Paul Collins is our Executive Chef here at Yeo Valley HQ. He started working with with us about four years ago, when he led demonstrations about seasonal cookery in our Organic Garden Tea Room. When Paul isn’t working in the valley, his time revolves around playing with his children, cooking and eating!
Here’s a snapshot of his day…
‘I live in Oxford, so my day starts with an alarm call at about 5am. I have a two-hour drive down to Blagdon – which I don’t mind because I get to start thinking about the dishes I want to make. A typical day for me isn’t just about food – it might involve interviewing staff and discussing ideas with Sarah Mead, as well as creating new recipes.
We use fresh produce from the farm and Organic Garden throughout our menu in the restaurant. It sounds crazy to say you can get excited about a salad. But when you’ve made the salad with ingredients that you’ve picked from the garden that day, why shouldn’t you get excited about it?
Once we’ve got through lunchtime in the restaurant, we usually have staff meetings. At the moment, we’re gearing up to start opening Yeo Valley Canteen to the public five days a week, and I’ve been showing Sarah new menu ideas. We want to show visitors that we’re a real, family-owned British business, and that people can easily use our yogurts to help them make something delicious at home.
I hate being pigeon-holed into a specific 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job. Instead, I finish when I’m happy. I always have a list of jobs I need to achieve, and I like to push and challenge myself because you never know what tomorrow morning bring.
I love what Yeo Valley stands for. I love sitting out on the balcony overlooking the valley here at HQ – sometimes you get to see sunshine and you can see all the way to the other side of the valley. But the weather can change dramatically in an instant and then you can’t see past the nearest tree! It’s such a glorious location, so it’s great when we get to share it with visitors.
I enjoy talking to local people about being self-sufficient and eating seasonally. Some people say that cooking seasonally becomes boring in the winter, because at that time all you have are brassicas, parsnips and swedes. You can actually do some really lovely things with those ingredients, as long as you treat them with respect.
I’m very curious by nature. I like finding out about the cows on our farms and I want to talk to the guys who catch the fish in Blagdon Lake. Then I can stand in front of our visitors and talk to them about our ingredients with confidence. When you can take great, local produce, do very little to it and still make a delicious dish, it really inspires and excites people.’