Five minutes with… Ollie Hunter, Food, Drink and Sustainability Director at Raithwaite Sandsend

Congratulations on winning the ‘Sustainable Hotel of the Year’ award at the 2021 Catey Awards. Tell us how your sustainability journey started.

After becoming a semi-finalist in Masterchef, I decided to delve into the world of food full-time. That started with street food in Brixton in London, followed by festivals and pop-ups, and then my wife Lauren and I bought the Wheatsheaf in Wiltshire. We realised straight away that we wanted to make it as sustainable as possible, and our success there brought me to Raithwaite to oversee the hotel’s sustainability journey.

What first interested you about sustainability?

I’ve always been interested. I think if you love nature you love sustainability – they go hand in hand. And watching David Attenborough’s Planet Earth really brought home what we’re doing to the planet.

How does sustainability tie in with food?

The more connected and in harmony you are with nature, the better the food. When your ingredients are seasonal, local and organic, you get a much better flavour and much better nutrition. And that means you need less of it, which saves waste.

Tell us about your zero-waste ethos.

If you cook zero waste you use the whole animal, the whole vegetable, the whole fish. That means less waste and it’s more cost-effective, so you can afford better produce. We’re doing more with less.

What about working with the local community?

We now strive to buy as much as possible from within a 30-mile radius, and that includes everything from our beef and cheeses to delicious fruit cordials and flour, all sourced from local, organic farmers. That creates deeper relationships with the local community, which is really important to us.

“We now strive to buy as much as possible from within a 30-mile radius, and that includes everything from our beef and cheeses to delicious fruit cordials and flour, all sourced from local, organic farmers.”

What’s next for Raithwaite Sandsend?

We’ve just planted our Forest Garden with Sapling Spirits,  the first of its kind in a hotel in the UK, so we’re really excited about that. We’ve already planted 500 trees and will add another 500 next spring, right here on the estate. It’s going to be incredible as it will provide our kitchen and bar with delicious, fresh, perennial fruits, herbs and spices to be used in our menus and cocktails.

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