The weekend didn’t start too well. Already slightly delayed, a closure on the M1 cemented my late arrival for a weekend at the School of Artisan Food. I was grateful therefore for the warmest of welcomes, and in particular the generous spread of fresh artisan breads, baked on site, paired with honey straight from the bees of the Welbeck Estate. I dived straight in!

4. The Epsom Bakehouse School of Artisan Food sign  The Epsom Bakehouse School of Artisan Food bread basket

A welcome arrival, and artisan bread basket!

The weekend, entitled Food for Thought, promised a selection of thought-provoking lectures and discussions from leading food journalists and those in the food industry. Courtesy of The Real Bread Campaign, I was the lucky recipient of a free ticket. The School, once described as ‘the culinary Oxbridge’, runs a range of artisan food production courses from one-day to year-long diplomas. Having wanted to visit for quite a while, I couldn’t pass on this opportunity!

3. The Epsom Bakehouse School of Artisan food bakery teaching kitchen

The library and bakery teaching room at The School of Artisan Food

The lectures were wide-ranging in both source and subject. A supermarket CEO, a butcher, a baker, a food bank co-ordinator and two leading food journalists were among the speakers. We heard the importance of maintaining the ‘ecosystem’ of a network of supermarket suppliers, especially supporting small, local producers. There was an insightful and frank take on the reality of both running and using a food bank, and the necessity of engaging the local community in a food bank’s work. A baker and a butcher both enthused on their art, speaking passionately in support of, respectively, greater sustainability and access to home-grown and baked quality bread, and eating mutton.

Speakers including Sheila Dillon, Bee Wilson and Andrew Whiteley at Food for Thought

And there was more. Not least from Sheila Dillon, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, asking ‘Why bother?’. Why indeed do any of these artisan producers bother when food in general has become so industrialised, and people are often far removed from its production? The answer during the weekend, for me, came from the enthusiasm, passion and even joy for their subject that each speaker exuded. But it also came from a common theme of wanting to spread that enthusiasm, to do more to widen access to great food, and to question the current ways of doing things. As food for thought, it was inspiring and encouraging to hear. I left enthused to continue taking up opportunities to demonstrate my own love – of baking great fresh bread – wherever possible and to as many people as possible.

If you’d like to hear more, or think your group or event might want a free breadmaking demonstration, please do get in touch!

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, do let me know in the comments! Or why not check out the breadmaking recipes, hints and tips on my blog.

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