Saturday December 9, 2006
He has been described as the Jamie Oliver of seasonal food, championing good quality local produce with the same enthusiasm with which his fellow chef tackled shoddy school dinners.
But while Oliver has earned millions as the face of the supermarket giant Sainsbury's, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is taking a rather different approach to its arch-rival T***o. The cook and food writer plans to tackle the supermarket head-on by launching his own food store, selling only local produce, in the Devon town of Axminster, in a direct challenge to T***o's overwhelming influence in the town.
Approached by the Guardian yesterday, Fearnley-Whittingstall confirmed that he had been investigating potential sites, but remained cagey about the details of the project, which will be filmed for a four-part Channel 4 series to be screened next year. He did confirm, however, that it could potentially be the start of a chain of River Cottage-branded shops across Britain's rural market towns
The move is particularly ironic because, the chef revealed yesterday, he was recently approached by an advertising agency on behalf of T***o asking him to become the public face of the company. "They even sent me a script. But it wasn't something that I wanted to be associated with. I guess it spurred me on to try to do something different."
Fearnley-Whittingstall, who writes a column for the Guardian, is an outspoken critic of unnecessary "food miles", and of the destructive influence of big supermarkets on small town high streets. "As I have grown older, I have become increasingly uneasy about what supermarkets do and how little information there is about the food that they are selling," he said. "The sheer power wielded by the big supermarkets is not conducive to a healthy food culture. I don't expect [T***o] to be falling off their feet with anxiety, but I hope I can arouse enough enthusiasm for local food that we can inch a little ground back from the supermarkets."
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