Simon Wright – A minute on the clock

15 January 2009 by
Simon Wright – A minute on the clock

The Wright Taste, based on his 12-month experience of farming as a rookie smallholder. He spoke to Joanna Wood

Caterer Why did you decide to become a smallholder for a year?

Simon Wright It wasn't a rational, thought-through decision. I just woke up one morning and thought, "Why not get a few Middle White pigs?" and by lunchtime I'd committed to half-a-dozen other species. It was only later that I began to worry - we ended up with Welsh Black cattle, Muscovy ducks, Embden geese, Balwen lambs and Sasso chickens. At its peak we had about 60 beasts on the land.

Did you name the animals?

SW I avoided naming them, but that didn't make it any easier to send them to their end. By far the worst thing was sending two beautiful Welsh Black steers to slaughter. We had to get them on the truck by 7am. I hadn't slept, and they were reluctant to enter the vehicle, so it was really emotionally draining. I watched most of the animals die. It's a sobering thing to witness, but I remained a meat eater at the end of it.

How did you evaluate the quality of your meat?

SW We took the meat to some great restaurants (Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, Stephen Terry at the Hardwick and Shaun Hill at the Glasshouse) and they all cooked two identical dishes, one using their usual supplier's meat and another using mine. Then they served both dishes to me and I had to declare which was best in ignorance of which one was mine. My meat came out on top every time, which I found bizarre.

Your experience was filmed by BBC Wales. Did that throw up any problems?

SW There are three things I can tell you about doing a television programme: the budgets are tight the BBC is not about to let you advertise your restaurant - or anyone else's for that matter and there are times when you just want the cameras out of the way.

Did you get your family involved?

SW Yes, both my wife, Maryann, and my youngest son, Jamie, got involved. Our partner in the restaurant, Mark Manson, also featured a lot - usually eating and occasionally helping on the land, which was a real challenge for him, as he doesn't really do outdoors.

You're about to open a new restaurant. Tell us more.

SW It's a 100-seat brasserie on Llanelli Waterside in west Wales. The other partners are Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel, who play rugby for Wales and the British Lions, and Robert Williams, who has a construction company. I'm excited because we're creating something out of very little with a great team of people. I think it could be very special and change the way people think about eating out in our part of the world.

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