A new River Cottage kitchen rises from the flames
I expect there were many of you out there who were as horrified as I was to hear about the fire that devastated the main barn at Park Farm, River Cottage HQ on the night of the 7th February. Seemingly not a lot was left apart from the building’s four walls after flames swept through the place.
Thankfully no people or animals were hurt in the blaze, but River Cottage did lose its events kitchen, the home of the many courses and events which take place most days of the year.
We’d already worked with the team at River Cottage in the past and naturally wanted to do what we could to help. I literally dropped everything to drive over to Axminster on the morning of Wednesday 15th February, after contacting head of events Steve Lamb, to see what could be done.
Although it was too soon after the fire for anyone to have a clear idea of what was needed, the enthusiasm and the will to overcome this big setback were amazing. And despite going away with little more than the dimensions of a 9m by 6m2 box that needed to be filled, we nevertheless felt really inspired to help out.
The goal was to set up a field kitchen – literally in the middle of a field in a tented bespoke events space – with the power and equipment for the brigade to prepare and cook food for functions of a hundred plus guests. I did a set of block drawings for the new kitchen and sent them to Steve and head chef Gill Meller. The plans were refined and finalised by Monday, 20th February.
We then set to work to order the equipment and clear our engineers’ diaries so they could go on site to install it. After calling in a few favours from friends of our own, all the equipment arrived at our HQ in Gloucester the next day and was loaded into the lorry ready for the drive to Axminster.
As soon as we rolled up, it was all hands on deck to get everything installed in the short amount of time we had but we all worked solidly to get the cookers, fridges, dishwashers and work surfaces in place. It was a long day but we got it all in and made sure it all worked.
Driving away from the site, I reflected on a day that Anneka Rice would have been proud of. There had been a true sense of community there, a fabulous day with everyone pitching in and doing their bit to get it done. We even got deliveries of tea and cake courtesy of Pam the Jam from River Cottage, to keep us fed and watered.
The next night, 24th February, Gill and his team cooked a three course meal for 130 River Cottage guests, in the kitchen we had designed and built for them in just days. It certainly turned the four to six week lead-time we usually work to on its head and made us explore new ways of meeting our goal. But meet it we did in what was an incredibly positive experience from start to end.
Just goes to show what you can do when everyone pulls together. We wish the team at River Cottage all the best.
Dave Griffin, Space Catering