Episode 21 Alex Aitken
The Jetty and Michelin star chef

Imagine. You’re about to open your first restaurant to the public. Your wife, who’s front of house, is 8 ½ months pregnant. You’re the chef –and you’ve never cooked professionally before. But you buy a couple of recipe books and some chef whites, and off you go. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yet this is what Alex Aitken did in 1983.

It was the start of a Michelin-starred career which has evolved in incredible ways and is still going strong. Today, Alex is spreading his love of locally sourced food – whether foraged, fished or farmed –through a growing number of award-winning restaurants, carrying ‘The Jetty’ name.  

As you will hear, his passion for sourcing food sustainably harks back to his teenage years as a deck hand on North Sea trawlers. He’s got hair-raising tales of mistaking World War II mines for bumper catches… and a mischievous tale about why he likes fiddling with the music volume while you’re eating your meal in his hotel restaurants. It’s only a bit of fun… Enjoy

Episode 20 Joy Michaud
Sea Spring Seeds

Michael and Joy Michaud at Sea Spring Seeds are chilli growing experts who took the world by surprise one April 1st, when they revealed they’d developed the world’s hottest chilli plant, the Dorset Naga. It wasn’t an April fool, even though it seemed absurd that this world record-breaking chilli had been reared in a lush, damp corner of Dorset, far removed from its original Bangladeshi home.

The patience and dedication it takes to develop a unique and world first type of chilli was a real eye opener.  The Dorset Naga is just one of many wonderful chillis  grown by the couple – along with a wide range of vegetable seeds, carefully selected for their productivity and flavour, like the tender sweet roots of the Primo carrot!

In this programme I get some great chilli-culinary tips  from Joy… as well as an insight into the huge dedication and patience that goes into creating those tiny miracles: seeds….

Episode 19 William Curley
Searcys, Harrods, Claridges +

When it comes to chocolatier-patissiers, William Curley is a world-class player. He’s one of only 7 chefs in the UK to have achieved ‘Master of Culinary Arts’.  The chance to earn this accolade – which is the culinary equivalent of a Nobel Prize – only comes round every 4 years…and it took William three attempts.  Gruelling, as you’ll hear…

Perhaps it’s not surprising that William has done so brilliantly. As well as having natural talent, he’s fostered that talent by working with the best, from the moment he became an apprentice at Gleneagles, followed by stints with acclaimed chefs such as Pierre  Koffmann, Anton Edelmann, Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White.

You might think that working with big personalities and big brands (Harrods, Claridges, The Savoy …I could go on) would have gone to his head.  Not a bit of it.  As you’ll hear, William is delightful, down-to-earth and humbled by the fact he was able to crowd-fund his latest venture: his own shop in the heart of Soho. This means he can continue to be hands-on, creating amazing chocolates and chocolate patisserie.  Be warned, your mouth will water during the course of this conversation…  Enjoy.

 

Episode 18 Simon Robinson
Hattingley Sparkling Wine

British wine use to have a reputation, but not one we wanted. Now it’s taking on the French at their own game with some of the best sparkling in the world. As chair of Wine GB Simon is the perfect guest to chat to to find out why and how.

If you’d said to Simon Robinson in 2008 that his Hattingley Valley vineyards would have the capacity – in a really good year – to produce 580,000 bottles of wine…or that his sparkling rose would be crowned a world champion, he would have said you were crackers.

And yet, in just over a decade, Hattingley  and other GB newcomers have done brilliantly in what is a very old industry…even though in the early days our efforts were written off as being poor copies of German varieties like Riesling and  Muller-Thergau.   

In this conversation you’ll discover why our sparkling wines are now doing so well and why Simon calls his sector ‘agriculture on steroids’:  it will make your eyes water when you do and you’ll wonder why on earth he gave up his partner position at a city law firm to go on such a rollercoaster…

Episode 17 Michael Stoates
Stoate and Sons traditional miller

Michael Stoate is a fifth generation miller in Dorset, whose family have been producing stoneground flour since 1832.  That means he knows a lot about flour.  It was the era when sailing ketches would carry the flour across the Severn to Swansea and return with coal for the mills. As a teenager he thought he’d be an engineer but he had so much fun getting his hands dirty in the holidays he couldn’t help but join the family business.
 

In this conversation you’ll learn about the wonder of wheat germ – the embryo of life, which gives bread its gorgeous flavour – and what really happens to it in modern mechanised milling… That might help you work out how bread now can last for days, but when you were a kid, or in France, it lasted just a few hours.
 
And you’ll see how Michael has adapted to the ever-changing bread scene: from the lows of the late 80s and 90s, when his whole-food shop market disappeared to brighter times, with our growing interest in continental breads, artisanal baking and sourdough.
 
I learnt a lot, and I hope you do too.  Enjoy x