My New Commute
Pre Covid I drove 3 hours a day to teach at Waitrose cookery school in Salisbury. I enjoyed both the job and the drive across the plain. I knew it was insecure and my friend Ian told me about a possible job much closer to home. I live on a secluded smallholding in Somerset, and was introduced to my new neighbour, Peter Prescott at Worminster Farm, less than a mile away.
Formerly a successful London restaurateur and hotelier, he had moved to the area and, with the enormous changes to Hospitality, was planning a business making ferments and pickles mainly using produce grown on his farm. The business and role sounded exciting, but it was the walk to work that sealed the deal!
My commute is now along a footpath along a stream. It starts at the bottom of my garden. I cross 5 fields before stepping off the path and onto my new colleague’s farm. It’s a chance to plan the day and also to decompress on the homeward leg. Always changing, this week I am surrounded with the hawthorn blossom, the smell of flowering wild garlic and the last of the bluebells. This month I also had my second proper sighting of an adult otter in the stream.
Despite being a chef for thirty years, fermenting is new to me and I’ve become obsessed. The health aspect is widely reported and ferments are moving from the health food fringes into the mainstream. We’ve been planning and testing many ferments and pickles since January and are about to launch our Cultjar brand. We are focusing more on international recipes, deliciousness and where our ingredients come from. I’ll also be using my previous teaching experience leading fermentation courses at Worminster Farm.
My fermentation obsession goes further though. I am raising six pigs and, rather than using imported soy in their feed, I am fermenting Somerset grown peas and barley mixed with whey from a local cheesemaker. I’m not sure if they know they are part of the culinary zeitgeist but the pigs love it.
Covid has confirmed how lucky I am. My wife worked through lockdown in the NHS with many people who found it hard to spend time outdoors and I am grateful for my easy access to open spaces.
I am looking forward to an exciting future with a low carbon footprint and a nourishing commute.
Byron Wheeler, Head Chef, Worminster Farm and Cultjar, May 2021