Wow. My 200th post on this here blog. And what a post to celebrate it with!
In January 2009, I began plotting an escape. I had no idea where it would lead or what would happen, but what I did know was that my present situation at the time was in need of an overhaul. The issue was with my working life: 50-60 hours a week doing set design and cheffing for a variety of overbearing bitchy, employers and phsycopathic chefs in London’s events industry was taking its toll on my enthusiasm after 4 years. I had seen some things and learnt some stuff too, but I wasn’t cut out for city life. Concrete jungles did little to inspire me having grown up in the depths of Sussex. I was out.
Adventure was what I was looking for, but not one that involved a physical journey from A to B. I wanted a sedentary adventure, an existence in a single place where I could create a simple life that cost virtually nothing but time and effort. Knowledge of the natural world and how to best utilise the landscape around me would be key- but this was nothing new to me and I felt confident that striking out into woods of Sussex with the right tools and a few basic staples, I would not only survive but thrive. Wild places still exist in the UK and you don’t have to go far to fined them.
Little did I know, it would be my choice of accommodation that would be central to my way of life. I wasn’t interested in yurts, teepees or benders, I wanted something fancy and different. In a bid to recapture the days of my youth, I opted for something I had always wanted, but as a boy never had the skills or tools to create. A Tree house built from natural and recycled materials.
That’s where the adventure began and my life changed forever. I became a 21st century hunter-gatherer eating my way through the wild larder. Life was simplified and other than my stomach and living arrangements I had virtually set myself free from the system. Columns and news reports followed, a book was commissioned. Suddenly there were critics and even enthusiasts, I was relatively unbothered by the all of it- I certainly couldn’t deal with it- no wifi in the woods! I had set out to do something that I wanted to do for myself in whatever way I chose and so that what I carried on doing.
Hunter Gather Cook foraging and cookery school was set up in 2011, the plan was to establish the school at the original tree house, a place I had got to know extremely well with a mental map of where to find every wild ingredient and plenty of room for roaming including a river full of fish. Unfortunately, my original bid for freedom and desire for secrecy made logistics of running courses in such a location impossible. Fortunately, with the use of a bit of countryside networking, I soon found the perfect place in which to settle and after 3 years in the same location, a place we still like to keep a little secret only revealed to course attendees, more plans are afoot.
The HGC off-grid kitchen has been one of the greatest kitchens I have ever had the pleasure to work in. Other than gas rings for heating oil and emergencies, all cooking is done on, in or well above fire. The results produced using various contraptions we’ve built and the finest wild meat from within 5 miles of Hunter Gather Cook speaks for itself. Being at the forefront of what we do means that we are constantly evolving, experimenting and establishing the best techniques for outdoor cookery and how to produce the best food using our native flora and fauna. Our HQ is no exception…
A Treehouse HQ has always been at the forefront of my mind, going back to the roots of where everything began and paying homage to it for giving me a life I never thought could exist is something I will always be grateful for. I have met some truly wonderful folk so far and no doubt will meet many more. Hunter Gather Cook is not just a foraging & cookery school, it is a way of life for those that work there and for those that spend their time there, we live and breathe it and what makes it so worthwhile is to be able to share it with those that come on our courses in the hope that wild food, be it meat or plants, will be used more regularly in kitchens across the country with sustainability in mind.
Over the last three years Hunter Gather Cook has grown at an exceptional rate, festivals, pop-ups, weddings, stag & hen do’s and wild banquets as well as all our fixed seasonal and specialist day courses are all part of what we do. It feels like the right time for a tree house, we need more space at our ground floor HQ, heading to the trees gives us a split level workspace: upstairs for dining, a bar and overnighters and downstairs for the greatest of outdoor, off-grid kitchens and prep areas with just about every wood-fired appliance you could imagine. It’s going to be epic, but then what else would you expect from a 30ft treehouse?
As ever, Natural materials will feature heavily, recycled? probably not this time! The new Treehouse HQ is being engineered with the help of the wonderful gents at Blue Forest and being constructed by myself and the rest of the HGC team. The aim is to create a unique workspace to engage and inspire everyone who comes down to our neck of the woods.
So if you booked into come and see us anytime from Mid-April, expect a day amongst the leaves! All our courses for 2014 are now online, visit www.huntergathercook.com or if you would like to enquire about a stag or hen do, corporate day, family day or private overnighter please email email@example.com
…to the TREES!!!!
Illustration by Patrick O'Leary of treehouse life for Flamingo Magazine.