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Producer of the Month: Holly Jones, Manna from Devon

Producer of the Month: Holly Jones, Manna from Devon


Producer of the Month: Holly Jones, Manna from Devon

Holly Jones is a hugely talented cook with a great sense of humour. Softly spoken, she is immensely knowledgeable and passionate about local food and enjoys nothing more than sharing that passion with other people. 

Holly and her husband David first met at University and instantly shared a love of good food. After graduating, Holly went on to join the Army. Upon leaving the military she trained as a chef at Leith's School of Food and Wine and went on to work with the Henry Doubleday Trust as a demonstrator. She then became a food writer for the BBC before she and her now husband David, gravitated to Kingswear in Devon to do the catering at the Royal Dart Yacht Club. While there, the couple built up a network of local growers, suppliers and fishermen. It was also where the idea of producing their own food and creating a cookery school using the ingredients from these local suppliers took shape. 

With a stunning view over the river Dart, Holly and David's home has two kitchens. One is where they cook their award-winning puddings, breads and brownies and one is where the teach people to cook using all local ingredients - manna from Devon in fact.

  • Why do you do what you do? 
We have a cookery school in Dartmouth, South Devon running small hands-on classes for enthusiastic cooks, both professional and amateur, young and old. We also produce brownies and puddings in our commercial kitchen to our own recipes which we sell throughout the West Country in delis, shops and cafés and also via food festivals and our online shop. We came to Dartmouth nine years ago and love it. It's fantastic being by the river and the sea and it's a remarkable place for high quality local food which we use in the cookery school. David's background is in management development and team building and before we came here I was a freelance cookery demonstrator, so doing what we do has brought our skills together; it means we can work from home and we can use fantastic local food every day, all of which we love. 

  • What achievement are you most proud of? 
We have won a variety of awards, all of which I am very proud of. These include Great Taste Gold awards for our puddings and brownies, Taste of the West awards for our brownies, puddings and breads, the Countryside Alliance Regional Award for Entrepreneurship and the Gold Eggscellence award from the Battery Hen Welfare Trust for our commitment to using free-range eggs in everything we do. The achievement I'm most proud of, however, has to be the fact that together we have built a business from nothing and five years on it is growing in size and name with big plans for the future. 

  • What is your most memorable moment? 
We are both very involved with the Dartmouth Food Festival - David is the chairman and I organise the food markets. I will never forget my first festival when I had taken over the reins from the previous incumbent, after he had unexpectedly died. I woke up on the Saturday morning to torrential Devon rain and thought I should just go back to bed as nobody would come. I did get up though and one of the first to set up his stall was a local farmer who said “Never mind my dear - rain before 7, fine after 11”. And he was absolutely right - at one minute past eleven the sun came out and shone for the rest of the weekend. Customers came in their droves and producers were selling more than they had hoped for. Since then, the Dartmouth Food Festival has grown into one of the best in the country with a hands-on, can-do, purely voluntary organising team working on it all year round. The atmosphere is amazing and we really showcase the best local produce from Devon and the South West, both in the markets and in the eateries round town. Check out the official website - www.dartmouthfoodfestival .com - and put it in your diary now. It's definitely worth a trip. 

  • If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food? 
Make all public service groups, government departments and establishments use only local food - prisons, schools, hospitals, military etc - and train the chefs about seasonality and cooking healthily within a budget. Then tell everybody about it. Lead by example.

  • What is your favourite food and why? 
I absolutely love fish - cooking it and eating it. The variety is so huge and the quality of the fish and seafood we get from our fishmonger Mark Lobb is amazing. He goes to Brixham fish quay nearly every day and drops in the day's catch. We never know quite what he's going to bring as the fishing is so weather dependent but I know we can rely on him to bring us some fantastic fish - it can't get much fresher. If I really had to narrow it down I would go for the John Dory - crazy to look at, cooks really well and tastes fantastic. 

  • What are your predictions for the future of British food? 
The people we meet through the school, both producers and students, are huge supporters of good quality local food. If this can spread like a spider's web all over the country then more people will commit to buying local. Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and others are doing a great job campaigning about quality British food - if we can help them spread the word and all use local food then the future will be rosy. 

  • If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food? 
Buy British. There is no contest. 

  • Tip for saving pennies? 
Buy local, eat seasonally and grow your own fresh herbs. 

  • What's on the menu this evening? 
Tonight we are eating lamb from Sally Vincent's rare breed sheep, from up the river in Dittisham, with a slow-cooked potato dish and purple sprouting broccoli. The vegetables come from our weekly Riverford box and the herbs out of the garden. 

  • How can people get hold of your produce? 
We supply a lot of shops and cafés throughout the West Country. We sell at a variety of food festivals and at Bath Christmas Market and we also have an online shop, so we can send our puddings and brownies anywhere in the UK either direct to customers or as gifts - The website also has details of all our cookery courses.