About

The FoodTalk Show

The FoodTalk Radio Show has been founded by Sue Nelson, CEO of Breakthrough Funding.

Our programme was launched in March 2016 to showcase food tech, food innovation and to promote artisan producers. Food and drink experts from around the country also discuss the latest trends in everything from distribution and delivery, to taste profiles and tech innovation. 

Sue Nelson is a Tech London Advocate and leads its FoodTech group. She has appeared on nearly every national radio programme in the UK from Radio 1’s Newsbeat to the Today programme and from Jeremy Vine to Radio 4’s The Food Programme. She was formerly CEO of NW Fine Foods and has been a regular guest on television programmes as diverse as Trisha and The Culture Show

She is obsessed by great food and its provenance and has been a food writer for Cheshire Life and Lancashire Life. She is also author of the NW Fine Food Guide with Simon Rimmer of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch and Tricks of the Restaurant Trade.

FoodTalk aims

Sue wants to publicise and highlight the work of food tech and artisan food makers in the UK. Particularly to show growing trends in the food sector such as:

  • A general move to develop less industrialised food products.
  • A desire to produce healthier alternatives.
  • The search for ‘authentic’ foods with high quality ingredients.
  • The rise of ‘free from’ foods to counteract allergies and food intolerance and to accommodate ethical and religious constraints.
  • The desire to create more wholesome and healthy food at home, quickly and with the minimum amount of fuss and equipment.
  • The interest in food as a general topic, including its history and provenance.

There is a growing “foodtech” scene, where small producers are successfully gaining supermarket listings or delivering to retail/restaurant outlets and selling direct to consumers online. The FoodTalk Show wants to showcase these producers and the whole food tech infrastructure surrounding it and give food innovators the profile and ‘airtime’ they deserve.

Why I hate Heston - by Sue Nelson

I'm on a mission to bring back simple cooking for ordinary people. Television cooking seems to have evolved into a voyeuristic chemistry lesson, or learning to win at gastronomic Jenga. Exhibit A in the Frankenstein category is a ‘chef’ called Heston, wearing glasses that resemble safety goggles and a jacket that looks like a white lab coat.

I hate all that culinary alchemy and molecular gastronomy shit on tv, and it’s personified by Heston Blumenthal. I admit I’d be quite happy to eat in his restaurants (if I could ever afford it), but that’s because I’m amazed at his skill in that context, and that context only. His television shenanigans are the problem not his restaurant cooking. It’s the antithesis of what I passionately feel about buying, cooking and serving food. And, it’s making us all fat.

He might have three Michelin stars (although I’m not sure what that measures), and plaudits for his sardine on toast sorbet, snail porridge and pairings of salmon and liquorice and cauliflower and chocolate. But it’s not cooking. Not for me in my kitchen, with limited worktop space, only four saucepans and no sous vide machine to be found in the cupboard. I think it actually puts people off cooking at home, eroding their confidence because they don’t own a melon baller. Nothing for it but to seek solace in the industrialised crap that is the ready meal. Ping.

He once did a programme where he made a good old-fashioned Black Forest gateau. It used to be a firm favourite, but died a death sometime after the 1970s. Heston reckons it’s making a comeback because the combination of chocolate, cream, cherries and kirsch is sublime. All true, of course.

If you’re interested and have four days to spare, one of his cookbooks explains how to make it. In his recipe there are 37 ingredients, and for the equipment you need a whipping cream canister and charges, vacuum seal storage bag with one way valve, vacuum cleaner, digital probe and paint gun. Later there’s a bit about making ice cream, where you need to create some custardly-like stuff that you keep at exactly 72ºC for 15 minutes using a digital probe to ensure the temperature doesn’t drop. You’re also supposed to use liquid nitrogen to freeze the mixture at -197ºC. He doesn’t say where you can buy liquid nitrogen from though. Tesco? If you’re struggling he helpfully suggests you can use dry ice instead. Waitrose?

I’d guess that such exploits have put off thousands of people (yet again), trying to cook at home using ingredients they bought in Lidl on the way home from work. Because on TV, the act of preparing food is seen as too alien, complicated and difficult. I’m using Heston as a symbol here. He’s just another in a long line of manly chefs who’ve spent decades not cooking for family or friends in the confines of a domestic kitchen, but providing restaurant food in an environment of wall-to-wall stainless steel for people he never sees.

These guys have their ingredients delivered, use minimum wage skivvies for chopping and washing up and don’t see their own families because of the unsociable hours they have to work. What do they know about cooking at home day after day, year after year, decade after decade? Absolutely nothing.

Exhibit B is Masterchef. The home of gurning into camera and coming up with appalling clichés including “it doesn’t get any tougher than this.” Performing tricky heart bypass surgery possibly? Or trying to find a solution to young men joining the jihad?

Hosted by Greg Wallace, the ‘famous’ barrer boy greengrocer and an Australian bloke who can’t say pasta (paaar-stah) properly. They take talented home cooks who produce amazing food for their families, and progressively teach them how to cook as if they’re in a restaurant kitchen. Why?

The more they learn how to faff and interfere with great ingredients and pile them high in a Jenga effect, the better their chances of winning the title. If it all topples over, they’ve lost. It just doesn’t make any sense. Meanwhile the health, wealth and education of the public regarding good ingredients and nutritious, great tasting meals with minimal intervention, takes a back seat. I tend to agree with Elizabeth David “To be a good celebrity chef you need not only teach people how to cook, but make them want to cook.” In this respect Greg, Australian bloke and Heston are complete failures.

Such programmes make us believe that cooking is a set of rubrics and chemical reactions. There’s a definitive, unassailable answer to good taste, like a mathematical equation, and that’s how you devise recipes. Your challenge therefore is to find the ultimate chemical reaction using absurd gadgetry you have no room for. Forget the fact you know how to make a great bowl of stew with veg from the allotment and shoulder of mutton from the local farm using the recipe your grandmother gave you. Tut tut, that’s not going to get you anywhere.

To be acclaimed as a cook you must unlearn it all, get out the safety goggles, then find a way of piling bits of food into a skyscraper tower so it’s impossible to get at. And don’t forget to add a bit of foam, chiffonade the basil, and serve with some sauce in a teeny weeny designer jug on the side.

Families have arrived at lovingly cooked meals generation after generation, long before the macho celebrity chef arrived. The people who originally developed recipes for pastries, pies, pancakes, preserves, puddings and parfaits are true artists and innovators. They didn’t own paint guns, vacuum seal storage bags, sous vide baths, digital probes or use liquid nitrogen. Their recipes and techniques were the result of accident, art and ancestry. Compiled and executed by a mysterious drawn-out journey that could never be planned - the skill of a family member who was desperate to pass on their research and knowledge, colliding with amazing natural produce on their doorstep. Hell, they didn’t know why x went with y, it just tasted superb and they wanted to share it.

Molecular gastronomy is dry, faddish, sterile, macho and boring. Traditional domestic cooking is passionate, personal, witty, unique and easy to eat. It has character and style.

So down with the chefs who make us feel we’re not good enough to cook in our own kitchen for ourselves, our friends or our families. Let’s have more home cooks and more local producers showing us their experimental secrets instead. Someone like Darina Allen who makes ordinary things taste fabulous and has a family history of cooking real food going back to the stone ages. If you don’t know who she is, it’s not your fault. That’s the scary power of the media who much prefer middle-aged white blokes, even if they’ve never been to Sainsbury’s or unloaded the dishwasher.

Sue Nelson, The Food Talk Show

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