What Real 'Brits' Eat: A Conversation with Chef Jason Hicks of Jones Wood Foundry

By: Saira Malhotra

Tucked away in the historic neighborhood of Jones Wood, on the Upper East Side, lies a humble and slightly recessed food driven pub; Jones Wood Foundry. This city has had its fair share of British and Irish pubs, but what many Brit expats will attest to is the feeling of home they get from their pint of Fullers and bangers and mash here at Jones Wood Foundry.

The pub culture is a way of life for Brits. Many recognize that there are few problems in life that comfort food, drink and straight forward British 'talk 'can't provide relief for. The place is charming and quaint with its warm lighting and mahogany accents, yet, there is an element of wit, be it the restrooms or the hand-picked art work. The food is understated and simple yet there is mastery behind it; your very palate will tell you so.

I headed over to Jones Wood Foundry to meet the man behind the magic, who serves up plates of Britain's finest with a side of nostalgia - Executive Chef and Partner, Jason Hicks. In this interview, he gives us the low down on real British food and simplicity.

You have gone from classical French to humble British cuisines, what inspired the switch?

My travels and experiences have shown me that while cuisines are different all over the world, they draw from a similar pool of techniques. When I was in the desert in Australia, the food was fantastic and yet there was such an overlap in methods of preparation.  French techniques are at the source of a lot of cooking practices, it comes back to 'bechamel or veal stock'. Here at JWF, the guiding principle is to keep it simple - pie and mash is pie and mash.

What is a Food Driven Pub?

For examples, Jones Wood Foundry is a food driven pub because it is the food that drives the flow and interest.

What is the first item you would recommend off your menu?

I would have to say the 'bangers and mash'. There are a lot of great dishes from perfectly crusted pies to crispy duck confits, but the bangers and mash are an example of simplicity and how simple things just 'work'. Perfect mashed potatoes and good quality bangers (sausages) with some caramelized onions that have been 'hit' with a touch of veal stock brings about the perfect balance of sweetness, starchiness and protein.

What do you cook at home?

My kids and I go to the farmers market and buy chicken, garlic, potatoes, cream and thyme. My little chefs truss the chicken and stuff it with the other ingredients and we put it on the spit and roast over the fire. We make a sauce from the bones and reduce with cream and butter. It goes on a plate, heaped with mash, slathered with gravy and life is good.

What can we expect to see on the JWF menu in the horizon?

We plan to expand our repertoire with dishes from the Commonwealth. Perhaps curry, after all, it is a very important part of British culture and something you can see on the menu in most pubs. I would also like to expand my dessert offerings and offer real traditional English Puddings - Eves pudding, Bakewell tart, treacle tart, steamed cakes.

Check back for a real Brit recipe of Toad in the Hole right from Chef Jason Hicks himself!

Saira Malhotra is a classically trained chef and graduate from the French Culinary Institute. Saira brings her European, Asian and American background together via the palate and communicated through her food blog: www.passportpantry.com.

Photos courtesy of Jason Hicks

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