Fergus Henderson for The Big Issue

Date: 21.09.12
Author: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
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I think this has to be one of my favourite shoots to date. I was asked by the magazine to photograph the innards of a pig, the head chef turning them into delicious dishes, a journalist sampling them and a portrait of the restaurant owner. Now if this was any old restaurant, I would think it wasn’t possible to make pig spleen look appetising, but the restaurant under scrutiny was Fergus Hendersons St.Johns in Clerkenwell, mavericks of nose-to-tail dining.
Presented with a board full of various internal organs and half a face of a pig I must admit my stomach began to turn a little. The intrepid writer Emma who would later be sampling the delicacies also paled a little, but I had every confidence in head chef Jonathan and his friendly, calming Welsh accent that he would turn these slimy pink, bloodied organs into a devastatingly delicious dining experience.
Fergus himself was a wonderfully expressive gentleman. I gave him a space to sit in and he entertained and moved around, play acting along like a pro. Virtually every shot was a winner due to his eccentric, immensely photogenic aesthetic. The only slightly awkward bit was when the hanging pig face developed a nose bleed.
When the finished dishes finally came out to the table, they were colourful and enticing and even I who is a fussy eater at the best of time, felt compelled to grab a fork and tuck in. The only one I couldn’t bring myself to eat was the spleen. Although presented in spirals accompanied by a luscious looking sauce, I couldn’t quite get over the mental image of a pigs spleen laid out before me from earlier on.
Often when you enter a posh dining establishment you expect snootiness but everyone I encountered at St.Johns was immensely down to earth, friendly and passionate about their craft and promoting the concept of not wasting any part of the animal.

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