We first met Tom at the Do Lectures several years ago, but it feels like we’ve known him forever. An accomplished fifth generation baker, he has a contagious enthusiasm for sourdough that had Alison in the kitchen not a week after meeting, baking her very first loaf. Four or five years later, she now makes one every other day.
Tom (and indeed all the Herberts) have such a genuine love of life, eating and getting things done that it’s difficult not to love them straight away.
Here we chat all things fire and flour in celebration of Tom’s brilliant new book Do Wild Baking, where these beautiful photos are from.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
My firs job was jamming doughnuts in the bakery downstairs from where I grew up, I was four and if I did a good job I was able to eat the last one. Our home upstairs in now Hobbs House Bakery cookery school where I often teach.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR BREAKFAST THIS MORNING?
Stewed cookers from the garden with live yoghurt and some of my Anna’s granola. It was delicious and we’ve still have a kilo or so of apples to get through.
WHAT’S THE MOST UNDERUSED INGREDIENT?
Stale bread. Come on people, we throw away more of this than anything else. You could fill St Paul’s cathedral every month with the bread thrown away in the UK. I’m campaigning about this at the moment. Time to get your Panzanella on!
YOUR WORST KITCHEN DISASTER?
I once set fire to a demo I was doing over a campfire, everyone had to move back whilst it was put out with a fire extinguisher. Oh the thrill and humiliation.
WHAT DO YOU EAT WHEN YOU GET HOME AFTER A LONG DAY (OR NIGHT) AT WORK?
Some crisp breads with a nice bit of cheese, or if it’s really late, a square of dark chocolate.
WHAT DOES HALEN MON GO BEST WITH?
Bejazzling a hot focaccia perhaps. And as the Spanish proverb goes, a kiss without a moustache is like an egg without salt. So overall it’s gotta be a dippy egg.
HOW WOULD YOU SOME UP YOUR FOOD PHILOSOPHY IN ONE SENTENCE?
TELL US ABOUT ‘WILD BAKING’ – WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA FOR THE BOOK?
I love fires, campfires specifically, baking and cooking on, over and in them is something I’ve always done. Any meal becomes a memorable and very often a delicious adventure and I thought it’d be rude not to share this insight.
WHAT’S THE BEST SMELL IN THE WORLD?
Wood smoke and laundry. There’s a place in our house where on a good evening you can smell both at the same time and that’s home to me.
WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GOOD PLATE OF FOOD AND AN AMAZING ONE?
Only the people you share it with and the energy and life that gives, seasoned of course with a pinch of Halen Mon. We love you guys and your lil’ salt pot is my constant companion. Thank you.
All photos by Jody Daunton, taken from Do Wild Baking