Ahead of the 2017 BOOM Awards ceremony — where the HBC are sponsoring the Soil Association’s Best Organic Blogger category — we caught up with Rosie Birkett: BOOMbassador, chef, food writer and journalist. Rosie kicked off the BOOM Awards’ celebrations last month with an intimate launch party at Brick Kitchen on Columbia Road, London.
At the launch, Rosie demonstrated how to cook Organic Veg Box Soup with Organic Meat Balls, expertly supported by Helen who also shared her vast knowledge on all things organic. Pictures for this article showcase Rosie in her natural element, the kitchen!
In this interview we discuss feature ideas and inspiration, food styling, Rosie’s book ‘A Lot on her Plate‘ and trends in the health and wellness industry.
When it comes to writing columns, like your Easyjet Traveler’s intrepid food columnist, how do you manage to always come up with fresh ideas?
Keeping my ear to the ground, reading and researching. I’m lucky that I love what I do and am constantly curious about knowing what’s going on in food both at home and throughout the rest of the world. Social media is a great help too as I get story leads and ideas from people sharing links and content online.
“I’m drawn to a good story so I just follow my nose and it usually leads me to the more unusual or intriguing.”
Is there someone you have recently interviewed that really inspires you?
There have been so many! But recently Rick Stein, Tom Hunt and Skye Gyngell. I’ve grown up with Rick’s shows and recipes and Tom and Skye are leading the way in terms of sustainable cooking and tackling food waste in a professional restaurant setting.
How much research (really) do you need to put into some of your articles?
I always like to be informed before I write something — knowledge is power and my readers expect that from me. I always try to give as much background and insight as I can while making the article readable and colourful.
Is there an article / feature you are particularly fond of, and if so why?
I did a piece last year for Easyjet magazine on Lisbon’s nascent food scene. It ticked all the boxes as I really felt like I was uncovering some exciting stuff, while paying homage to the rich culinary traditions of the area. It was great fun to research and I really loved Lisbon, and met some very inspiring chefs and foodies while there. Also a piece I wrote a couple of years ago for the Independent on Sunday magazine about game with a bunch of amazing chefs from around the world including James Lowe. It’s such a shame that the Indy on Sunday is no more.
What is the main misconception you come across as a food stylist?
That we are there to make the lunch (though I’m a feeder so usually do this anyway) and that we use tricksy fake food. I’m all about the real, beautiful, natural food. Sometimes there are exceptions but if I can make it properly I will.
How did your work as a stylist help you when working on your own book?
It was lovely to be able to style my own book, because it meant that the entire project felt very authentic and creative and truly mine, and I got a say over how the food looked. A lot of work though!
Can you tell us a fun fact about your book?
I wrote some of it while living in Vancouver and travelling down the west coast of the USA; I got very inspired by the beautiful produce they have out there. The chicken and tarragon cassoulet was created in California after we got rained in one night.
Favourite recipe from the book?
The popular favourite is the salted butterscotch popcorn cheesecake, but mine is probably the broad bean, parsley and bacon risotto as it’s a tribute to my late father and I know he would have loved it. Even though he claimed not to like risotto I think this would have changed his mind!
As a food writer and journalist, what are the three top trends you have seen emerging in 2017?
I’ve seen a real drive towards sustainability and much more awareness around cooking, eating and consuming in a way that is thoughtful and positive for the environment. There are lots of discussions around zero waste and the importance of organic farming, which I think is a fantastic shift away from the ‘me’ centred rhetoric of wellness and clean eating.
Another trend is the continuing democratisation of dining and the fact that we now have fantastic informal restaurants that are offering incredible quality in terms of cooking and sourcing of ingredients, for fantastic value, in settings that are relaxed. Places like Kiln, Kricket, Hoppers and Bao.