Sue Quinn is trained in cheese and wine, and even gets to judge the Academy of Chocolate awards – what could be better than that? Getting to write about it, that’s what. As Sue explains, she is always learning more about food every day despite her expert knowledge in the area. This week she offers us some of her knowledge into the food industry – including the process of making the chocolate bar, and what it means to write a recipe book.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:42 Meeting Sue, setting the scene on Boscombe beach at Mark’s very own Urban Reef!
00:03:35 Chatting journalism and the British food revolution – what is Sue’s opinion?
- 00:05:24 “In a more positive way, it’s really opened up opportunities for people that want to write about food, because everyone’s more interested in food. Everyone wants to know about food waste which is what I think of… just not the food that’s sitting in front of you, but where that’s come from, who’s grown it…”
00:07:18 Do influencers have too much influence, despite their lack of training in food?
- 00:08:19 “If you’re going to go to a restaurant and spend good money based on an Instagram post, it’s not great, but that’s how we learn isn’t it.”
00:08:30 Frustrations of influencers for restaurateurs – the speed of change and ‘cult of the new’
- 00:09:30 “Any restaurant in London will have to have a dish that almost goes viral, or they strive to make it go viral on Instagram so it has to be photogenic or slightly unusual…”
00:10:05 The influence of food critics – why Sue doesn’t do food critics
- 00:10:59 “And that’s the difference between the good and the bad ones, if you’re a restaurateur who cops a criticism from one of the respected food writers, it’ll be for a reason.”
00:13:05 The issues with modern feedback – TripAdvisor!
00:14:10 Sue’s involvement with kitchens – chatting to chefs
- 00:14:41 “I love talking to chefs. I look at what they do and it baffles me how they can do it. I’ve done it a few times for charity events and what have you, and that full on service is tough. It’s stressful, and they work so so hard.”
00:15:57 If those working in the industry want to maximise their chances of working with journalists – how do they do this?
- 00:17:29 “I think Instagram is probably one of the best ways to do it that kind of keeps you in journalist’s field of vision… You have to show you’re a leader in the industry and not a follower…”
00:18:10 Does Sue work to tight time margins?
- 00:19:45 “I’d just interviewed the chief executive of Gregg’s about his vegan sausage rolls, and talking about how food on-the-go is where the market is at, at the moment. He himself was saying never before in human history has food been so accessible.”
00:20:55 Things coming up for Sue… Trends in the food industry
- 00:22:26 “That’s one of the reasons I write about food, it’s not just the recipe. It’s everything.”
00:23:46 Processed food and veganism
- 00:27:23 “I mean where are we at when we have to call to find out what’s in the food that we are eating?” [Talking about fake meats and the long lists of ingredients inside them]
- 00:29:30 “The more you process the food, the more nutrients you lose. That’s just a fact.”
- 00:32:06 “I think the concern is ‘ultra-processed’ where you’ve got this very long list of additives and enhancers and flavour enhancers and colourings and stuff that we don’t really know what it is.”
00:33:10 Talking about Henry Dimblebee – Head of Governments national food strategy
00:36:05 Upon writing her vegan book, did Sue’s diet (or her family’s diet) change?
- 00:36:57 “Without question – the way that you can prepare nuts and seeds and vegetables, I do think it takes a bit more work and imagination. But what you can get out of it with a bit of creativity and a bit of effort is incredible.”
00:38:38 Writing recipe books – how does Sue go about it?
00:40:45 Sue’s life in Australia! Was she always interested in food?
- 00:41:28 “There wasn’t really such thing as food writing, the restaurants reviews were like you’re talking about before – basically advertorials written by someone who didn’t know anything about food.”
00:42:31 When did Sue transition to food writing?
- 00:43:49 The market for cook books…
00:44:57 Talking about Sue’s latest book – Cocoa!
- 00:46:31 Has chocolate been forgotten? Is it having a resurgence?
00:48:03 Why should we be paying more for chocolate?
- 00:48:17 “Chocolate can only be grown, caoao beans can only be grown 20 degrees north and south of the equator. By definition, most of us will never be able to see the basic product of a chocolate bar. And that’s a problem.”
- 00:50:30 “I think it’s 95% of cheap confectionary comes from the beans grown in West Africa, so we’re kind of contributing to the problem. Big chocolate companies are beginning to realise these issues can’t go on and on.”
- 00:51:25 “Cacao growing families are so poor that they can’t afford to send their kids to school, they need the extra pair of hands to pick the beans.”
- 00:52:23 “I don’t think that a lot of people want to think about the fact that it is available to us thanks to child labour.”
00:52:52 Why do other industries get lots of issues around welfare and standards, but chocolate doesn’t?
00:54:01 The difference between cacao and cocoa!
- 00:54:27 “They grow, depending on the different varieties they look like these beautiful colourful lanterns swinging from these trees in all different colours – burgundys, yellows, limes and greens. They grow out of the trunk of the trees as well as the branches so they look like some sort of alien.”
- 00:56:07 “They’re packed in sacks or banana skins and they’re left and turned for a few days depending on the maker, and they ferment and the natural bacterial process starts going and that’s the start of that flavour journey…”
00:58:00 Chocolate as a flavour bomb – what’s ‘real’ chocolate?
- 00:58:23 “If we eat chocolate that has a lot of sugar in it and a lot of oils or palm oils, we’re not actually really tasting cacao, the chocolate. It’s most sugar. But if you try bars that have been made in a way that preserves the flavour profile of those beans you can taste something quite extraordinary.”
01:02:11 Sue’s practice in judging food – for example the Great Taste Awards, Academy of Chocolate Awards
- 01:03:37 “The academy of cheese, I can’t recommend that course highly enough. We’ve got such a fantastic, I guess it is a revolution in cheese in this country.”
01:06:06 What’s the favourite part of what Sue does now?
- 01:07:07 “I love the general food feature writing that I do because it always gets me out talking to chefs or producers or makers, so I’m always learning something and they’re really inspirational people. I find people in the food world really lovely people in the main.”
01:09:30 Has Sue cooked any of Florence’s recipes herself?
- 01:09:04 “Some of them are quite old fashioned, they didn’t use as many ingredients. They’re very simple, relied on qualities of ingredients rather than the complexity of the recipe.”
01:10:35 For those trying to get involved in writing about food, what advice would Sue Quinn give?
- 01:11:01 “It’s very had to make a living in food writing, I’m going to be honest. Everybody wants to do it because it really is one of the best jobs you can do… Maybe try and develop a specialty…”
01:14:13 Where to go and learn more about Sue and her adventure!
01:14:45 Marks final thoughts & sign off
To learn more about Sue Quinn, her books and work in journalism… Check out her website below and follow her social media accounts, Pen and Spoon, below… Or, listen to the full episode here.
Twitter: @PenAndSpoon (Sue Quinn)
Instagram: @PenAndSpoon (Sue Quinn)