Sustainability Series Part 5: Celebrate Local and Seasonal

Locally Sourced Food

How to define “Local” in a connected world

Part 5 of our Sustainability Series

This article is part of our ongoing series about how Tante Marie Culinary Academy leads the way as a truly sustainable cookery school resulting in our 3 star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association and recent Sustainability Award at the Toast of Surrey Business Awards in 2018.

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Sustainability Focus: Society – Celebrate Local and Seasonal

We live in a highly connected world. In fact, it could even be argued that these days ignorance is a lifestyle choice which few of us choose. In such a connected world, where you can fly non-stop from London to Perth, what does “Local” even mean on a menu?

Food businesses all over the world are now claiming their food is “locally sourced”. It is what customers like, and even expect to see. But can customers really take comfort in this statement? It is an easy claim to make, but a hard one to truly deliver.

Being awarded a 3 star rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association means being able to back up a “locally sourced” claim with evidence and the reality is that most food businesses who make the claim are barely scratching the surface of what this statement means. How do we ensure that Tante Marie Culinary Academy is a truly sustainable cookery school?

Simply buying from your local butcher or fishmonger does not mean you are sourcing local produce. To achieve that, you must understand where the butcher and fishmonger are sourcing from. One could be buying delicious Argentinian steak from a butcher just around the corner from your house. That is indeed a local butcher but it is Argentinian beef. (It is almost certainly Aberdeen Angus, a breed which was introduced to Argentina in 1879 from Scotland, due to its hardiness and ability to withstand the harsh Argentinian climate). Buying Aberdeen Angus from a butcher in London does not make it local.

At Tante Marie Culinary Academy, we buy all our meat from Prince & Sons in Horsell. They are based 1 mile from the Academy, but that is not why they tick the ‘Locally Sourced” box. That accolade is achieved because Prince & Sons guarantee that all our meat is British and they go one step further by ensuring all our pork is from Surrey. We have verified this claim and on that basis, we can genuinely say that we are locally sourcing. It is all about traceability, and the responsibility for being able to demonstrate this lies with the person making the claim, and extends far beyond simply putting the words “Locally Sourced” on a menu.

The seasonality is a vital part of local sourcing. Even just insisting on British produce can sometimes seriously diminish the variety of fresh fruit and vegetables which are available at certain times of the year. There are of course many preserving methods which can be very useful in order to keep things to use once the season is over, and with the great diversity of hybrid plants now available, growers are figuring out how to extend British seasons for as long as possible. Buying fresh and in-season from local British farmers is essential to the future of farming in this country if we want to keep this option available to us. The difference in taste and quality of a fresh carrot pulled and eaten straight from the earth is like nothing you could possibly find in a supermarket. The tomato still warm from the sun and fresh from the vine will evoke memories of childhood summers and grandad’s greenhouse. Eating fresh, nutritious produce in harmony with the seasons in which it grows will make you happy and keep you healthy, which really is what food is all about.

Woking Food Festival 2018

At the 2018 Woking Food & Drink Festival, Tante Marie Culinary Academy will be serving a menu which really showcases this approach to local sourcing, with sausage rolls made with Surrey pork, (from Prince & Sons of course) and flavoured with Thurstons Brewery’s Un-American Pale Ale.

Thurstons Brewery is also in Horsell, very close to Prince & Sons. The ‘Un-American Pale Ale’ is so called because it is made in the style of an American Pale Ale (similar to an IPA) but instead of using hops and barley from the US, it uses all English hops and barley. The latter comes from a malting in Norfolk and supplied by Charles Faram Hop Factors in Worcestershire. They couldn’t be more English.

Does simply being ‘English’ or ‘British’, mean something is local?

To understand this, one must consider what it actually is that you are buying, as well as considering many other factors such as the environmental impact of its journey to your plate:

Here in Surrey, we have no coastline meaning we clearly cannot claim to source local Mackerel, for example. But we can take care to source responsibly. A trip to Billingsgate fish market in London will quite possibly result in buying British Mackerel which has been exported to France and then sold back to the UK market at a premium. Good communication with your seafood supplier means this can be avoided and our supplier, Kingfishers of Brixham, buy direct from Brixham market in the morning, where the fish has come straight from the boats. Our Mackerel is as local as we can get – in theory it can be in the kitchen within 6 hours of being landed, which means we are doing everything we can to deliver on our “Locally Sourced” claims… another step towards becoming a truly sustainable cookery school.

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