Tim Maddams, head chef at Canteen restaurant, tells us whyRiver Cottage is the only place for him
How did you come to work at River Cottage?
I grew up in rural Wiltshire spending lots of spare time on my uncle and aunt's farm before moving to London. I worked for Fergus Henderson, Alistair Little and Marco Pierre White and the Ferrari F1 before meeting my wife and moving back to the country. I applied for the job at River Cottage via the website. I had always loved Hugh's angle, I love shooting - although I'm a bad shot - and I love fishing as well as great food. So River Cottage seemed like the only choice for me.
How long have you been involved with Canteen?
I have been in charge of the Canteen at River Cottage Local Produce Store and Canteen since March and am loving the seasonal focus of the menu. It's great to be able to use so many wonderful local ingredients after spending years wondering why lamb comes from halfway round the world and why on God's earth people put strawberries on a menu in December? At the Canteen we are totally seasonally focused and wherever possible we source our food from local organic producers; it reflects the change in our food culture and the return to seasonal, fresh and great food.
Does the restaurant reflect your personal food views?
Absolutely, this is why I find it such a refreshing environment to work in. At the moment we are buying fish from a guy who goes fishing in his little boat in Lyme Bay; the fish arrives with us an hour after it is caught. Anyone can see that this is a great way of doing things on so many levels - freshness, quality, food miles and above all, taste.
What kind of clientele frequent Canteen - is it mostly River Cottage fans hoping for a glimpse of Hugh?
We have had a great response from locals, tourists and River Cottage fans alike. It is very important to Hugh and to me that local people feel welcome. After all, that's what it's all about for me: local, seasonal food for everyone.
How did you feel when asked to be involved with the show?
Nervous, and a little overwhelmed. It's one thing cooking and talking to people about it, yet as soon as someone points a camera at you, it all becomes so much harder to relax and just get on with it. But I love it, it's exciting and fun as well as challenging, and I love talking about what I do - my friends will all vouch for that. It's getting me to shut up that's the tricky part.
What will you be doing on the show?
Hopefully you will just get to see me being me and doing what I have always loved to do. There will be some background to the subject covered, tips on what to look for in quality and freshness, when to buy and also a recipe challenge between myself and Hugh.
How closely do you work with Hugh and the rest of River Cottage in the running of Canteen? Does Hugh take a very hands on approach?
Obviously Hugh takes a keen interest and involvement in everything happening at the Canteen, but he does allow me a fair amount of room for creativity, which is very important. He is also not shy with the criticism, but then I think that's something we all need from time to time, and sometimes I manage to change his mind about a dish. He is very open-minded and that is really rewarding for me. I wouldn't be able to do it on my own though - a good kitchen is all about team work and I have a great team.
How involved are you with other River Cottage goings on? Do you get involved in the growing of produce and slaughter of animals?
To a point, but sadly the Canteen takes up a lot of my time. I have recently acquired an allotment, which is still in a mess three months on. I just don't seem to have enough time, in fact I went down to water it yesterday and one of my neighbours has trimmed all the weeds back. I don't know whether to be glad (I am obviously grateful) or ashamed that it got to the point where someone else had to get involved. Thank you, whoever it was!
Where do you go when you eat out?
I don't have the time at the moment, but I used to love eating at St Johns, The Anchor and Hope in London. Places like that offer great, honest no nonsense food, without compromising on quality.
Are there any places near River Cottage or local producer gems that you'd recommend?
We have a wealth of great producers here in the South West, I can't possibly name them all. I will say that Mr Rowswell's asparagus is amongst the best I have ever had anywhere and the Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis is a great place to have lunch.