Five questions with... Suzi Wintle
Anna Louise Batchelor - 19 April 2013
In the hot seat for April's 'Five Questions with…' is Suzi Wintle Head Chef at Sheepdrove Organic Farm. With responsibility for the catering of conferences, weddings and the ever famous 'Shhh Secret Supper Club' I want to know more about the challenges of sustainable catering and the benefits of cooking on an organic farm.
Q: How does an engineer, mathematician and ceramist who has sailed the world, on the high seas become the Head Chef at the beautifully remote Sheepdrove Organic Farm?
A: Always having had a LOVE for food led me to the organic movement and anti GMO; therefore the obvious choice was Sheepdrove! Plus, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time!!!!
Q: What is the biggest challenge of catering with organic food for large numbers at Sheepdrove’s Eco Conference Centre?
A: Our biggest challenge is not so much the large numbers but the weather. Unfortunately, it can decimate an entire crop so I have to be highly adaptive and work with each of the different seasons... and it helps having a great friend in the fabulous gardener Martin Wood, Head Gardener at Sheepdrove!
Q: I've called Sheepdrove 'remote' but what are the benefits of catering on-farm?
A: Food doesn't get any fresher and I know exactly where all the produce has come from. It is completely free from chemicals and is different from the mainstream as we like to grow heritage crops and rear pasture fed heritage breeds. It is much simpler to cook as I don't have to 'mess' with the produce - why play with nature's best offerings?
Q: In light of the 'horsemeat scandal' are you finding people asking more questions about food sourcing when booking for events at Sheepdrove?
A: Absolutely. For all the events, it has become incredibly important that people can trust in Sheepdrove to provide 'honest' food. No GMO, no pesticides and absolute accountability are key.
Q: I'm interviewing you on the eve of Sheepdrove's 'Shhh Secret Supper Club' 1st birthday. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind setting up an organic supper club?
A: It was a way to display Sheepdrove’s versatility as a venue and give people something completely different when dining out! It's a wonderful way to meet new people, try some new dishes and flavours whilst having great fun! All the things I love! Plus, organic restaurants are very hard to find so why not treat people to a taste of everything that is good in farming!
For more information visit the Sheepdrove Organic Farm website
The Shhh Secret Supper Clubs are run monthly at the farm and you can read my review of them here
Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.