Having never been given processed food as a child, by a mother who grew up in rural Wales during the war, I have always been interested in food.
I spent a colourful childhood in Hongkong and Botswana and had a real understanding of where food came from. As a 6 year old I saw decapitated chickens running around the food markets in Hongkong, and at 8 I was helping my neighbours in Botswana bash the meelie meal (maize) in a giant pestle and mortar to make the staple porridge they ate. I was used to seeing spit roasted pigs and the large extruding ox-tongue that adorned the top of my grandmother's fridge each time we went to visit was commonplace. Food was real and meat very definitely from the animal.
My mother took me nutting and blackberry picking as a child and I had my first exotic wild food experience as a 7 year old in Kashmir. Mr Marvellous, the flower seller, took us out onto Lake Nigeen in to eat lotus seeds in the early morning mist. It was magical and rather mystical. I grew up with a deep desire to follow my interest in the natural world. After spending several years in Botswana, as soon as I was aware that we, as a species, were putting so much pressure on the natural world that habitats were being lost and other species becoming extinct I could not ignore it and from and early age had a desire to work in wildlife conservation.
My idyllic and safe childhood was shattered by the death of my father when I was 13 to bowel cancer. This sent me on a journey of internal desolation, sadness, depression and stubborn rebellion. I began a soul searching enquiry into the state of our environment, the contamination of our food resources and a desire to find meaning in life. I never towed the conventional line and found great solace and healing in nature.
I moved to Cornwall in 1998 and worked as an Ecologist for Cornwall Environmental Consultants for 10 years where I honed my plant identification skills and developed a deeper understanding of the conflict between economic growth and development and the health of our natural wildlife systems.
My love of food and my professional skills as a botanist combined with the excitement and empowerment of gathering wild food for free led to the desire to share these discoveries with others and in the subsequent creation of Fat Hen.
Meeting Matt and Claire (Fat Hen's chefs) elevated the gastronomic level of my wild food cooking to something I could never have imagined and this meeting has been a catalyst in setting up Fat Hen. I realised we could offer something different to the regular 'bushcraft' wilderness cooking courses where survival is an integral part of the course.
We at Fat Hen aren't interested in eating just to survive – we eat to enjoy. It's about bringing the outdoors indoors and creating fantastic food good enough to grace the tables of the best restaurants in the country.