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Forty years of food

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Wolfson’s Executive Chef, Ray Palmer, who retires in July, takes a look back at his long and illustrious career in food.

It’s 1965 and The Beatles are in the Hit Parade with “We can work it out”, “Ticket to ride” and “Help”. Six graduate students have been accepted at the newly opened University College, Cambridge. I have enrolled on a professional catering course at Croydon Technical College. Are these events connected? Not yet but they will be (well maybe not The Beatles).

It’s 1973 and The Beatles split up three years earlier, University College has been renamed Wolfson College and has 160 students and I move to Cambridge as Pastry Chef at The Garden House Hotel. Cooking in Britain (as opposed to British cookery) has become fashionable and popular and now boasts to be among the best in the world if the number of restaurants (and TV cookery programmes) is a gauge of its strength. But, perversely, its meteoric rise has had consequences on British cookery which has almost disappeared from the menu and at home, particularly puddings, cakes and biscuits which are unique to this country whilst often contradictory advice on “healthy” and “ethical” choices in eating has made us a nation afraid to cook and eat.

In parallel with this rise and fall, I am not unaware of my own immanent disappearance from the professional kitchen to eke out a living on a pension. Hear more and try some samples of the cooking I’m talking about.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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