Michael Caines

Top chefs, food and drink producers, and industry insiders from Devon and Cornwall have come together in a show of solidarity in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, which forced the mass closure of businesses and left the sector and its employees facing an uncertain future.

They have pledged to create a “beautiful digital cookbook to inspire comfort in adversity,” and to make the publication available to all through the JustGiving platform, asking people to give what they can in this time of financial hardship.

The production team describe the cookbook as: “A snapshot of the unique and diverse food and drink culture we have nurtured here in the West Country, and the rich network of chefs, producers and entrepreneurs who together make the region a world-class gourmet destination.”

Everyone involved is giving their time and expertise free of charge, with all funds going directly to Hospitality Action, a national charity which supports hospitality workers and has launched a Covid19 Emergency Appeal.

A JustGiving page has been set up and everyone who donates any amount, large or small, will be sent a link to download the cookbook when it is ready.

Mark Lewis, chief executive of Hospitality Action, said: “Our support has never been more urgently needed by so many people as it is now, and we need many more donations if we are to continue supporting people in acute need. We are therefore hugely grateful to the team behind this project and all the chefs who are supporting them in this wonderful initiative. On behalf of the people we’ll be able to help through your generosity, thank you.”

The cookbook, entitled ‘Comfort’, will feature recipes from chefs including Mitch Tonks, Michael Caines, Nathan Outlaw, Elly Wentworth, Paul Ainsworth, Emily Scott, Ben Tunnicliffe, Mick Smith, Jude Kereama and Chris Eden; each will be easy for families to prepare at home using local, seasonal produce – with links through to websites where the ingredients can be purchased.

Each dish will be matched with a suggested drink produced in Devon or Cornwall – the team are enlisting the help of wine merchants, vineyard owners, brewers, coffee roasters, mixologists, distillers and cider makers – and a ‘resources’ section will include advice from local growers, foragers and food writers.

The project is a collaboration between writer Lucy Studley, whose PR and marketing agency Cornwall Content specialises in food and drink; Gabriella Dyson, who is editor at publisher The Maverick Guide; and experienced food stylist, photographer and designer, Ali Green.

Studley came up with the idea after speaking to clients devastated at having to close their businesses and tell staff to stay at home.

She explained: “During the last few weeks I’ve been talking to clients every day who are heartbroken at having to close their doors just before Easter – it amounted to a collective cry of anguish. Business owners who faced losing everything repeatedly said to me, ‘if this saves one life it will be worth it.’ I wanted to do something to help – to create a positive story at this dark time and to financially support hospitality workers who face hardship.”

She added: “I was a restaurant manager for several years and I know how hard people in the hospitality sector work. I know it will recover. But taking a snapshot of the industry at its most vital seemed like a good idea, in case we need a blueprint for rebuilding it.”

Gabriella Dyson, who launched The Maverick Guide just months ago, was pleased to provide her editorial and design skills, as well as extensive contacts with Devon-based chefs and producers; The Maverick Guide will provide the publishing platform for the Comfort Cookbook.

Ali Green, a food stylist, photographer and designer with a growing reputation, has also generously donated her time to this project lending her creative eye to the beautiful publication, which will have a calming and comforting aesthetic.

It is hoped the book will be available to download in a matter of weeks but people are invited to pledge now on the JustGiving page, where there is also a link to join a mailing list and be kept updated.