Torode advocates farmer contact

Do chefs really care about farmers?" was the thought-provoking theme of Australian chef and Masterchef presenter John Torode's speech at the EFFP conference.

He said his answer was an unequivocal "yes", as he puts his success as a restaurateur down to his relationships with farmers, with whom he deals direct.

His mission when he set up Smiths of Smithfields eight years ago, he said, was to provide good honest food, sourced locally. However, initially, he found it hard to get farmers to deliver direct to him. There were logistical obstacles, so he had to work in partnership with suppliers to get them to invest in the infrastructure of transport. He now receives 300 deliveries a week - around 43 a day. "One of my meat suppliers has linked up with a cheese supplier, so the front of his van is used for cheese and the back end for meat. He doesn't do deliveries during peak hours, but at the end of the day."

Despite the current economic downturn, Torode believes that provenance with a big P is important to customers. "The motivation now is 'less is more' and customers are becoming savvy, so when they eat out, they want to be assured that the food quality is good and consistent."

However, Torode added, "Low prices do not mean low quality."