Cornwall LivingIssue #129

Christmas with Jude

What does Christmas mean to Porthleven chef and restaurateur, Jude Kereama?

The run up to Christmas can be a stressful time for all of us, especially for business owners who are about to experience arguably their busiest, most demanding season. With this in mind, we ask Jude Kereama, owner and founder of Porthleven restaurants Kota and Kota Kai, how he feels about the festive season.

“I love Christmas time! Here at Kota Kai, now that the Christmas party season is upon us, we have special Christmas menus on offer, and I love seeing our guests come into our restaurants to celebrate the season with family, friends and colleagues. Kai seems to be a great and popular venue for both large and small groups, and we can do tables that number anything from 4 to 100! In fact, you can hire out the whole venue if you choose. And whilst there is always an Asian twist to our menus at Kai, for the traditionalists out there, we always have a traditional turkey roast dinner with all
the trimmings.

“At Kota, meanwhile, we’ll be continuing with our tasting menus. For those hoping to escape for a day or two ahead of the main Christmas rush, we have dinner, bed and breakfast on offer, which allows you to really relax and let your hair down. We are also adding a Christmas cocktail list at Kota to help you make the most of not needing a designated driver, and to complement this theme, I’ve been working on a mince tart recipe with Bramley apple, yuzu and Japanese whiskey, which may just make its way onto the Petit Fours menu.”

In short, as expected, there’s plenty going on at both Kota and Kota Kai for guests who share Jude’s belief that Christmas should be a foodie affair. But what about Jude himself? What plans does he have for Christmas? “As you might expect, it’s me who usually does the cooking on Christmas Day, however this year I’ll be doing so with my family in New Zealand. It’ll be a huge celebration too as I haven’t had the chance to see them since Covid-19 stopped us from visiting three years ago. My son Joe and I are super excited to see them all, and we’re excited for what will be on the menu there. This year, there’ll be plenty of oysters, mussels, crayfish, abalone, salads, and a Maori traditional dinner called Hangi. Hangi is cooked in an ‘Umu’, which is an earth oven in a pit. Everything is cooked over embers, and then steamed in the earth oven, and whatever is cooked in there becomes super tender and smoky. In it, we’ll be cooking beef, pork, lamb, chicken, potatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, sweetcorn and stuffing. We’ll also be cooking lots of seafood, but not in the Umu. For example, we’ll have seafood salads, pickled mussels, poached crayfish tails, abalone fritters with garlic mayo and ceviche of snapper. In New Zealand there’s an abundance of seafood, and I cannot wait to taste all of the dishes that I used to eat during my childhood. This is all part of the joy of growing up with such a foodie family, and when Joe and I visit this Christmas, I know that we’ll all be laughing and cooking delicious treats together in
the family kitchen.”

Of course, Jude is unable to make it to New Zealand for Christmas every year. “When I can’t, I love spending Christmas here in Porthleven with my family and friends. If I’m hosting, I normally prepare a long, six-course dinner that takes a whole day to eat, starting at 1pm and finishing in the evening. Each course is served with plenty of time in-between to make sure our guests don’t pop, and also that there’s plenty of time to open presents.”

“Usually, I start with oysters and bubbles – which is a real treat. Next will be a home-cured salmon dish with a crunchy salad and pickles. Course number three is a soup of something warming, like spiced butternut, or a hot and spicy beef broth. Then comes the turkey – along with all the trimmings! The penultimate dish is a sticky toffee pudding with miso caramel sauce – a dish that’s taken me years of practice and tinkering to get just right – and when that’s all been allowed to settle, I bring out the mince pies, cheese and port.”

As a full-time chef, one who has appeared no fewer than four times on BBC’s Great British Menu, preparing a menu as deliciously diverse as this is second nature for Jude, but he understands that it’s not for everybody, which is why you’ll find Jude’s top Christmas dinner tips on the Cornwall Living blog this month ( “For some,” says Jude, “the pressure of cooking Christmas dinner can be quite an arduous and daunting task. I, myself, find that doing a lot of prep before the big day really helps. I also find that the old adage ‘many hands make light work’ is very true, and can actually make cooking a Christmas feast fun. I hope my tips might save people some stress on Christmas day, so that we can all have a great time and enjoy the spirit of this most magical day of the year.”

Kota & Kota Kai