Caterer Fare of London's managing director John Durden urges the industry to rediscover those British gems that may otherwise be lost
At Fare of London we are determined to raise the profile of some of our UK endangered foods and artisan producers. To that end, we launched our Celebration of Forgotten Fare campaign in February this year.
Foods have been forgotten as a result of the supply and demand trends between food suppliers and chefs. Using larger suppliers generally means using a larger amount of the more popular, mass-marketed products and falling into the trap of following the crowd and using the same products as every other caterer out there.
We always encourage independence and an inquisitive nature when sourcing ingredients and new products for our menus; in my view there's nothing worse than a company being a food-sourcing sheep.
We at Fare of London have always set ourselves the challenge of working with artisan food suppliers on foods that don't appear on many menus. It is usually top restaurants and event caterers who succeed in reintroducing certain foods to the mass market, the best example being belly pork, which is now on menus across the country. Other examples include pig or ox cheeks and heritage vegetables, which are slowly being picked up in the mainstream.
All these things start with chefs thinking outside the box and working with small artisan suppliers, thus creating a wider circle of demand and diversifying the food market in general.
Admittedly it is more difficult for us to have an impact with the general public. Being an event caterer as opposed to a restaurant, we understand event bookers will choose a menu to suit everyone and are therefore bound to be more conservative. Selecting a dish such as jugged hare for 300 takes a leap of faith.
But for us the Celebration of Forgotten Fare campaign is not only about highlighting forgotten foods, it is also about finding hidden gems from around the country and bringing them back to the fore.
Forgotten Fare is broader than local sourcing - the campaign is about finding the best of British. By definition, a product such as Formby asparagus can only be found in Formby in Merseyside, while hogget or mutton is best when the sheep develop a gamey flavour, which is usually found when they have lived on higher hilly terrain such as the Cumbrian fells.
For us, food sourcing is very much about using the rich pool of wonderful British foods available to us. Provenance, time and place are key to our chefs taking pride in what they do, developing recipes which bring out the very best in their ingredients and paying homage to our British culinary heritage.