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Swan Parente

Founder and Trustee,
The School of Artisan Food

Director, The Welbeck Bakehouse

Alison Swan Parente photo

“I founded The School of Artisan Food in 2009 when I realised that I couldn't find any good artisan bakers for the bakery that I had set up. My background - working with challenging adolescents - led me to believe that everyone has the potential to contribute to society, however unpromising a start they have. Showing people the magic of transforming flour and water into bread, milk and rennet into cheese and curing raw meats to become charcuterie was where we started. This soon widened out into an interest in the whole food system and how basic it is to our culture, health and economic life.

The School of Artisan Food is a small beacon of good practise in education about healthy, sustainable food. Our students are not only eminently employable, but also take into the workplace fine skills, a great work ethic, environmental awareness and open, entrepreneurial minds.

My greatest pleasure is to see students of all ages from all walks of life producing delicious food in a thoughtful way. They leave SAF with the confidence to develop new products and sometimes to start their own new businesses."

Top of the Shop with Tom Kerridge' will transmit twice a week on BBC Two at 8pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 17th April. Nisha Katona and I shall appear as food producer judges. The 8 episode series gives passionate kitchen table producers an opportunity to showcase their produce to real customers (and the judges) as they attempt to convince all that their product is the best and deserves a permanent space on our shelves.

What is Artisan Food?

“Artisan” is a term used to describe food produced by non-industrialised methods, often handed down through generations but now in danger of being lost. Tastes and processes, such as fermentation, are allowed to develop slowly and naturally, rather than curtailed for mass-production.

There is no single definition of artisan food. Artisan producers should understand and respect the raw materials with which they work, they should know where these materials come from and what is particularly good about them. They should have mastered the craft of their particular production and have a historical, experiential, intuitive and scientific understanding of what makes the process that they are engaged in successful.

They should know what tastes good and be sensitive to the impact of their production on people and the environment.

Understanding and mastering artisan processes, such as bread making, cheese making, brewing and charcuterie and confectionery, produces a great sense of achievement and wonderful new skills. The School of Artisan Food teaches these skills from a beginner’s level through to much more advanced courses for experienced practitioners. 

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