All posts by Sarah

Bucks County Show 2019

When Laura, a good friend of ID, said she was entering the Bucks County Show this year, I was instantly intrigued: what on earth was she actually talking about?! 

After a bit of research, I realised that it was right up our street. A food hall full of local producers as well as some awesome examples of home bakers and gardeners, using and growing local products.
We arrived at about 11:30am and of course made a beeline for the food tent. As a result, this meant that by 11:34am we had already sampled at least three types of Foxdenton Gin, with our particular favourite being the Winslow Plum. A quick browse on their website this morning I am gutted to have missed their Dark Lantern rum so I will certainly be picking one of them up in the future (We’re big fans of rum at IDHQ). 

The food hall was buzzing with people all there for little taste tests of what the producers had to offer. One thing you will always notice if you go to a local food market is the willingness of the producers for you to sample their product. My mum, who accompanied me for the day, questioned at one point if it is worth the exhibitors giving away so much, but knowing what it is like from the other side of the table, you spend so long mastering the products that you just want to share it with everyone. Yes, it is ultimately a sales technique but just a small conversation with any of the artisan producers and you realise just how proud and passionate they are.

After a quick lap of the food hall we moved on to see how Laura had performed in the categories she had entered items into, as well as a quick scope out of some groups we could potentially enter next year (once the ID allotment has more than just mud!). As someone who has adapted very well to suburban life in Milton Keynes I cannot lie, I was instantly taken back to my village roots, seeing all these tables full of cakes, flowers and produce. It was great! Then the educator in me also loved to see how all these people entering each class had interpreted the exact same recipe – apart from the Victoria sponges, they all looked so different. The vegetable cake section particularly caught our eye; courgettes are in abundance this time of year so we could potentially develop an ID courgette cake for next year (although a year development maybe taking it a little too seriously!). We were really proud to see that Laura had come first in class for her lemon curd, but her mum really stole the show with plenty of 1st, 2nd and 3rds. We might have to send Laura in to get some of her recipes! 

All in all, it was a really good day out; later in the day I got chatting with the Buckinghamshire beekeepers and sampled some of their local honey fudge, so that is one item I will definitely be encouraging chef George to re-create. When I went back to the food hall later on, so many producers’ presentations were looking quite bare, which was great to see. 

Now to get planning for next year… 

Cooking responsibly and sustainably

The “Attenborough effect” is hitting all the headlines currently and you cannot go on social media much these days without seeing someone highlighting a supermarket’s use of unnecessary plastic. The food manufacturing sector is getting a bit of a bad rep at the moment but really they are just taking the flack for a whole sector that could do better.

Similarly to the manufacturing and food producers, the pressure from consumers to have the perfect product, as well as scrutiny from local health authorities, has led to the Hospitality and Food Sector to be responsible for 2.87 million tonnes of waste each year. Of this waste, 1.6 millions tonnes is packaging, of which 46% is recycled*. A lot of this can be down to local councils and systems outside the control of outlets, but with only 12% of food waste being recycled there certainly seems to be a problem, especially when you consider that 45% of food waste is from preparation.

A bit of background…

Having worked in the hospitality sector since the early 00’s everything we were taught was about “the customer experience”, which is fair. So when it came down to food, working for an international hotel chain in the restaurant, it was all about ensuring the customer at 6am and the customer at 11am had the exact same offering. The waste was UNREAL. Just think that this was going on throughout every hotel of this brand (and probably others) all over the world, EVERY DAY.

Since then, moving away from hotels and into restaurants, there is a lot less food waste, but still the same focus on customer experience, which creates a different kind of waste. Chain restaurants, with their obsession for brand standards and economies of scale, lead to products being pre-prepared and provided as part of a single, massive contract with a national producer, before being distributed up and down the country rather than working with local, less travelled products.

All of this is on top of strict quality control measures enforced by local environmental health officers, who despite having stringent guidelines for us all to follow in order to serve safe food, take no responsibility in ensuring food waste is controlled. A time for a change on this perhaps? Wouldn’t it be great to see a similar star system to acknowledge responsible food production, as well as being safe for consumption?

What we are doing…

At Inspires Dining we are passionate about reducing our impact on the planet and operating responsibly.

With this in mind we have worked with Richard Lewis from WasteLESS Consulting to review our processes and take a close look at what we are doing well and where we can do better.

The highlights from the review where we are already making positive steps were:

  • Buying locally from independent suppliers, enabling us to purchase packet free
  • Creating food menus that produce little waste or waste that can be used in another way
  • Where food waste is unavoidable, we compost as much as we can
  • Using environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals
  • Utilising re-usable cloths and linen including napkins made from scrap material

See the full review on our sustainability page 

* data from WRAP (Waste Resource Action Programme)