The Wild Kitchen, in Deal Kent, was launched in 2012 by Lucia Stuart a professional forager and chef. The company hosts wild food adventures combining coastal foraging with delicious wild food feasts.
Interview with Lucia Stuart founder of The Wild Kitchen
What were you doing before you set up The Wild Kitchen in 2012?
I was a chef in London dining rooms, but I missed the direct with ingredients. Throughout the 1990's I owned a cafe/restaurant in rural South West France. We cooked local food directly from 'Le terroir'; (the land); fig sorbet, elderflower cordial, wild mushrooms and nettle soup. A war veteran and botanist came into the cafe bringing wild plants to use in the kitchen and bar. He was my mentor. France had a huge influnce on my food style. A few years after working in London I decided to embrace rural life again; I made a conscious decision to embrace simplicity.
How do you become a professional forager?
Its a slow burn. I have been foraging all my life. In my childhood, we ate dandelion salad, sorrel omelette and bowls of nettle soup. My father was a gourmet cook and he cooked these plants not because they were 'wild' but because they tasted delicious and were readily available. In 2011, I published a foraging book for children called, Eating Flowers. I wanted to connect screen children to nature. Their parents said to me, “but we want to learn about edible plants too", which planted the seed for teaching. Excuse the pun !
Learn about plants little by little and enjoy them daily.
You're looking at this in a far more 'gourmet' way than some other foragers - what are some of the most exotic meals you can whip up using foraged coastal ingredients?
Simple food does taste sublime, a sophisticated approach to cooking showcases my technical skills and is inspiring for guests. Surprise and delight are important parts of the day. Seasonal ingredient are presented in the most amazing way; chocolate covered beech leaves or lilac blossom Turkish Delight. Leaves, flowers and seaweed can be powdered into bright colours or a fresh oyster used as a mayonnaise.
Does it surprise the people on your courses just how good foraged food can be?
Yes. Customers often mention the new flavours that linger on the tongue for such a long time. The flavours have never be tasted before. There have been some funny descriptions; a piece of seaweed that tastes like “mushrooms-on-toast with-butter". Not only is wild food nutrient laden but it has zero miles.
We hear you’ve worked with the Eden Project & the BBC - how did this happen, what did you do with them?
In April 2016 I filmed with Dr. Michael Morley. We were in praise of the Brassica oleracae. I worked with Paul Hollywood on Pies & Puds Tv programme, finding ingredients for baking. We discussed seaweed and sea buckthorn. I was commissioned by The Eden Project to lead an Edible Seashore foray and show how to cook seaweed and make it taste delicious.
What’s you’re favourite meal using foraged ingredients?
I relish what grows around me at the time. 100% pure & natural ingredients from the local landscape. I forage where ever I am; the leaves of the Baobab tree in Africa, orange blossoms and carob in Spain. Nature's bounty never ceases to provide. Freshly picked, 'living' food will taste beautiful and nourish us to the maximum. I am sad that people often walk past it.
Is there something that most people living in England would be able to find nearby to forage? Yes definitely.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Learning how to identify and gather wild food truly gives one a feeling of connection to the land. It heals and nourishes the body and soul. To promote and encourage this is a terrific privilege.