With the hospitality industry in hibernation, we seized the opportunity to catch up with the South West’s food and drink bods to find out how they’re coping in lockdown.
This week Sharp’s Brewery‘s beer sommelier Ed Hughes reveals which recipes have been on repeat and why he’s not into beer subscriptions
What’s kept you sane in lockdown?
Good friends and music. I’m lucky to work with some really great friends and that’s made working from home easier. And picking up the phone and chatting with friends has been really comforting as social media only goes so far.
I’m a massive music fan so I’ve been constantly plugged into my headphones, whether at my desk or out for a walk. I’m into a bit of everything: early lockdown was full 60s, so Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young and James Taylor all featured – that’s my happy place as it’s what I grew up with. I’m a habitual music listener so I’ll listen to one album solidly for a week and then move on. Lately I’ve switched to a bit of grime – from Wretch 32 to Kano.
What’s been the most challenging element of lockdown for you?
I’m a hugger; I really miss hugging people. I’m sociable and not being able to meet in person has been tough.
Which recipes have you had on repeat?
I’m a very keen cook but I’m not good at following recipes – I think it’s my rebel nature. I’ve been doing a lot of cupboard cooking and going back to my West Indian heritage, so things like mutton curry, macaroni pie and rice and peas. Cooking has been another form of escapism and eating this kind of food has transported me to the Caribbean when, in reality, I’m in Cornwall in winter.
Which TV, books or podcasts have provided the best escapism?
Creating the Sharp’s Just Add Beer podcast has been fascinating. We’d talked about starting a podcast for ages, but things always got in the way, so at the start of the first lockdown I said Why don’t we give it a go?
Each episode is an audible tasting menu with one of the chefs who shared recipes in our cookbook Just Add Beer. It’s been great to hear stories from the likes of Paul Ripley, Paul Ainsworth, Jude Kereama and Stephane Delourme – and really get to know them as people, not just chefs.
I’m a also a big Star Wars fan so loved watching The Mandalorian.
What’s the best thing you’ve cooked in lockdown?
My dad lives in Barbados and I made salt-fish fritters which, I reckon, rival his.
What have you learnt about yourself during all this?
How much I need people around me, though Zoom and Teams has really helped. Working in a global business, I’ve got to see people who I’ve worked with for years but never met in person.
Have you taken out any food/drink subscriptions?
I haven’t, instead I’ve been buying stuff I know I’ll enjoy. Beer subscriptions are a tricky one for me as you don’t know what you’re going to get or the quality of the beers you’ll receive. I don’t like gambling on a mystery box – I’d much prefer to know what I’m signing up for.
Have you picked up any new skills or hobbies?
I’ve always had a little recording studio at home, so using that space to create the podcast and been really fun. My background is in sound engineering so being able to use those skills again is amazing.
What are your hopes for 2021?
To be better than 2020.
Last year was really hard on the hospitality and brewing industry so I hope, when the time is right, we can open up again. I also hope the camaraderie we’ve had as an industry in 2020 will continue. The South West is a truly special place for gastronomy and I’m looking forward to the moment when we can all be start working together again.