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My West Country: Gill Meller

My West Country: Gill Meller

Gill Meller, chef, food writer, author, food stylist and cookery teacher is also charming, astute and enigmatic. A sort of love child of Daniel Day Lewis and Marco Pierre White. Whilst his passion for food and sharing it comes from his lovely mum and bucolic Dorset upbringing, his early career owes much to meeting Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Together, from the tenuous beginnings of River Cottage, they worked side by side to build the ethos, passion and global business that thrives today. Gill says, ‘I’m a big advocate for simple, seasonal cookery and making the most of the ingredients and the natural qualities they possess.’

Every book and TV series has Gill’s lightness of touch and expertise as well as his own River Cottage Handbook ‘Pigs and Pork’. Unsurprising then that he has written his first independent cookbook ‘Gather’, a celebration of British seasonal cooking at its best. Whilst it is a step away from the River Cottage family it is hugely supported by them. As Hugh enthuses, the new book is ‘just stunning. There’s no one I’d rather cook for me than Gill – and there’s not a recipe here I wouldn’t eagerly devour’.

Gill’s food philosophy is a shaft of bright light across the bay, ‘I like to think my cooking is a reflection of my surroundings. I take inspiration from the landscape, my locality and the amazing farmers, growers and fishermen that produce the ingredients I use.’

‘Gather’ encapsulates this completely, with exquisite photography from Andrew Montgomery, it inspires, educates and caresses in equal measure. It makes you hungry, for the food, the lifestyle and the opportunity to get friends and family around the scrubbed wooden table (Gill’s has been made for him by his sea faring furniture maker father) and feed them. ‘Mine is an approach that doesn’t call for complex processes or tricky techniques. More often than not, my recipes contain just three or four main ingredients combined in such a way as to complement each other without compromise.’

He has loved working on a project for himself, from the conception to delivery and believes he is ‘really lucky to have had the opportunity. I’m proud of what I have done and also really grateful to have had an entire year to write and shoot the book.’ There is another book project in the pipeline, an airstream food truck in central London, as well as his ongoing River Cottage relationship including writing a new handbook for them. But for now a moment of celebration for ‘Gather’ which as legendary chef Rene Redzepi from Noma says is ‘a truly beautiful book’.

Country Calling asked Gill to share his West Country…

What’s a typical weekend at home in Dorset like?

Never long enough. Lots of cooking and eating. Too much drinking. Walks to the beach, car boots, supper out (maybe). Occasionally working.

What is your favourite place in the West Country?

I have several. I love the town of Lyme Regis. It’s where I live. I’m also very fond of Eggardon Hill, Powerstock Common, Lulworth Cove and the Helford and Dart rivers.

Will you share with us a local hidden gem that you love to frequent?

Mupes Bay. But you’ll have to find out where it is..

Where do you love to eat in the south west?

I don’t know where I like to eat. I just like to go somewhere and feel happy when I leave.

I went to a place called ‘Dorshi’ the other night and had a really good meal. It’s in Chancery Lane in Bridport, Dorset. Weirdly I lived in Chancery Lane when I was a boy. Back then the restaurant was a workshop owned by a furniture maker called Ted Parker.

Best place for a campfire beach party?

Below my house in Charton Bay.

Your favourite West Country view?

I love the view from Golden cap. I think it’s one of the highest points in Dorset. It used to have a fire beacon on it when we were kids.

Where would you eat your last meal?

Somewhere beautiful, warm and familiar.

Gather by Gill Meller is published by Quadrille on 22nd September

Follow Gill on @gill.meller www.gillmeller.com

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