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Food therapy: Guy Watson

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Curious to find out what home tastes like for Devon’s organic guru? And what he’d never eat again? We got to the root of the matter with Riverford founder and game-changing farmer, Guy Watson

Guy Watson, founder of Riverford, Devon

WHICH FOODS TAKE YOU BACK TO CHILDHOOD?

My mum used to make junket regularly: butter, soured milk and crumbly homemade bread doesn’t sound very appetising but I have very fond memories of it.

Family lunches around the table were a big thing. There were seven of us, as well as some of the workers from the farm, and mum would make dishes such as boiled ham and potato gratin inspired by what we were growing at the time. People coming together around the table and sharing food was tremendously influential in a subliminal way – my four siblings and I all work in food.

WHAT DOES HOME TASTE LIKE?

This will sound strange but the answer is bitter. I have a bitter palate, and my wife and I are enjoying a lot of bitter vegetables such as dandelion, chicory and radicchio at the moment.

When my children came home at Easter we had roast lamb with a huge pan of dandelions cooked with garlic, chilli and lemon. I also add them to risotto and salads.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?

I just finished brunch with friends and I had a potato rosti with a couple of my brother’s sausages and some guacamole made with excess avocados. Before that I had fresh fruit, granola and yogurt made by my other brother.

WHAT WOULD YOU NEVER EAT AGAIN?

Nothing springs to mind; I’m a pretty adventurous eater. I’m not really interested in anything sweet and I’d happily never eat a marshmallow again – even toasted over the fire after a few drinks. They’re disgusting. Although I do like meringue under certain circumstances.

WHAT’S YOUR BAD DAY COMFORT FOOD FIX?

I don’t really see food like that, though if I’ve had a bad day I want to go home and cook. I find making one-pot dishes, such as risotto, meditative – I think it’s the process of chopping and stirring.

WHAT WOULD WE FIND IN YOUR FRIDGE?

Lots of salad: probably a few lettuces and a couple of other leaves. We’re never out of chillies either. There’s always Tabasco sauce too, although I did finish off the bottle at brunch this morning.

WHAT DO YOU EAT WHEN NOBODY’S LOOKING?

I shouldn’t say it but I do quite like crappy pork pies – you know, the awful ones you find at garages. I’ll normally have two or three bites and be done with it – it’s something about that trashy umami flavour.

WHICH RESTAURANT MAKES YOU HAPPY?

The Green Table at Dartington: it’s fairly simple food, pretty good coffee and very stylishly done. We stay at The Gurnard’s Head near St Ives a couple of times a year too. Otherwise, I find it bloody hard to find anywhere good to eat out, although The Almond Thief bakery in Dartington is excellent and our new head chef at Riverford Field Kitchen, Patrick, is phenomenal.

WHAT DOES BEING AN ETHICAL FOODIE MEAN TO YOU?

Top of the list has to be eating less meat and animal products. I’m not a vegetarian, though I think if I knew how to ethically run a farm without animals then I would be. The developed world needs to cut down its animal consumption by around two thirds if we’re to be sustainable.

Second to that would be eating seasonally. Riverford isn’t dogmatic about it but I think we could eat locally and seasonally 90 per cent of the time without getting bored.

The trouble is that we’ve all become very lazy. It annoys me when restaurants make no effort with seasonality at all – or just use it as a buzz word. I’ve got into many an argument with chefs and restaurant owners who I’ve quizzed about serving “seasonal” asparagus in January.

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