There are many different types of cookery courses – from independent cookery schools out in the sticks to inner-city restaurants that open up their kitchens for their professional chefs to pass on their culinary expertise.
Likewise, there are many different outlets for the food we learn to cook; the afore-mentioned restaurant, pub grub, take away food and fine dining around the table at home, impressing friends and family ourselves being probably the main reason many of us attend cookery courses.
With so many chefs awards, The Good Food Guide praising eateries up and down the country and EatOut ezine keeping tabs on the hospitality trade from a front of house perspective, there is very little that makes the headlines in the way of the food producers and the actual quality of the raw ingredients themselves. This week sees the thirteenth Food and Farming Awards begin, with nominations being invited for the best local and national produce suppliers to, for once, step into the limelight and gain the recognition that often gets overlooked when the spotlight falls on crisp kitchen whites or brass-polished hostelries.
The popular TV show Great British Menu not only recommends that the qualifying chefs choose produce from their local suppliers but that aspect is a huge weighting factor in the overall marks that the chefs attain en route to whatever national or royal event it is chosen as the theme for the annual cookery demonstration visual feast.
Angela Hartnett, a judge for the Food and Farming Awards and a Michelin-star chef in her own rite rates this competition as one of the more ‘credible’ appraisals of British food, given the way that the whole process of farming and how is brought to market from its very roots to the locale in its given region is at the heart of the competition and the communities the farms serve.
Food – like many a good ale – tastes better if it doesn’t have to travel
The general consensus is that food that doesn’t have to travel, i.e. unlike supermarket-stacked produce, tastes better, has a more direct and swift route to market and benefits the community from which it is grown, picked and prepared for sale. And nothing perhaps exemplifies what the competition is all about better than the winner of one of last year’s awards.
The ‘Small Retailer’ award at the twelfth outing of the competition went to a village shop in Wales in a project tagged The Brockweir & Hewelsfield Village Shop (funnily enough).
The shop as it was was closing down as a viable business concern, leaving the only alternative a trip to the supermarket. In the face of produce being grown all around the villages, the villagers themselves were having none of it, as the manager, Alison Macklin, explained.
The staff is made up of volunteers who keep the shop ticking over, the only pricing concern being that the profit is enough to pay the bills and buy more stock. There is even a volunteer allotment on the back doorstep, tilled and kept by the villagers, from which produce is picked and literally carried yards before it is on the shelf ready for sale. And the independence, according to Macklin, is contagious. The more food they sell, the more suppliers want their produce to be on the shelf next to the other locally grown produce.
It is at events like the Food and Farming Awards that projects such as this one and smaller suppliers get to showcase their business. In these hard times, a good event can be the difference between make or break – not just for the owners but for whole communities, too.
So, if you’re running a cookery school, looking for suppliers who would be interested in supplying smaller volumes than perhaps the local supermarket, get involved with this year’s awards. Full details about the competition and how to nominate businesses are on the website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/ffa/2012/