What a lovely chat we had with Shane!
In order to get to know the person behind the Slow Food UK campaigns here is our interview. I love in particular his secret tip for the real foodie, and look forward to be attempting to cook Green Thai Curried tripe!
Q: If you had a free hour today, how would you fill it?
A: Today I would be walking around St James park. I would be strolling around the park, probably with a tin of your beautiful sweets in my pocket, and I would be enjoying these and the early spring.
Q: What is the most bizarre thing you’ve ever done?
A: Hmm let me see. Once I was trying to get people to eat offal, and we had a stand in Covent Garden where I was cooking tripe and giving people tasters of Green Thai Curried tripe. It was rather delicious, and people would eat it, and then eat it again. Only then I would tell them that it was tripe! Kind of a bizarre thing to do – to get people to eat tripe without them realising!
Q: What would you say is the best seasonal veggie to be eating right now?
A: Purple sprouting broccoli – it is a really great vegetable, and if you cook it right it is as good as asparagus – eat it with lots of hollandaise sauce, lots of butter, and it’s just the most delicious delicious thing.
Q: What steps can we all take to eat more seasonally?
A: The easiest way is to shop regularly in your farmers market. Everything sold there must be grown within a certain distance, in London this distance is 50 miles – so the fact that is locally grown or prepared in store means that it is naturally seasonal.
Q: In which sector do you think there is more need for innovation in food?
A: Really interesting, probably actually confectionery – and I am not just saying this because I am sitting in front of you, but I think there is a real understanding already in fruit and vegetables about seasonality, also in meat, there is a great understanding of what quality and provenance is there. I think confectionery (with the slight exception of chocolate) is dominated by really, really, quite cheap and mass-produced products. Confectionery is the sector with the potential for most growth and most innovation – because you are pretty unique. I am generally not aware of a British confectioner who is doing what you are doing at the quality that you are doing. If you ask me for a chocolatier I can name you 5 or 6, for a butcher I can name you 30, for a confectioner you are the only one that I know.
Q: What’s your all-time favourite flavour?
A: Difficult, there are different flavours at different times, if the weather is really hot I would want a junipery zingy hit of a gin and tonic, but when its really cold then I actually want something more savoury. It really depends, but if I had to choose just one flavour it would be… white truffle. I only have it once a year – but if I were on “Desert Island Discs” and could have an unlimited supply that would probably be it.
Q: Beer or Wine?
A: Never beer, wine, I don’t drink beer at all – Beer should always be re-distilled and turned into whisky!
Q: Steak or fish?
A: Depends on my mood, but if I had to choose it would be steak: really good quality juicy steak bought from my local quality butcher.
Q: Chocolate or sweets?
A: Sweets, I don’t have the most intensely sweet tooth, so I like to experience wonderful flavours like saffron and floral which are sweet without being too sweet. If I eat chocolate it would need to be very bitter and even then it would probably sit around my house for a very long time.
Q: Where in London would you pick a restaurant to go out for dinner on a Friday night?
A: I’d stay at home on a Friday night – where would I go on a Tuesday or a Wednesday depends on my mood – recently I had Hawksmoor Air Street and the food was tremendous – its a collaboration that have both meat and fish dishes, Rib Eye Steak as big as your first, with Lobster Mac and Cheese has to be another desert island dish. I really like offal and St. John is great – go to Bread and Wine for small plates of the most delicious but simple food. I used to live around Marylebone, where there is a delicious fish and chips place called The Golden Hind: sometimes if I am just looking for something really simple and delicious that would be a treat, in business since the 1920’s the fish is spankingly fresh.
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect about working in Food?
A: The people’ actually. Meeting the different producers and hearing their stories – and supporting those producers – and seeing genuine sheer delight when you are sharing new food with people. I work in schools, as you know, and seeing young people experience new flavours, or even when we plant orchards, and it comes to harvest time and the children taste homegrown apples, and the fact that they are learning things that are really alien to certain children living in certain areas- so I think its all about the people actually.
Q: Any secret tips or recipe that you would like to share?
A: To walk everywhere and to go into shops that you normally wouldn’t go into. My other secret tip is to ask people to taste things – because in the UK actually people don’t taste food in the way that maybe happens in France or Italy – my experience is that most people would let you taste it. We shouldn’t be shy to ask to try and taste food and then to buy what you like. If they won’t let you taste it – don’t buy it!
Thank you Shane!
Shane is Chair of Slow Food London, and the Board Member for England for Slow Food UK. He was awarded Food Campaigner of the Year 2013, and actively campaigns for quality food within London and the UK as a whole. Under his Chair Slow Food London responds to every food consultation within the UK and EU, and created one of the largest schools programmes in the capital, as well as creating the Slow Food London Approved scheme highlighting quality foods to consumers. He is the global facilitator for the Slow Food Global Schools Twinning Programme, and works extensively with our most vulnerable citizens, meeting regularly with civil servants from the Departments for Health and Education, Defra and the Ministry of Justice. He welcomes emails via the slowfoodlondon.com website.
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