found HERE.