Tim Maddams, previous head chef at River Cottage Canteen reveals why local is lovely and sustainable makes sense

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image from fishfight.net
Tim Maddams is a chef, food writer and cookery teacher from the South West. His passions have always been focused around producing amazing dishes using ethicallly produces, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients. Over the last 15 years, Tim has worked in a variety of exciting roles across a wide range - most famously for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage canteen on the Devon / Dorset border. Currently, Tim runs the creative food company 'Green Sauce'.
Here he answers our questions about cooking at home, sourcing sustainably and Hugh's influences in the kitchen.
 
What is your favourite dish to cook on the menu at the canteen?
I don't cook there very often anymore, but I always loved to cook the really simple stuff that just sings about the quality and freshness of the local bounty.
 
What do you like to cook at home that you don’t make at work?image from channel4.com
Fajitas - they're a great way to use up left overs and making your own flour tortillas is one of the most satisfying things. They're so easy, but so good....
 
What sparked your interest in becoming a chef? Who in your opinion is currently cooking the best?
I first became interested in food at an early age, my Grandfather was a butcher and restauranteur and so I guess it was in the blood so to speak. I think aside for Hugh who has been a big influence I would not be where I am today were it not for Fergus Henderson and Alistair Little.
 
What’s it like working with Hugh? He seems lovely!
Challenging, rewarding and always different. Like any job it has its frustrations, but the brief to only use the best and most ethical supplies is as good as it gets. Working for Hugh has encouraged me to question everything and that can only be a good thing.
 
Does he have a lot of involvement working in the kitchen?image from keodigital.com
He was always like a desert thunder storm when I was running the canteen. Nothing for months on end then, just when you need it, It pours down. Hugh is obviously very busy and its no coincidence that he has such a committed and talented senior team. When you run a large organization you need to trust your team to run it the way you want them to.
 
River cottage is known for it’s local, fresh, organic ingredients – how does the canteen source the best? Does this move across into drinks / wine? Also, with the recent success of the Fish Fight campaign, how has this affected the canteen?
Blimey that's a big question! We are always on the look out for the best local, fair trade or organic ingredients, though they do tend to come to us in the first instance.
The fish fight Campaign has not really effected the way fish is used by River Cottage, like all ingredients we are constantly revising our policy on all fronts to make sure we are serving ethical food. It does get complex though, I have just written the Marine Fish purchasing policy for the group as I have a level of understanding in this area that helps to make it simple. I am also helping others with their purchasing policy through my new company 'Green Sauce.'
 
What trends do you see emerging in the food industry right now?  
Not sure about trends, but we are all going to begin to feel, within and outside the industry, the rising cost of food. But this is a good thing - cheap, low wellfair food has not done any of us any favors. Its a sad state of affairs but I dont think the majority will understand the true value of food until it becomes more expensive again. But in the long run thats a good thing and will encourage people to stop wasting so much food.
 
You use Twitter a lot to tell people what’s on the menu everyday - With the rise in social media, how important a tool do you think it is in the food industry / for building an image?
At Green Sauce I have had a lot of work and interest for what I do through new media, I am sure its the same for River Cottage, only they are better at it than me!
 
What are your thoughts on the cult of celebrity we have seen emerging in the UK food scene? Do you think that it detracts from the purity of the art of cuisine? image from landshare.net
I don't really have any. I keep my head down, stick to my beliefs and just get on with what I am doing. I do think though that sometimes people who don’t know enough of the facts wade in to arguments and this can be damaging for campaigns that need a lot of public support and is just counter productive media attention seeking, and a shame.
 
Do you have any disaster stories throughout your career as a chef that you can share with us?
I think I hold the title for the most expencive soup ever made. On my first day of a 3 week stint in the St Johns kitchen I put about 10kg of live langoustine on the stove to boil, put the lid on and then promptly forgot about them for 2 hours. They take about 3 minutes to cook. Not a good start!
 
In your opinion, what is one of the best food and wine matches?
Sancerre and cold smoked trout. But chilled fino sherry and eton mess run a close second.
 
Do you use any particular wine in any of your dishes?
From time to time, I like to use the Polgoon River Cottage sparkler to make Jellies. Its delish.
 
Where do you tend to buy wine for yourself at home?
I have a great wine shop in Honiton called Wine World and I also am a member of the Naked wines club.
 
Have you come across any unusual food and wine matches? 
Chilled light red wines served with chocolate desserts.
 
If you weren’t in the food industry, where do you think you would be?
I have no idea, but I quite like the idea of game keeping.