John Rensten doesn’t describe himself as an expert in foraging, he’s not a chef, or even particularly academic in the way he works. But what John is, is something that is vital to those who work in food and hospitality: outstandingly passionate. Johns knowledge of foraging foods is amazing, and always growing, as he becomes more interested not just in the variations of what can be foraged – but how it grows. In this weeks episode, he names at least four ways you can use the common dandelion.
The importance of eating higher quality meat in smaller quantities has came to light alongside the growth of sustainability in the hospitality industry over the past few years. James Mansfield forms a big part of this change and step in the right direction. From serving the Spice Girls in The Ivy Restaurant to slicing up meat sourced from sustainable farmers, James has always been a fan of food. This week he teaches us just why he and his business partner are creating their very own set of accreditation for the farmers they use – and how Field and Flower are small, but a successful and beautiful business model that will hopefully change the way we eat meat for the future.
Griff Holland, co founder of Friska, epitomises the enthusiasm and energy you all too often find in some of the awesome humans of hospitality. Spending a couple of ours in Griff’s company was an utter pleasure. His level of obsession about just the right amount of avocado that should be any one bite of a sandwich reminded me of why a life of hospitality is so all consuming and almost impossible to nail. So many details to obsess about.
One of the great things about setting up a food or drink business is that you have the perfect reason to test – and taste – lots of edible things, in the name of market research.
Griff, took the work of testing and tasting to impressive (possibly obsessive) extremes. Whether it was offering samples of five different types of chai to fellow diners in India or quizzing American tourists in Vietnam about their lunch habits back home, Griff was relentless in his quest to work out what makes us feel really good when we go out to eat.
And his research paid off, because, right from the start the ‘Feel Good Food’ vision of Friska has impressed a succession of funders and has gained a loyal following in Bristol and Manchester.
But, as you’ll hear, Griff, and his co-founder Ed Brown, have learned hard lessons too – including the importance of serving great coffee and having something familiar, like a chicken sandwich, on the menu.
In the last 15 years, the way we drink coffee has gone through a revolution: from an instant brew in polystyrene cups to beans with known provenance, carefully selected and lovingly roasted.
Could tea soon follow in coffee’s footsteps? Yes, if this week’s guest, Jennifer Wood, founder of Canton Tea, has anything to do with it.
To build her business, Jennifer has travelled to remote mountainous regions like the ‘wild, wild Yunnan’, where tea bushes live to a thousand years and grow 40 feet high. The tea producers and masters she works with take the ritual of growing, harvesting and ageing the tea as seriously as leading vineyard owners do their prize wines.
When you hear how much hard work and knowledge goes into each cup of Canton’s artisanal tea – whether it’s black, green, oolong or the mind-blowing pu’erh – you’ll understand why Jennifer thinks that even the most basic cuppa is worth much, much more than 2p a bag. Her enthusiasm is so infectious, you’ll also want a ‘Cantonista’, championing quality, loose leaf tea, in your neck of the woods.
Bring on the tea revolution!
On a massive rock that juts out into the English Channel, there’s a young man who cleverly mimics the salt lakes of the Camargue. Ok, what Jethro Tennant has created in the last two years is actually a mini version of these salt plains: carefully extracting the salt from the pristine water around Dorset’s Chesil Beach, and drying it in artificial heat which is powered by solar, wind and biomass energy.
And in just 24 months, demand for his product – Dorset Sea Salt – is growing steadily, from discerning delicatessens, farm shops and restaurants to big names like Selfridges.
Not bad for a start-up that began life with Jethro heaving jerry cans of sea water from the beach to his parent’s house, and experimenting with the evaporation process on his mum’s hob… for hours, and hours. (Don’t mention the gas bill!)
Perhaps the most intriguing thing is what triggered Jethro’s fascination for sea salt in the first place. I doubt if you’ll guess. You’ll just have to listen to find out.