Johnny’s absolute passion for the highest quality food and traditional methods for its preparation is a legacy from his Hungarian roots. His father, Dezso Pusztai, arrived in this country in 1956, a refugee from the Hungarian uprising. Settling in Sherwood, he was amazed by the choice of meat, fruit and vegetables available here and soon built a small smoke house to cure and smoke his own bacons and gammons from which to make Hungarian salami’s. The family would gather round the table to savour these while discussing the day’s events – a tradition which Johnny continues to uphold with his own family nowadays. His philosophy is that the kitchen is firmly at the heart of the home (and not the TV!) and that is where family and friends gather to talk and enjoy delicious food together. Dezso returned to Hungary shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain but sadly died a few years later, leaving his farm there to his son, where the family visit regularly to see relatives and help out.
Johnny’s connection to Beedham’s began whilst growing up in Sherwood; he started out as a Saturday lad taking out the orders on the old butcher’s bike. After leaving school, he was offered an apprenticeship to train under George Beedham and Bill Robinson, both master butchers with over 100 years experience between them. He also experienced working in a slaughterhouse and in a supermarket, this second experience he found ‘ghastly’ and served to strengthen even further his commitment to ‘real food’. Amazingly, during this training period, he also found time to play ice hockey, making centre for the Nottingham Panthers in 1980-81 (and still coaches for the University of Nottingham team). When George and Bill both retired, they were keen for their apprentice to take over the shop as they felt that Johnny was the man to continue to run the business to their exacting high standards and in 1991, he became the owner though Bill, now long retired, still continues to work on Tuesday mornings!
It is clear that Johnny sees the preparation and cooking of meat as something of an art form; with twenty-five varieties of sausage on offer alone, you get the sense that this is a man who will always go that extra mile to get the details right. How do you fancy tomato and basil (particularly good for Sunday brunch I am told) or maybe Robin Hood venison is more to your taste? And of course the Hungarian cultural heritage is reflected in the form of that aforementioned Kolbasz – a spicy salami-type sausage reminiscent of Chorizo – containing pork and lashings of paprika; but the exact recipe is a strictly guarded secret!
All of the meat is locally farmed then cured and smoked on the premises. The smoker, which looks like half a garden shed attached to a wall, is in the yard at the back of the shop. Once cured, steeped to rid it of the excess salt and then dried, the meat (not just bacon but also chicken, duck, mutton and sausages) is smoked over oak chippings for 24 hours.The delicious smell is set to waft over the food festival to tempt passers by!