Food Programme

Food Programme

United Kingdom

Investigating every aspect of the food we eat


Chef Stress  

Dan Saladino investigates current pressures on chefs and the darker side of the restaurant kitchen. From breakdowns to addictions, is it a profession with more problems than most? Dan hears from a range of chefs who open up about the way their chosen profession has affected their lives, including Mark Hix, Rene Redzepi, Matty Matheson, Paul Cunningham, Shaun Hill and Philip, who works through an agency cooking in the kitchens of pubs, chains and restaurants on our high streets. Giving an over view is Kat Kinsman, a journalist who came out about her own experiences with depression when she was working for CNN in the United States. After meeting a succession of chefs who spoke to her in confidence about their own mental health problems she set up a website "Chefs With Issues". She's now head from thousands of chefs around the world who have spoken out about the impact the restaurant world and kitchen life has had on their mental health. Mark Hix talks about his friend, the late chef Jeremy Strode who took his own life after decades of cooking in Sydney. Jeremy had invested much of his time raising awareness of mental health issues and had supported a suicide prevention charity, RUOK. Mark opens up about the impact Jeremy's death has had on him, as well as the wider pressures facing people in the hospitality industry. Chef Paul Cunningham, describes how he woke up one Sunday afternoon and realising he couldn't move his left arm. A stress related blood clot was the cause and he ended up spending five weeks in hospital recovering. He describes the addictive quality of kitchen work, and also the stresses and strains it can bring. Penny Moore, Chief Executive of Hospitality Action, the benevolent organisation set up in 1837 to provide help for people working, or have previously worked in the hospitality industry, explains that the hospitality workforce of more than 3 million, has higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse. The main issues they also deal with is bullying and harassment in the workplace. Penny believes a culture shift is underway in the industry with chefs, including Sat Bains, reducing working hours and opening times to improve the work-life balance of staff. Philip, a 63 year old agency chef describes his working life in the kitchens of pubs and restaurant chains, saying a just-in-time work culture is making the profession a tougher one to survive in. Shaun Hill, the celebrated chef at the Walnut Tree Inn in Abergavenny provides a reminder of why so many people love to work in kitchens and why he's loved spending his working life in restaurants.

Dishing The Dirt on Clean Eating  

Grace Dent discovers what has made Anthony Warner into the Angry Chef and unpicks the role that social media plays in spurring people towards diet plans and 'healthy-eating' regimes Anthony set up a blog last year to vent his fury at what he describes as bad science in his quest to reveal the truth behind so-called 'healthy eating'. He believes we're bombarded by false messages and claims about food. In his quest to find out if Anthony's claims are justified, we meet Helen West, a registered dietician, and asks how damaging 'fad-diets' are. What happens if you cut out carbohydrates, dairy and gluten from your diet and we meet Eve Simmons. Eve became seriously ill with anorexia and blames the array of glossy websites featuring perfectly sculpted bodies, in part, for her illness. We'll meet Dr Judy Swift who has been studying the link between social media and Orthorexia: eating disorders brought on by obsessing about eating certain foods. But is Anthony's anger justified? James Duigan is the man behind 'Bodyism'. He's developed a plan of eating healthily whilst exercising regularly, but encourages detox plans. But what exactly is wrong with wanting to exercise and make yourself feel better? We'll discover if Anthony has every right to be angry, or whether he should simply calm down.

Patience Gray: A Life Through Food  

"Poverty rather than wealth gives the good things of life their true significance. Home-made bread rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with olive oil, shared - with a flask of wine - between working people, can be more convivial than any feast." So writes Patience Gray in the introduction to her 1986 award winning book 'Honey From A Weed: Fasting & Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, The Cyclades and Apulia'. To some, Patience's name evokes a masterpiece, one of the most evocative and imaginative food books written in modern times. To others, her name will mean very little; Patience Gray, by her own admission, kept a low profile, living and writing for most of her working life among rural people in Italy, Greece and Catalonia. Patience, who died in 2005, would have been 100 in 2017. So Sheila Dillon looks back on Patience Gray's life through food with the help of Adam Federman, author of a new biography 'Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray' and food writers Jojo Tulloh and Louise Gray. They hear from the Food Programme archives. From two visits to Patience's home in Puglia recorded by Derek Cooper and Simon Parkes. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

Summer Camping Special  

Sheila Dillon and The Food Programme team go camping, to discover the possibilities of food and drink in the outdoors. Joining Sheila around a Monmouthshire campfire are BBC 6Music presenter Cerys Matthews, author of 'How to Eat Outside' Genevieve Taylor, forager and wild drinks teacher Andy Hamilton, Matthew De Abaitua - author of 'The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars', and Josh Sutton - who has just written a book called 'Outdoor Ovens' and is also known as the Guyrope Gourmet. Produced by Rich Ward.

Greece: Return to the land?  

This week, Sheila Dillon is in Greece to speak to farmers and food producers about how they are carving new lives for themselves out of the financial crisis. Greeks have now lived through seven years of austerity after the most catastrophic European financial crisis in modern times. Unemployment is above 23%, higher than anywhere in the EU. Amongst the under 25's the figure is more than 46%. Life is tough in Greece. But food and farming tell a more uplifting story. Employment in food production and farming is up. Many young people left their former lives in the cities and moved back to the countryside to start farms and food start-ups. Now, Sheila Dillon takes a trip from Greece's second city Thessaloniki in the north, to the capital, Athens to meet food producers and farmers in Greece. She asks how they are surviving, and whether food and farming might help Greece in it's recovery. She asks senior advisor in the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, Professor Charalambos Kasimis, what the Government are doing to help Greece's newest farmers. And finds that part of the story involves a failed UK crowd-funding campaign to pay off the Greek national debt. Presented by Sheila Dillon. Produced by Clare Salisbury.

Sandor Katz and the Art of Fermentation  

Sandor Katz has been enchanted by fermentation, the mysterious process by which microbes transform food and drink, for some two decades. Since making his first crock of sauerkraut, his fascination with fermentation has broadened, deepened, and he now travels the world giving workshops. Based in Tennessee, his books including 'Wild Fermentation' and the encyclopaedic 'The Art of Fermentation' have helped many thousands of people to get started with making their own ferments, experimenting with flavours, fruits, vegetables, spices... and microorganisms. Dan Saladino travels to Sandor's forest home in rural Tennessee to meet Sandor, hear his story, and discover for himself the transformative, delicious potential of these mostly simple culinary processes. Coming up in a future edition of The Food Programme, a practical masterclass in fermentation with Sandor Katz. Presenter: Dan Saladino Producer: Rich Ward. Photo: Jacqueline Schlossman.

Hunting With The Hadza 2: The Microbiome.  

Dan Saladino asks if hunter gatherers, the Hadza tribe, hold the key to our future health. Presented and produced by Dan Saladino.

Hunting with the Hadza  

Dan Saladino eats with one of the last remaining hunter gatherer tribes, Tanzania's Hadza.

Diet and Dementia: An Update  

What can I do? That was the question posed to us by Food Programme listener Angie Roberts who cares for her mother Clara. Clara, like 850 thousand others in the UK, has dementia, and meal times were making her anxious. 9 months on from our last edition on food and dementia, Sheila Dillon hears from people living with dementia to see how food figures in their lives. She catches up with dementia entrepreneur James Ashwell, founder of and hears how he has made gadgets to make eating and drinking easier, available on the high street. Sheila also hears again from award winning food writer Paula Wolfert and her biographer and friend Emily Kaiser Thelin, and their work together on a book telling Paula's life story. From documenting Morocco and its cuisine in the 1970s, to the changes Paula has made to her diet to try to ameliorate her disease. Sheila speaks to Professor of nutritional medicine, Margaret Rayman and nutritional epidemiologist Dr Martha Clare Morris, on the latest research into the connections between what we eat and whether or not we develop dementia. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced by Clare Salisbury This programme is an update of the edition 'Diet & Dementia' from October 2016 which recently won 'Radio Programme of the Year' at the Fortnum & Mason food and drink awards. Photo credit: William Bayer.

Alastair Little: A Life through Food  

As he prepares to move to Australia, leaving a lasting culinary legacy here in the UK, chef and food writer Alastair Little shares his life in food with Sheila Dillon. Born in Lancashire, from a very early age Alastair Little paid careful attention to the food and flavours around him. On early holidays around Europe with his parents, his eyes (and tastebuds) started to open up to a new world of possibility. After graduating from university, a career in food was far from clear; but 1970s Soho in London became the launchpad for a self-taught chef who has had a real and lasting impact. His eponymous restaurant in Frith Street was pioneering; and legendary - and a new generation of chefs passed through its kitchen, sat at the tables and drank at its bar. His books, including Keep it Simple (written with Richard Whittington) and Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen, transmitted his simple, thoughtful approach to home cooks all over Britain. Featuring chefs Angela Hartnett and Jeremy Lee, baker and food writer Dan Lepard, former Editor of the Good Food Guide Tom Jaine, and the chef, restaurateur and writer Jacob Kenedy. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Women & Beer  

Think beer. Think boys with beards? Think again. The last time Sheila Dillon reported on the women in British beer, in 2013, she met Sara Barton head brewer at Brewster's brewery in Lincolnshire. At the time Sara was the only woman head brewer in the country and women were drinking only a tenth of all the beer sold in the UK. Today that figure has nearly tripled, Sara has become the first woman to be named 'Brewer of the Year' by the Guild of Beer Writers, and women all around the UK are turning to jobs in brewing. And yet Sheila still prefers a glass of wine in the pub. In this programme, beer sommelier Jane Peyton introduces Sheila to some of the most exciting beers being brewed by women brewers (or brewsters) in the country. Louise Mulroy and Lucy Stevenson, co-creators of podcast 'We Made a Beer' demystify the art of brewing. Chemical engineer-come-head brewer at London's award winning Wild Card brewery shares a one-off brew created by a group of brewers on International Women's Day. We hear from 'FEM.ALE' a British festival for all celebrating beer brewed by women. And Sheila asks if there is a biological reason she remains unconvinced by a pint of bitter. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

Cult Fiction and Food  

From Confederacy of Dunces to Absolute Beginners and On The Road, Dan Saladino explores cult novels to find out how writers Jack Kerouac, Colin MacInnes and John Kenney Toole used food. Authors have always used food and drink in their narratives to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place but Dan chooses three novels with in which food and drink plays a very specific role. In Jack Kerouac's On The Road, the "beat life" of the 1940's and 1950's turns out to be one of feast or famine. The book, a disguised autobiographical work based on his travel journals across America, contains some of the most delicious and rich descriptions of food, as well as mournful accounts of hunger and longing. Colin MacInnes, the author of the novel Absolute Beginners, set in late 1950's London, uses brief food and drink references to reveal the lifestyle and mind-set of a teenage counterculture and early modernist movement. DJ Ed Piller helps explains the surprising significance of a smoke salmon sandwich. And then there's A Confederacy of Dunces. A comic novel whose main character Ignatius has a legendary appetite for the junk food of New Orleans.


Sheila Dillon takes a journey into the culinary use, history and the latest medical findings about turmeric. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family of plants - and its rhizome, the part mainly used in cooking, has a deep orange-golden colour that marks it out. Responsible for this distinctive hue is the bioactive compound, curcumin. Turmeric - and curcumin - have attracted a lot of attention in recent years, and much has been claimed about medicinal properties. In India, where most turmeric is still grown, turmeric - or haldi - has long been revered and widely used both as an essential savoury food ingredient and as a medicine, with the golden rhizome being particularly valued within the ancient medical system of Ayurveda. Sheila investigates the health claims about turmeric and curcumin, talking to Dr Michael Mosley - former GP and presenter of BBC Two's Trust Me I'm A Doctor, about his team's recent research findings. Sheila also hears about an article published last month in British Medical Journal Case Reports, and speaks to its co-author Professor Jamie Cavenagh, a leading expert on blood cancer - and one of his patients Dieneke Ferguson, who turned to curcumin after all conventional treatment for her cancer was stopped. Also featuring in the programme are cook and food writer Monisha Bharadwaj - author of The Indian Cookery Course, Susie Emmett - radio producer who went to Andhra Pradesh, India, on the turmeric trail, as well as Dr Stephen Harris, Druce Curator of the Herbaria at Oxford University. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Mac 'n' Cheese  

Sheila Dillon charts the rise of the humble mac'n'cheese: a dish that crosses culture and classes and has established itself as a popular comfort food across the world. We discover the history of the dish. Food historian Polly Russell tells us how a macaroni recipe first appeared in the UK in the 1700s and slowly it became more and more prevalent over the subsequent centuries. We'll hear how macaroni cheese became a staple in the UK: cheap and easy to make its popularity spread. It was also embraced by Caribbean cuisine, regularly eaten as a side dish, especially with Sunday lunch, and now there's even an annual celebration of the meal. Each May Glasgow hosts 'Pastaval' - a festival of Mac n Cheese. The event sells-out each year and is popular with everyone. And whilst you can still buy basic packet versions, tinned macaroni cheese and simple home-made macaroni cheese is easy to make, there are many 'going-to-town' on the dish: Lobster mac n cheese anyone? This is the story of a dish that crosses cultures and classes to be the world's favourite comfort food. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

The Chef Who Vanished - The Story of Jeremiah Tower  

At the age of 30, with no formal training Jeremiah Tower became a chef. His approach to cooking changed the food world for good. Then he walked away. Dan Saladino tells the story of the man who many consider to be the first "celebrity chef". The food writer and broadcaster Anthony Bourdain has described Jeremiah Tower as a dangerous person to know, to others he's the Jay Gatsby figure of the restaurant world. Born in the USA, brought up in Australia and England, his childhood was, on a privileged one, born into a world of wealth, travel and a first class lifestyle. It was also strange and difficult with a mother and father who were unusually detached from their son. As he ventured into the world's best restaurants, hotels and ocean liners he sought comfort and pleasure in food, kitchens and cooking. At aged 30, and a failed architect, he answered a job ad to work in California's Chez Panisse restaurant, founded by the cook of America's counter culture Alice Waters. The restaurant and Jeremiah's cooking would become world famous. In 1984 he set up his own restaurant in San Francisco Stars, which went on to become the most famous and lucrative restaurant in America. Jeremiah's approach to breaking free from French influences and cooking with local ingredients would influence chefs and restaurants around the world. Night's at Stars would become the stuff of legend with diners ranging from Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn to Pavarotti and the Beastie Boys. Just over a decade later Jeremiah Tower would put down his apron and walk away. Dan Saladino tells his story.

The Herbal World of Jekka McVicar  

Culinary herb grower Jekka McVicar shares her life through food with Sheila Dillon. Taking a walk through the small herb farm where Jekka grows some 600 varieties of herb (300 of them culinary), Sheila discovers a world of ancient knowledge, vivid flavours, and taste possibilities. Having worked closely with chefs from Jamie Oliver to Raymond Blanc, and played with her band Marsupilami at the first ever Glastonbury Festival (and being paid in milk), Jekka is also inspiring a new generation of chefs including Peter Sanchez-Iglesias at the Michelin-starred restaurant Casamia. Peter shows Sheila just two of the many ways he uses herbs in his highly original cooking. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Out Like a Lamb  

Lamb. Long a staple of the UK dinner table. But one glance at the statistics and it's obvious that 'Generation Y' aren't inspired. Estimates suggest under 30s are buying just 15g of lamb a week. That's just over 10 lamb chops in a year and less than half the UK average. In this programme Sheila Dillon asks young butchers, food entrepreneurs and a 3rd generation sheep farmer in his thirties whether there's any saving shepherd's pie, lamb shanks and Irish stew. She gets a lesson in Iranian midweek lamb cooking from cook and author of 'The Saffron Tales' Yasmin Khan. And Ben Ebbrell and Barry Taylor from SORTEDfood share the lamb recipes which excite their 1.7 million Youtube subscribers. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Clare Salisbury.

The Potato  

Sheila Dillon digs up the remarkable story of how potatoes changed the world, offer a whole spectrum of flavour, and might shape our food future. With Sheila are cook and food writer Anna Jones, Charles C. Mann - author of '1493 - How Europe's Discovery of the Americas Revolutionized Trade, Ecology and Life on Earth', and the potato revolutionary and agronomist Alan Wilson. Presenter: Sheila Dillon Producer: Rich Ward.

Food Stories from Venezuela Part 2: Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe  

Dan Saladino meets a woman who believes Venezuela's escape from crisis rests on chocolate. Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe is on a mission to reclaim her country's former cacao bean glory.

Food Stories from Venezuela: Eating in a Failed State.  

Venezuela is seeing its worst economic crisis in living memory. As some of the most basic ingredients become unavailable or unaffordable Dan Saladino tells the food story.

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