Self-sufficiency & the good life:
As well as travelling and tasting as widely as possible, I also lived semi-self-sufficiently in rural France for a decade, so I know all about the more down-to-earth side of making delicious things to eat and drink: Making and smoking cheese, rearing and butchering pigs and chickens, the fickle ways of vegetable gardens, pickling, brewing beer, making wine, curing meat, distilling eau de vie from fruit, cooking on a wood-fired stove, foraging fungi and leaves (herbs and salad), surviving poisonous mushrooms… and so on.
I’m most frequently asked to write about French food, as I have a deep understanding of the cuisine and food culture in France, and a wide knowledge of national and local specialities. I was also a cheese taster for a while, when I lived there.
As well as writing about dishes, reviewing eateries and creating recipes (and translating them from French), I write a lot about food provenance – how familiar products or specialities are made, and by whom.
I was also a bit of a pioneer in writing about ethical food production, back when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was at the dawn of his River Cottage career, and I’m an advocate of ethically produced foie gras.
Restaurant & Food Consulting
I worked briefly on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, helping the production team find suitable candidates for the show in France. It was huge fun, but I found lots of people who needed Gordon’s help and felt awful that so many of them weren’t selected for the programme. One of these chefs called me up after he heard he hadn’t got onto the show, and asked me for advice to help his restaurant survive. To me, it was obvious what he needed to do and I was happy to help – I hadn’t thought it was my place to offer advice before he asked. He loved my ideas and called back every few months for support, feedback and encouragement, as his business gradually emerged from certain doom. I thought, “sod Gordon Ramsay, I can do this standing on my head!”
I offer a professional service, and work with clients to: turn struggling businesses around, improve online customer reviews, change a venue’s direction, increase customer numbers or turnover or profits. To achieve these, I can audit every part of the business and advise on menus, wine lists, staff issues, customer service, décor and lots more.
So, if you need some support or ideas to make your eatery (or B&B or hotel) reach its full potential, please get in touch for a quote. I prefer to work with small family-run businesses where I can really make a difference to individuals’ lives.
PRs – I’m often invited to PR events for food or drink product launches or new venue openings. The majority of guests at these events are naturally food journalists, but the refreshments are frequently far below par. Instead of showcasing the product or client, this has an extremely detrimental effect, highlighting shortfalls and a lack of empathy with foodies. I can help you design and produce something that will seduce a cynical professional foodie audience, and ensure positive media coverage for your client.
I absolutely love this side of my work, which came about because journalists are usually expected to supply their own photos these days. I found I had a natural ability to style and photograph food, and now high quality printed publications use my photos. I’m not a great photographer generally (people and buildings never come out right), but I do feel proud of my food photos. No fake styling by the way, so if it looks fresh from the oven/freezer/field, that’s because it is.