Juliet Shield

Restaurant Consultant

Foodie Bugle at Thyme at Southrop

This title may seem a mouthful and baffling to some, but to those of us who were there last Friday it makes more than sense. The Foodie Bugle is an online platform set up last March by the energetic and colourful Silvana de Soissons. Silvana has foodieness hardwired into her genes, having been raised in Lombardy in a family where cooking delicious food with fresh ingredients was a natural part of everyday life. The Foodie Bugle is the best kind of use of the digital media: a publication where the standards of presentation are as high as any glossy printed magazine, and although contributors are not paid, their submissions have to pass a high level of criteria to be accepted.

The venue, Thyme at Southrop, needs a piece on its own. Caryn Hibbert has set up a food school in lovingly restored listed barns adjacent to Southrop Manor. This idyllic spot was a perfect partner for the day’s event.

This Foodie Bugle lecture day was termed a “networking” event, a slightly misleading description conjuring up as it does: suits, mediocre wine and indifferent canapés. However, it did indicate that it was aimed at foodies who had businesses or were trying to establish them. There were talks from experienced business owners who had succeeded, notably Chantal Coady, founder of the well known Rococo chocolate brand, Monika Linton of Brindisa, and Trevor Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery, whose sons Tom and Henry, also in the business, featured recently on Channel 4 as the Fabulous Baker Brothers. In addition to the interesting speakers, the attendees were a stimulating group on their own: an assortment of bloggers and bakers, cookery teachers, restaurant owners and designers. My only regret was that there was not enough down time to talk to more of them in the schedule.

We all agreed that Twitter was a vital tool in our sphere of life, both for self promotion, and keeping abreast with the latest trends. This topic was spearheaded by the journalist Thane Prince who also spoke controversially about enjoying supermarket shopping, and not always wanting to buy local (think of the bean-picking Kenyan women who rely on our custom for their livelihood).

At lunch I sat with Martin Yarnit, who specialises in all food matters related to Bologna, and writes a blog accordingly. Although now living in Worcester, he had been a customer of my Liverpool restaurant in the eighties. The foodie world is a small one. Later on, Rachel Demuth told me about her vegetarian cookery school in Bath, with Demuths, an award winning restaurant alongside. During the talks I sat next to Kate Fishenden who runs a design studio called Starch Green, with her husband. They create beautiful designs for enhancing life and everyday objects. Such was the camaraderie of the day she gave me a lift back to London.

The perfect weather helped, and the fact that the delicious lunch could be eaten outside in the suntrap of the courtyard adjacent to the teaching kitchen added to the magic. Daryll Taylor, a visionary chef from Sydney, and Marjorie Lang, a Masterchef winner, head the chefs’ team, and produced a display of simple but gorgeous tasting food, including a wild garlic frittata with nettle pesto, home cured coppa, and an exquisite orange cake, the flavours of which still resonate with me a week later.