AFTER years working as a chef in Aberdeen, where supply chains were often cut off thanks to poor weather, local food was a must for Roger Halford.

As head chef at the Marwell Hotel in Colden Common, severe weather doesn’t pose the same problem but Roger is still keen to use as much local produce as possible.

He estimates that up to of 90 per cent of the food on the menu at the hotel’s Zavanna Restaurant is local.

So while the nearby zoo – which is a completely separate business to the hotel – showcases exotic creatures from across the globe, Roger is focusing on what’s on offer a lot closer to home.

“Local food has always been a big interest of mine,” he says.

“Part of it’s pride – I’m patriotic and I like using British food.”

And Roger says there are a number of benefits to using local food.

“With the volcanic ash stopping planes from flying food in from abroad some people had supply problems but that didn’t affect us. We go for quality and there’s so much in and around Hampshire, there’s no reason to look elsewhere for most things.”

Another advantage to using local suppliers is that it is easier for Roger to work closely with them. He visits his suppliers to discuss specifications and new products and is in regular contact with them – the English asparagus season is just beginning and at the moment he frequently speaks with Axtons, his vegetable suppliers, about when the hotly anticipated ingredient can be delivered.

Roger is also concerned about the environment and says that he values using local produce as a way to cut the restaurant’s carbon footprint – “you have to think about the kids and their future,” he says.

Although he did his training in Scotland, at Gleneagles Hotel, Roger trained under a French chef and continues to inject a bit of French flair into his kitchen.

He describes his food as modern British, sometimes with a bit of a French twist.

“It’s simple, clean produce which is full of flavour, using local ingredients. When it comes to quality, you can’t hide. You need quality ingredients, well cooked and simply presented.”

It seems to be a winning formula. As well as serving diners in the restaurant, Roger and his staff of nine are responsible for all the catering needs of the hotel – breakfasts, bar snacks, weddings, conferences and banquets, dishing up meals to 400 to 800 people every week.

And he hopes that in doing so he is helping to educate people about the wealth of quality food that is available on their doorstep.

“I hope we can make diners aware of what produce they’re living alongside. I hope it gives people a bit more pride in their area.”