Googies Art Cafe

Note: Greig Hughes was the head chef at Googies until June 2016. This interview occurred prior to his departure.

Greig Hughes, head chef of Googies Art Cafe, located southeast of London, enjoys experimenting with smoked foods, adding different items as specials as the restaurant diversifies its menu.

Greig is smoking with an Alto-Shaam cook and hold smoker to expand his menu, increase yields and keep customers coming back for more.

In 2015, Googies wanted to begin smoking its meats. However, local regulations stood in the way; Googies was not able to have gas or charcoal in the kitchen. They considered alternatives such as having a space outdoors for smoking, but then found a better option. The Alto-Shaam electrical cook and hold smoker oven was a perfect new addition to the restaurant.

“It has been massively beneficial,” Greig said. “We are the only business in the area doing these kinds of things. We’re the only business doing smoked meat so it’s drawing a crowd that we wouldn’t have had before.”

Googies, which has been opened for seven years, is known for locally sourced ingredients and supporting small businesses. Googies, which serves about 800 people each week, popularity continues to grow as it was named the Restaurant of the Year Award in the 2016 Taste of Kent Awards.

Googies provides customers with delicious food that has given original Kentish fare an American twist. Popular items on the menu include Dexter beef burgers, smoked brisket and baby back ribs. Before the introduction of Alto-Shamm’s 767-SK-III Deluxe Control Smoker Oven, Googies slow cooked meats in a conventional oven and also cooked on a grill.

Since the smoker was installed, Greig tries new dishes with all of the flavors and opportunities now available to him. “I am really getting creative with it,” Greig said.

The restaurant and smoked specials are extremely popular -- so much that he cannot get his ideas made into food fast enough to keep up with the demand. Since receiving the new smoker, Greig has worked with baby back ribs, giving the meat a Korean, Thai and Jamaican flavor. He even shared his Korean recipe for baby back ribs and sauce.

Greig smokes all different types of food, including lamb, tomatoes, pastrami, haddock, brisket, mushrooms and salmon. The tomatoes and mushrooms are smoked, adding a new flavor to the lunch menu, which includes a variety of soups, cheeses and toast.

Greig appreciates the real-smoke flavor that comes from using hickory and maple woodchips.

“It comes out absolutely perfect every time,” he said.

Sourcing Local Food

Googies sources local ingredients whenever possible. Near the coast of England, Googies serves local fish and often uses local vegetables. Free-range eggs and high-quality cheeses are used in the restaurant. However, since Googies also uses all natural, local beef and products, food costs can get expensive. Googies exclusive use of Dexter beef comes from about five miles away. This beef is free-range, grass fed and extremely tender, leading to higher prices Because of these prices, return on investment is important. But since Googies invested in an Alto-Shaam smoker, it also receives the benefits of fanless cooking technology.

The Alto-Shaam 767-SK-III Deluxe Control Smoker Oven uses gentle, radiant Halo Heat® technology, a fanless cooking method that results in higher protein yields.

“The oven does not overcook the meat and boil out all of the liquid,” Grieg said.

The restaurant aims to get all of its meat well cooked, but still juicy. Alto-Shaam’s Halo Heat® within the smoker is an essential part of this. Halo Heat gently surrounds and cooks the food to a precise temperature while retaining its natural moisture.

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