Interview - Bob Farrand on the Speciality and Fine Food Fair and being PM for a day

By BigHospitality Writer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Restaurant

Who are you? Bob Farrand. I'm the Managing Director of the Guild of Fine Food, and publisher of Fine Food Digest. What is the SFFF's objective? To be a show that's exclusively for people interested in local, speciality and artisan foods. ..

Who are you?

Bob Farrand. I'm the Managing Director of the Guild of Fine Food, and publisher of Fine Food Digest.

What is the SFFF's objective?

To be a show that's exclusively for people interested in local, speciality and artisan foods. We wanted a show where products could be sourced and tested without having to travel miles.

What do you consider the greatest achievement of the SFFF to date?

It has brought artisan foods to the forefront of people's minds – because these shows are jampacked with wonderful foods it shows people that there's more to food culture in this country.

What came first for you, the cheese or the Fine Food Digest?

I bought the magazine in 1984, and we had the first World Cheese Awards in 1988. I wanted to create a cheese competition where buyers and retailers would be able to taste all the cheese. From there we went about offering training – encouraging retailers to taste the difference between artisan and mass-produced cheese.

How did you get to where you are now in the world of food?

When I was at school I worked in a high-class provisioners, as they were then known, and the man who owned it, whose own son was very ill, took me under his wing and taught me how to grade stilton and cheddar and how to prepare ham. My parents wanted more for me than working in a shop, so I went to college and from there into publishing, where I've stayed.

In 1984 the opportunity came for me to buy Fine Food Digest. The first 15 years was like banging your head against a wall, but now the interest in fine food is brilliant.

What can the restaurant industry learn from the SFFF?

To give credit to local producers on menus. There's huge mileage in it but very few people do it.

It tells the customer you care about what you serve – it speaks volumes about the seriousness but also ticks all the boxes about supporting local food businesses.

How does the situation of fine food producers in this country compare to Europe?

After the Second World War, the Government had to face the problem of feeding the population on scant resources, and when it came to food, we plumped for mass production. The French, Italian and Spanish concentrated on supporting regional food consumption. And we're still living with the results of that. We pile high and sell cheap, while over there food means food from around your town. The 30 mile rule doesn't apply there, it's five or ten miles. We've only started to recover from those policies in the past five or ten years, and we desperately need to keep it going.

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would you change?

I've been lobbying Parliament for ages – I would force every food producer to state on their label the origin of the five main ingredients of what they're selling. You can buy a ready meal – 52 per cent of which is chicken breast that could come from the Far East and have been raised in who knows what kind of conditions, but because the dish was made here they can say it's made in Britain.

The Speciality and Fine Food Fair will take place at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London from 2-4 September. specialityand finefoodfairs.co.uk

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