Let’s start at the beginning. I am sat here on a rainy evening in the Chilterns, tucking into my much deserved meal of steak – with all the works. However, as I start to slam into this potentially day-making meal, something hits me right in the face. My mushrooms taste better than my steak!

I made only one New Year’s resolution – to eat less meat and to eat more vegetables, with the meat only being of the highest quality. I must say, I never normally make resolutions. Even though a large part of my life is based around a strong sense of discipline – God only knows that I am stubborn as hell – I never stick to them, therefore finding them pointless.

It’s so easy to get stuck in that trap where you are adding meat or fish to a dish just because you think you should. People all around you are putting the pressure on you by asking questions such as “where is the meat?” or “is there a veggie option?” Why can’t things be the other way around where people start to ask “where is the grain, pulse, carrot etc…”

Due to our needless demand for meat with every main meal we eat, the market has had to meet that demand and produce the volume needed – but is it the right quality? When we have to read labels to make sure that the animal has been raised or slaughtered in a fashion that our conscience can live with then something has gone wrong somewhere down the line.

Why can’t all meat or fish be of the highest quality no matter what? The answer is simple. You are the reason. Perhaps not you personally, but the general public as a whole. We have created a culture where we want our meat and fish cheap and always available – no matter what the season. Our veg needs to clean and geometrically precise with no variance from Mother Nature tolerated in the slightest and our fruit has to be perfectly ripe and blemish free, no matter what time of year it is. This has to stop.

I won’t bang on about the state of the world, but if money is tight and you have mouths to feed, do you really care if your cucumber isn’t 100% straight? What would you say if I said we should show the people who are starving in this world the amount of food that we waste just due to slight colour discrepancies?! It hasn’t always been like this. We have changed and not for the better. Does my Nan care if her runner beans are perfectly straight or if her banana has a black spot on it? Of course she doesn’t. To her, meat or fish is and always has been a luxury. Once a week – if she was lucky – a joint of beef or lamb would grace her table. She still makes sure that every single scrap of everything has been used or been eaten. She couldn’t care less if her carrot is slightly bent or her eggs were different sizes. She is 89 years old and I know for a fact she could still take me in a fight, so I don’t think it has affected her too much.

This year I will stick to my New Year’s promise but my biggest challenge will be to do it in my work without you noticing. At the end of the day, as long as it’s delicious, why does it matter? It is the responsibility of the development chefs and I to show all the other people working in our kitchens what we can do with these fantastic products in order to make them even better and to never compromise on the quality of what we use. Never again do I want to see the default vegetarian option of goat’s cheese or something on puff pastry. Everyone else can do what they like, but in bartlett mitchell, a change has come and I refuse to go back.

Pete Redman
Executive Chef