I love feeding people, especially if they are hungry. Cooking and eating patterns are deeply ingrained in us from an early age; I reckon the bountiful lunches my mother cooked for family and farm staff, largely from what grew on the farm, set me on the path. Fifty years on, I am still inspired by our fields and barns; nothing makes me happier than picking and gathering, developing a meal in my head as I go, and then going home and making it for family or friends.
I always wanted shared food to be at the heart of Riverford. From the early days we invited local customers for open days and BBQs. Over the years this developed into cooking for the local school, a great staff canteen and eventually the Riverford Field Kitchen, followed by the Duke of Cambridge in London (still the world’s only organic pub). Along the way we have also published a few cook books, launched our recipe boxes, and, most recently, started a veg-centric recipe channel on YouTube. The weekly recipe sheets are now honed to match the box contents. All this means we now have a good number of chefs working for us, so–unlike in the early days of the box scheme, when many calls to my mother were needed to help me piece together my own seasonal recipe sheets – my recipes seldom get a look in. None of our chefs are vegetarian but all are united in their enthusiasm for veg. James Dodd, the talented head chef of the Field Kitchen, is tattooed in veg from wrist to shoulder.
I reckon our collective knowledge of vegetables is unsurpassed; what it takes to grow the best and how to make the most of them with minimal amounts of sauce, cream, salt and meat, to make a fantastic meal. I can honestly say that the food we are serving has never been better. I wish we could serve you all in the Field Kitchen, and I am always thrilled when a far-flung customer makes the pilgrimage. If you can’t, you will be able to dip into some of James’ creations via the recipe boxes where he is ‘guest chef ’ from time to time.
I may be a tad narrow in my view of the world, but nothing will shake my belief that we can improve the world through how we grow, cook and share our food, and the choices we make along the way. Long live life on the veg.