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River Cottage foodie profile: 4 questions with Steven Lamb

PUBLISHED: 11:07 17 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:07 17 May 2016

Steven Lamb is the Smoking & Curing expert at River Cottage and one of the original team

Steven Lamb is the Smoking & Curing expert at River Cottage and one of the original team

Archant

River Cottage has perfected the art of encouraging people to examine their own values when it comes to food politics without scaring them off by making them feel guilty or uncaring.

Join Steven on one of his courses and you'll soon be curing your own baconJoin Steven on one of his courses and you'll soon be curing your own bacon

River Cottage has perfected the art of encouraging people to examine their own values when it comes to food politics without scaring them off by making them feel guilty or uncaring.

And when it comes to getting across a pretty serious message in a more enjoyable way than being lectured at, Steven Lamb, who runs the popular smoking and curing course at the idyllic River Cottage HQ site near Axminster, is one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s best lieutenants. So here comes the serious bit….

Why do you care about Hugh’s messages of sustainability, quality and provenance?

What really matters and works is that our message is based on something we can all achieve and it is amazing to be working in a sector that is centred on food but which can have such a huge impact on issues that range from welfare to seasonability and taste. Almost daily – and this is putting egos to one side – people tell me how River Cottage has changed their lives. This can only happen because the ethos we subscribe to and which Hugh drives us forward with.

DIY charcuterie has really taken off as a foodie trendDIY charcuterie has really taken off as a foodie trend

How does food and drink help make community?

I can’t think of any better way of bringing people together, even if it’s just across the table. However, if you follow through on this then it connects the grower or the producer to the chef or cook and so anyone who eats the finished dish is part of a true lineage. I’ve also discovered that people working in food have a kind of innate sense of community and sharing – ask anyone for the recipe for a delicious dish you’ve just tried and they’re usually delighted to share it with you. It is (without wishing to cause offence) the antithesis of the IT industry where I started my career and where not only is knowledge not shared but people are left feeling stupid and utterly grateful to someone who can fix their laptop but only in total secrecy.

What single piece of food legislation would you change over night?

I would like to see legislation that improved the use of food waste – either feed it to those who need it the most or feed it to animals. Just don’t dump it! I am astonished by the amount of good food that is thrown away just because it doesn’t meet some stupid aesthetic. And why are we turning so much land over to crops to feed animals when on the other hand, we’re throwing away enough food each day to feed the whole of the population of the UK? It just doesn’t make sense. Oh, and I’d like to see the removal of nitrates in traditionally cured charcuterie.

Where would you like to see the River Cottage brand ten years from now?

I’d like the brand to be a bench mark of quality both in terms of teaching and attitudes to aspects of food around the world. We have an international reach thanks to our strong TV presence but it would be good to see the model of River Cottage replicated elsewhere as it is now in Australia. It will be important to keep the integrity of the brand and the ethos for which it stands but I am sure we could branch out into new territories and markets. For example, we’re planning a River Cottage Pop Up Canteen at the London ExCel arena for this year’s Grand Design Live Show. The food and menu will be pure River Cottage, sourced sustainably but served in a designed space in London that would appear to have little connection to River Cottage HQ but which works really well.

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