The Chapel was built 1881 - 1885 by Mr. Jenner, owner of the adjoining mill. It closed October, 1971 after 90 years or worship. Now the revived church is the host for Rural England's level headed approach to organic and sustainable food. The Food Rooms is providing an educated connection for the farmer directly to the consumer.
In a country that has embraced the concept of organic food, The Food Rooms, can be found in the small East Sussex town of Battle. Based in an eighteenth century recycled chapel, organic and sustainably produced foods have found a home for worshipers of a new religion...
Toby Peters opened his restaurant/shop, The Food Rooms in October 2000. Opening in rural British villages can be a pretty hit or miss affair with the number of failures far out weighing the successes, The Food Rooms has thus far proved to be the latter.
The separating factor between The Food Rooms and other organic retail establishments is the level headed understanding Peters displays with local (sustainable) produce outweighing certified organic. Using a chain of over 100 local producers it makes much more sense to buy Mrs. de Quincy's local apples, than use certified organic apples flow in from New Zealand. Even if she has treated her apples to fob off the pests, using the locally produced fruit still makes more sense for the planet and the product. This is Peters' "trace the taste" concept, knowing the farm or small holding that grew the item.
A social conscience is something many hospitality professionals develop as they become more immersed in the business, in Peters' case the reverse is true. Prior to joining the glorious world of food and beverage he worked as a freelance photo' journalist. Working on foreign social issues including land mines and poverty in international hot spots ranging from Angola, Rwanda, Bosnia, Romania and through South America. During this time he founded with Josie Masters a charity based in Peru called Hand in Hand. The charity provides nurseries and helps street kids with training courses, assisting over 150 children. Ten percent of The Food Room's profits go to the charity.
Peters is proud of what he and his team have been able to achieve at this point, he describes his shop restaurant as a "conduit", a "move away from the sterile food market, where innovation is driven by passion and enjoyment, revenue is a by product of this not the focus". In fact the shop offers products to suit every budget, the staff will gladly cut a cabbage in half for a penny watching pensioner or shave fresh black truffles for a city slicker that is spending the weekend at their country retreat.
One of the most farmer friendly projects The Food Rooms has introduced is a collection service. This idea enables the farms to harvest their crops and not worry about getting it to the shop, giving the farmers the two key things that they need to succeed; revenue and time to spend at the wheel of their tractors not the wheel of the delivery van.
The same product that is being sold in the shop is also being prepared and cooked in the restaurant kitchen. Whether you chose Chicken a la Fermier, Braised Fennel & Sun Blush Tomatoes, chef Neil Sadler's French based eclectic style continues to build the bridge between the farmer and the people. Cooking dishes that make the flavors shine and not be masked. In its first year of business The Food Rooms was named one of the 'U.K's top ten reviewed restaurants 2000' by The Independent (British newspaper). Culinary creativity is given further depth with the input of the very French looking Joel Lurois. Lurois's skills lie in his food and cooking knowledge, helping to coach the shop's customers with how to use the products and persuading the farmers to grow some old forgotten crops.
This year the restaurant will open for dinner and provide some modest out side dining. The Food Rooms will continue to build on its catering business and offer a banqueting venue hosting large events in a refurbished church in nearby Hawkhust, increasing the platform for local farmers to showcase their product. They will look for new shop/restaurant venues and continue to give money to charity.......
The Food Rooms, High Street, Battle, East Sussex. England.
Telephone (UK) - 01424 775537