It was ironic that episode 11 of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa‘ last night focused on the Natal Midlands, and that a large part of the half-hour episode focused on farmer Kevin Lang’s Fairfield Dairy Ayrshire farm, given our Blogpost yesterday about the new defensive Woolworths ‘Good Food News’ supplement in the Sunday Times.
The episode started off with Hayden having a cooling swim near the Howick Falls, which have a 105 meter drop. Once refreshed, he met Chef Jackie Cameron, then Executive Chef of Eat Out Top 10 restaurant at Hartford House, but who has left to establish her Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine, which opens in Hilton in January. Chef Jackie was identified as a WWF-SASSI Trailblazer Chef. They met at the Karkloof Market, which is just outside Howick, and here Jackie introduced Hayden to farmer Rob Symons of Broadleaze Organics, offering unusual herbs such as Vietnamese coriander. Dutch cheesemaker MJ Mook of Just Cheese introduced Hayden to and allowed him to taste her special cheeses. The market seemed a jolly space, with fresh vegetables, herbs, meat, flowers, cheeses, and more.
Hayden was accommodated at Hartford House, which is near Mooi River, which he described as having a Colonial feel, and being 130 years old.
Hayden visited Fairfield Dairy, and there was endless filming of the Ayrshire cows on farmer Kevin Lang’s green pastures. It was mentioned that Fairfield Diary is a supplier of Ayrshire dairy products to Woolworths, the only mention of the retailer. Farmer Kevin emphasised that his cows are ‘happy cows’, because they are milked to a routine, at the same time of the day, with music playing, Coldplay being one of their favourites, Hayden was told! Happy cows make good milk, viewers were told! There was no mention of what the cows are fed, it being implied that they only eat the luscious grass in the pastures, but group Grass Consumer Food Action has found that Woolworths’ suppliers Ayrshire cows are fed supplemental feeds too. Hayden then does the party trick of milking a cow, as he did with a goat at Fairview, having a little more success thanwith the goat.
In the dairy pasture a trestle table was set up for Hayden to demonstrate making a no-churn ice cream. He started by melting chocolate, beating Ayrshire cream, adding condensed milk and vanilla paste, and gently folding in the ingredients with a spatula. He poured half the cream mixture into a baking tin, then added the melted chocolate, and then added the remaining cream mixture. While Hayden was preparing the ice cream, the camera moved to the cows continuously, to really bring home how happy they are feeding in the fields! The ice cream was scooped into cones, and was topped with honeycomb. When Hayden asked Farmer Kevin how he enjoyed the ice cream, he said that he could taste the Ayrshire cream in it!
We were introduced to Sue Viljoen of the WWF, who spoke about the organisation’s role of assisting farmers to manage resources to protect their animals and the environment. Surprising was to hear her advocate saving water, given the green and lush Midlands countryside.
Chef Jackie and Hayden were spoilt with a Balloon trip operated by eccentric looking Bill Harrop of ‘Original’ Balloon Safaris, who usually does the trips early in the day, as the ride is at its smoothest then, not subject to thermal streams which develop during the day. The one hour trip in the hot air balloon can go as high as 1 km above the ground, and Hayden enjoyed the ride, despite his fear of heights. Chef Jackie said that she had never been in a balloon, and enjoyed it too.
Chef Jackie seems made for TV, always smiling, photogenic, and later teasing Hayden, when she taught him how to make her Zulu staff’s ‘memory dish‘ of samp and beans with a gourmet touch. Chef Jackie had pre-prepared carrots with duck fat, and Hayden fried onions and a finely chopped clove of garlic using a wooden spoon from Woolworths, which Chef Jackie did not want to touch her dish. Mince was added, and Chef Jackie warned that it should not be overcooked. The samp and beans (butter beans and red beans) were added, and a red wine sauce, after which the mixture was reduced. Three egg yolks were added. Chef Jackie plated the dish on a red brick (another memory prompt), adding pickled beef tongue, onto which she piped potato cream and added fried capers. Chef Jackie and Hayden had lots of fun, one could see.
The Ayrshire dairy episode was not as defensive as Woolworths’ current communication via video and its Sunday Times supplement, probably as the filming was done in February, long before Woolworths received harsh criticism from the Grass action group re the housing of its suppliers’ Ayrshire cows, and how ‘organic‘ or not they are, the claim having been amended to now state that the cows eat ‘organic‘ feed. But visually the episode reinforced all the criticism Woolworths has received, in misleading consumers about its Ayrshire dairy products. The Woolworths Ayrshire video, featuring Justin Smith of its Sustainability Unit and an extremely nervous unconvincing colleague, is not credible at all!
I am so sorry to have missed Chef Jackie at Hartford House, but look forward to seeing her in action at her new food and wine school, and revisiting the Midlands Meander.
The question remains: who is Hayden Quinn, and why was he selected by the production company on behalf of Woolworths to show us the beauty of our country, and its bounty of sustainable foods and wines? Hayden Quinn is an Australian surfer and former professional lifeguard, ‘WWF-SASSI ambassador’, a ‘cooker’ and by his own admission not a chef, and a 2011 MasterChef Australia top 3 Finalist.
We have also asked why Woolworths is not sharing its sponsorship of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’ via marketing collateral in its stores. We are shocked about how Woolworths’ suppliers’ unethical farming methods are being revealed and the retailer’s response to it via a new ‘Good Food News’ insert in the Sunday Times, still misleading its shoppers! Episode 1 of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’ focused on Cape Town, and made Capetonians proud of their city! Episode 2 was very disappointing and boring, focusing on Stellenbosch! Episode 3 was beautifully filmed in Paternoster, and was back on track. Episode 4 was filmed in Franschhoek, which creatively included Fairview into the village! Episode 5 was filmed in Elgin, Hermanus, and Stanford. Episode 6 was filmed in Knysna. Episode 7 was based in Oudtshoorn. Episode 8 was set in the steaming hot Karoo. In episode 9 Hayden explored colourful Johannesburg and Soweto. Episode 10 was based in Lesotho.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: I was surprised but delighted to receive a call from Babs in Woolworths’ Corporate Press Office today, who called in response to my Blogpost of yesterday about the ‘Good Food News‘ insert into the Sunday Times last Sunday. We have spoken before, about 3 months ago when we first started stirring about ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’, and Babs was able to find information for me about the motivation for the use of unknown Quinn. In chatting it emerged that she was the second spokesperson in the Woolworths’ Ayrshire video, referred to above, and I apologised to her for what I had written – we have never met. She explained that she was standing in a puddle of cow p.., and was very uncomfortable in being filmed in these rural conditions! I complimented her for her proactive approach in contacting me, and I shared with her how rude her colleagues in the Social Media department had been on Twitter yesterday. She was helpful once again, in sharing that only two episodes of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa‘ remain, episode 12 focusing on KwaZulu Natal’s Shakaland, and episode 13 on Durban’s Indian culture and food.