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A wonderful day at the Dartmouth Food Festival (with Mitch Tonks interview) | Nick Coffer | My Daddy Cooks

A wonderful day at the Dartmouth Food Festival (with Mitch Tonks interview)

I was invited down to the Dartmouth Food Festival by the lovely people at Fork Magazine. Originally I was going to be cooking with Archie on the Saturday morning but his broken arm meant that we couldn’t be there in time as he had a hospital appointment on Friday.

So on my own I went on the Saturday morning, but it was still a wonderful day. Dartmouth is a beautiful fishing port and the food festival is of the highest quality. Top chefs, wonderful producers and real foodies all converge in an informal and relaxed setting.

I was lucky enough to meet restaurateur, fishmonger and author Mitch Tonks. A more passionate advocate of sustainable produce you could not hope to meet. His restaurant, Rock Fish, also makes a mean fish and chips!

I interviewed Mitch for my BBC “Three Counties Kitchen Show” and you can also hear my report and his mini masterclass on buying fish by clicking on the play button below:

What do you make of him recommending frozen fish if you don’t live near the sea? Interesting – and perhaps not entirely illogical.

I had the pleasure of hosting a “Question Thyme” panel comprising of top chef and author, Mark Hix, chef and food-writer Valentine Warner, the Western Morning News’ food and drink writer, Becky Sheaves, her husband John Sheaves, Chief Executive of Taste of the West and Gabriel David, MD of Luscombe drinks.

It was a fascinating exchange. Of most relevance to me was the entire panel’s passion for getting kids into the kitchen. All believed that the only way to secure the next generation’s food heritage is to get them connected with cooking and ingredients. And there was considerable nostalgia on the panel for home economics at school.

We also touched on the challenges facing restaurants in these tough economic times. Mark Hix suggested that it was more important than ever for restaurants to offer the highest levels of service – and the best quality and value for money. He also suggested that restaurants needed to get out of the inflexible mentality of “sorry sir, it is 21.31 and our kitchen closed one minute ago”. He says he keeps his menus vibrant and varies them often – while keeping a close eye on all his kitchens.

What struck me most was the food passion of both Mark and Valentine. They both spoke of the importance of bridging the gap between chefs and “Tuesday evening home-cooking”. And we were all agreed that cooking fresh ingredients simply is more cost effective tastier (and often even time effective) than eating ready-made meals.

Supper at Rock Fish and simply the best brownies I have ever eaten from the Manna from Devon cooking school rounded off a truly delightful day and I can’t wait to go back next year – hopefully this time with Archie, Jo – and Baby Coffer 2 – in tow!

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