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British Food Now: “There’s Something So Desperately Desperate about Nordic Cuisine”

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Clare Smyth, Luke French, Nathan Outlaw and Paul Cunningham join moderator Diana Henry on stage at Food on The Edge in Galway, Ireland for a panel discussion on British Food Now.

Britain, such a diverse and international country in so many ways but especially when it comes to food, is having a golden moment in respect to fine dining. But it wasn’t always that way. The panel discuss their early experiences with ‘meat and two veg’ and ‘hot pots’, which remain traditional favourites, but today there is so much more.

You only have to walk down any high-street to get a sense of the cultural diversity that makes up the British food scene. The British embrace anything culinary from far-flung places but are now beginning to realise what they’ve had at home all along. With the quality of produce on offer, straightforward British cuisine is very much at ease with itself and doesn’t need to be too convoluted.

Unlike Danish cooking says British born Paul Cunningham chef at the two Michelin star Henne Kirkeby Kro on the west coast of Denmark. “There’s something so desperately desperate about Nordic cuisine”. British cuisine, however, has been on its own journey and Cunningham references the late great Keith Floyd as an early “fire starter” in British cuisine.

Clare Smyth of two Michelin star Core in London is very clear that Core is a British restaurant. Her training is French and that will always inform her techniques, but there was no way she could cook anything other than British. “There was no way I could cook Japanese food or Nordic food because I have to have roots to that or connections to that,” she says.

“We, as chefs, as creatives, who’ve got technique and have travelled a bit can elevate those humble ingredients and take little bits of our own culture, tongue-in-cheek, have a bit of fun with it and create something beautiful from it. British food isn’t as stereotyped as that, I don’t think”.

What does Brexit mean for British food?

“I’m going to be kicked out of Denmark,” jokes Cunningham. “I’m going to open a tea shop in Cornwall.”

Clare Smyth is very calm about the whole thing. “It will be fine”, she says. “Just look at the ingredients we have they are just brilliant. We have the best fish and shellfish in the world… the people we work with in Britain are brilliant and we can get whatever we want.”

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