Last month I was lucky enough to go along to the fascinating ‘Food for Thought’ event at The School of Artisan Food on the Welbeck Estate.
Held over the weekend of 13/14 May, leading experts, writers, nutritionists and cooks gathered together for a series of talks about the future of food in Britain, looking at issues such as encouraging good food habits in children, sustainable diets, food as medicine, and the impact of social media on food culture.
I went along on Saturday, and as always with these events organised and hosted by the School of Artisan Food, was met with a fabulous welcome, and of course, a delicious breakfast. If you do go to any of these events, I highly recommend getting there in good time in order to sample the variety of freshly baked goods on offer. The table was lined with sweet and savoury goodies including citrus goodies such as Citrus brioche, Coffee and Walnut brioche, Almond and Raspberry brioche twists.
Fueled and ready for a day of discussion with some serious foodies (we were missing the Royal Wedding and ‘that dress’) we settled in the lecture theatre for the first of the day’s talks. I’m going to give you a brief over view of the talks but will be following up this post over the next week or so with more in-depth details.
Founder, Alison Parente MBE gave the opening address before introducing the first speaker of the day, Nicole Pisani, ex-chef at Ottolenghi restaurant Nopi, now chef at Gayhurst Primary School, East London, producing 500 school meals a day. Co-author or Magic Soup and the forthcoming Salt, Butter, Bones. (Member of the Guild of Fine Food Writers) her passion is food in schools, educating and passing on an appreciation of food, nutrition and cookery skills. Her talk told us what she had achieved so far, it’s importance and relevance and her hopes to roll it out further in the future to tackle the many issues including obesity and food waste.
A quick break and we’re on to the second talk, Indian American journalist, Simran Sethi. Her career started in the media industry and transitioned to academics where she taught on the subject of journalism and global social justice. Currently, she is a freelance journalist and educator, writing on issues related to social, environmental and sustainability.
Focused on food sustainability and social change, she is widely lauded for her contributions to the ecological sustainability of the planet. Socially active on a range of communication platforms (@simransethi) and author of articles for various journals and websites, Sethi is the creator and host of the award-winning chocolate podcast The Slow Melt and author of award-winning food book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.
Her talk was on one of my own loves – Chocolate – and how it can be a vehicle for social change. Sethi realised she didn’t fully recognise the challenge behind the crop and relayed to us what she learnt about the pod from which it comes, it’s history and the shocking truth behind its farming.
We’re straight into our next talk, and its the turn of Catherine Conway to talk about plastics, packaging and food. Catherine pioneered the Zero Waste retail business model 10 years back, which is now a global trend. We learn about the complex issue of packaging and how it touches our lives, what Catherine is doing about it, along with her successes and challenges to the solution.
At 1pm it’s lunch time and once again we’re spoilt for choice from a delicious healthy buffet style lunch. Lots of fresh salad and veg, The sun was shining and so many of us took the opportunity to grab a cold bottle of beer, brewed at Welbeck’s own brewery and head outside to top up our vitamin D in the Schools beautiful surroundings. The school is located the old fire stables on the Welbeck estate, ancestral seat of the Dukes of Portland.
We return for the final two talks of the day. Taking on the task of entertaining the now well fed and watered foodies is food writer, Adam Balic, who tells us about Scottish food history in his talk – beyond haggis and shortbread. We explore the Scottish stereotype that Scottish cooking was plain, simple…and disgusting!
Last up is Journalist and broadcaster., Dan Saladino. Dan who produces the BBC Radio 4 food programme talks about Sicilian oranges and the world’s most endangered foods. The first of which played an important part in his childhood. Dan has listed endangered food, it’s taste and history.
Another quick break and our day ends with a panel discussion, chaired by Dan Saladino, he is joined by the days speakers and some of those who were to be speaking the following day.
It’s a full day. My mind is spinning, full of information, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it certainly delivered what it promised in the title – plenty of Food for Thought.
Business and entrepreneurship courses also form part of the short course schedule and new course subjects are in development. The School has an outstanding reputation for the quality of training it provides with courses being taught by some of the most skilled and experienced artisan producers and practitioners in the UK, Europe and beyond.
For details of further events and courses organised by the School of Artisan Food visit https://www.schoolofartisanfood.org
Words & Photos by Tanya Louise