CORNISH FOOD HEROES: HUNTING FISHING AND FORAGING WITH THOM HUNT
PUBLISHED: 09:36 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:06 30 August 2017
TV star Thom Hunt is the quintessential Renaissance foodie with his passion for Cornwall's wild food
JAMES STRAWBRIDGE meets TV presenter, model and Renaissance foodie Thom Hunt who is searching for a simpler life through his passion for wild food, foraging, hunting and fishing along the River Fal.
Thom Hunt is the founder of 7th Rise, a TV presenter, model and all-round good guy. Passionate about wild food, foraging, hunting and fishing Thom is searching for a simpler life on the River Fal but is always busy encouraging others to live, learn and have fun in the great Cornish outdoors. I’ve chosen Thom this month as our local food hero because for me he epitomises the Cornish attitude towards not only self-sufficiency and top quality local food but also the drive to preserve traditional knowledge and share lost skills with a younger generation.
There is no better way to understand how meat ends up on your plate than a hunting experience. We have a lot of people saying, I may only do it once in my life but I want to do it myself’. That means the hunting, preparation, butchery and cooking of a wild animal or fish
So what exactly is 7th Rise?
We offer a lot of adventure-style courses but specialise in the original food story. How to collect the produce from the wild (fishing, foraging) how to prepare it (filleting, butchery) and then simple but satisfying and interesting ways to cook, mostly over a fire in the forest. We’ve found there is a massive groundswell of people being interested in the outdoors and how to really get involved in wild ingredients.
The venue itself is based round an old Cottage on the banks of the River Fal, deep in the forest and we’ve created a hidden world down here with a tree house, workshop area, six chickens, a huge fire pit, outdoor kitchen, hammock village and have 15 acres of private woodland to play in.
Is Cornwall really wild’?
That depends on your context! For someone from Central London then yes! But you can hike across Patagonia for a week and not see another person so I guess that’s really wild.
For us, we’ve asked ourselves what actually makes something wild? We’ve found that’s it’s not only a place but an attitude. One of being outdoors and wanting to be adventurous. It’s also a sense of isolation (phones are banned down here!) and to be in and around wild life and down here we have an awesome bunch of friends’. Swans, seals, squirrels, an otter and a lot of bird life.
What’s your favourite spot in Cornwall for foraging?
Any of the coastline is epic due to the variety you can find. Wild plants, herbs, seaweeds and shellfish are all easily available. My favourite is Sea Beet, also known as Sea Spinach, a wild plant that grows everywhere - much healthier than the shop bought stuff, and cheaper too!
Do you have an earliest food memory?
Hunting my first rabbit at 12 years old on my grandparents farm was a big moment. My philosophy is that if you are a meat eater it is your responsibility to know what the animal is, where it came from, what it ate and how it lived.
There is no better way to understand how meat ends up on your plate than a hunting experience. We have a lot of people saying, I may only do it once in my life but I want to do it myself’. That means the hunting, preparation, butchery and cooking of a wild animal or fish and we’ve found people’s attitudes and buying habits are much more considerate afterwards.
Have you ever struggled to kill an animal, either emotionally or actually hunting or catching it?
Emotionally not so much, but that’s because I was exposed to the farm and hunting lifestyle from a young age. As long as the animal (and the environment it lives in) is respected then I feel there is no more of a virtuous way to eat meat. It’s a responsibility thing. We also do workshops to tan deer furs into rugs and use the antlers for handles on our knife-making course.
What is your signature dish?
Slow cooked (in an underground pit) venison haunch, pulled and mixed with grandpa’s sauce’ a rich tomato and spices concoction. Pop that in a freshly baked bread roll out of our wood fired clay oven, throw in a handful of wild herbs and you got yourself a pretty satisfying meal. Like I said, we don’t do mega fancy food, we concentrate on the quality and freshness of ingredients and the hands on and satisfying aspect of doing it all yourself.
What’s your advice to aspiring hunters?
Find someone who has good knowledge and is prepared to take you out. Be prepared to do the dirty work to start with (cleaning guns and boots) and keep your eyes and ears peeled. The only way to learn is to be in the field. You’ve got to put the time and effort in.
If you were to survive in the wild with only a rucksack - what key items would be in your bag and why?
My Leatherman wave multitool comes everywhere with me. I have a pouch I made out of reindeer leather that has all my fire kit: fat wood (a very resinous part of a pine tree, burns very easily) cotton wool buds, fire striking stick, etc and a tarp with some rope.
So if you’ve got a tool, a fire and some shelter, along with good knowledge you can just figure the rest out. There’s an apt saying know more and carry less!’
What’s your recommendation for a 7th Rise New Year’s Resolution?
There’s no better way to experience the outdoors than with friends. With social media I recommend setting just two or three weekends aside and contacting friends to all go camping, wild swimming one afternoon or just some woodland walks. You really get incredible connections and conversations with friends when all the distractions are taken away. Or book yourself a group weekend at 7th Rise!