Xanthe Gladstone is a chef and seasonal food advocate based in the beautiful countryside of the Hawarden Estate, North Wales. Being a strong activist for food sustainability, we delve into the importance of eating healthier, sustainable foods and Xanthe’s tips on how you can join in.
Could you tell us where your passion for nature and food sustainability first begun?
I think it’s been a very long time coming – if that makes sense. I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by nature and so I think I had a long appreciation and understanding of it. I lost this a little bit in my teens but it slowly started to come back towards the end of my time at University. After I graduated and was a little lost on what to do next, I started getting really interested in food sustainability and cooking, that interest turned into a bit of an obsession. I became fascinated with the work of Dan Barber and that led me into lots of different avenues like growing your own food, mushroom foraging, cooking seasonally, and understanding regenerative farming. I had my head in a book about one or other of these topics for the best part of two years and I soon realised that I couldn’t not at least try to turn this passion into a career.
Nailing that work / life balance can be hard, do you have any advice on this and what is your favourite way to relax?
It can be hard for sure, especially when you love what you do, it’s hard to switch off! My work is often very physical and fast paced, especially when I have lots of supper clubs on, so it can be exhausting for my body as well as my mind. For the last few months I’ve really got back into exercise, more specifically hot yoga, which has been an absolute game changer for me. Stretching out and sweating is something I love doing. Exercise is for some people and isn’t for others, but try to find an exercise that really suits you and what you like doing, if you actually enjoy it then you’re more likely to do it consistently. It’s really helped me switch off and as a result had a hugely beneficial effect on my mental health. I also try to spend some time away from my phone when I want to properly switch off too or leave my phone at home and walk the dogs.
You’re a strong advocate for Food and Sustainability, how can you become more sustainable when it comes to food?
It is a huge issue and one that has many different avenues but I think having a better understanding of where our food comes from is a good place to start. Luckily for us, the supermarkets make this very easy by having to display the country of origin of their fresh produce. So, when you are in the supermarket, have a look at the label and maybe try to stick to produce that comes from the UK, or maybe in winter Europe. It’s such an easy way to really get to know a bit more about seasonal eating, and you’ll realise that the UK actually has a lot to offer, especially in summer.
People perceive moving to the countryside is when you want to settle down and relax at an older age. You proved this wrong by returning back from the corporate life to focus on growing fresh produce and cookery, is this something you want to influence more of for the younger generation?
I think yes, but more generally I would like to be able to influence younger generations to have a bit more confidence in a pursuing a career that they truly love! If that involves moving to the countryside, then I hope seeing my journey will inspire them to do something similar. I am very aware that I was very lucky to have a home in the countryside to go back to as I didn’t grow up in London, before I moved into my own cottage, so moving back in with my parents gave me some time to test the waters and figure out whether this was definitely what I wanted to do, not everyone has the opportunity. I hope that younger generations realise that there are so many different options when starting your career, and that city life isn’t for everyone.
What would you recommend for people living in the city who still want to grow fresh produce with limited space?
There so much you can grow indoors or on a really small balcony. Tomato or chilli plants are such a fun thing to grow because they are Mediterranean plants anyway so like the heat of a home (to an extent). I always recommend growing herbs on a windowsill or balcony because some herbs are very hardy (like rosemary, thyme, sage) and others like parsley and basil will grow really well in summer. I use multiple herbs every single day so they are something that’s really worth growing for me.
Top 3 things you can’t live without whilst your baking/cooking?
- A good non-stick pan and chopping board
- Olive oil
- And of course, Maldon Salt!
What does a typical working day look like for you at the Hawarden Estate?
My days are very varied so it’s hard to say what a typical day is like but I will attempt. I’ll start by walking my dogs and while I’m walking them check on the hens, and water the garden if it’s been very dry. There are a team of three of us in the garden so I’ll usually try to catch up with them around 9am and talk through jobs for the day/week. Then I may spend a couple of hours in the garden first thing followed by meetings with the kitchen team at Hawarden Estate Farm Shop or the events team at The Good Life Society, our office is in the middle of the gardens. Usually at lunch I go home and try to film a recipe video for Instagram, I kill two birds with one stone by cooking/eating lunch and creating content as I don’t really have time otherwise to do so. Then in the afternoon I’ll probably work from home catching up on emails, on Zooms, and organising logistics of events I’ve got coming up. In the evening I do hot yoga at Hot Pod in Chester, and then eat, watch tv and chill.
Your favourite plant-based recipe to make?
Lots of pasta sauces I make are accidentally plant-based, and they’re a great thing to make to to get lots of veg in but also cook something delicious. My go to at the moment is a Slow Cooked Aubergine and Tomato Sauce. Not to be this person but there’s a recipe for it on my Instagram if you wanted to check it out.
Psst…Keep your eyes peeled on both our socials in the New Year, as Maldon Salt and Xanthe Gladstone are teaming up to celebrate all things veg and sustainability ahead of the upcoming Veganuary Month!