We recently found ourselves with a big role to fill in our farm restaurant, The Riverford Field Kitchen, as we said goodbye to head chef, James Dodd, who returned to his home town of Liverpool.
It can be a challenge to find chefs who are as obsessed with vegetables as we are, and even more so when the predecessor was such a veg nerd that they had a whole arm tattooed in dedication to the green stuff, but we’re delighted to have found one, in the form of Patrick Hanna, whose Riverford journey first began in 2008.
“When I moved from Belfast to London, I took a job washing dishes in this weird pub turned restaurant in Islington, serving organic food. The pub was called the Duke of Cambridge. This led to a short stint at the Riverford Field Kitchen. I had no idea what an amazing journey of fascination with food and farming this would get going. Ten years on, I’m back and excited to be cooking these big, heart warming dishes again.”
After that initial year, Patrick’s food journey went worldwide with stints cooking on a farm in Spain, at a biodynamic vineyard in Australia and on fishing boats. This experience of cooking at source ultimately circled back to where it all began, here on our south Devon farm.
As well as the nostalgic feeling The Field Kitchen and Devon give Patrick, another love for the restaurant stems from the unique connection the food served has with the surrounding fields. Coming up with a daily changing menu dependent on what is being harvested at the time is a daunting task for many, but Patrick welcomes it and is excited by the challenge.
One of his fondest food memories is picking apart an artichoke as a child and dipping it in vinaigrette, not really knowing what to do, but enjoying the tactile experience and its resemblance to its organic form. He believes in the power of simplicity and quality ingredients, and hates food that is unrecognisable from its natural form, specifically referencing cubed carrots.
It seems like a return to Riverford was meant to be for Patrick, especially as someone who shares a unique love of artichokes and cardoons with founder Guy Singh-Watson. Either that or our big, colourful sharing platters of organic veg and infamous sticky toffee pud are too good to stay away from!