Meet our champion for Foodie Norfolk...
Who? Charlie Hodson, Chef Consultant and Owner of Charlies Norfolk Food Heroes
What? Charlies Norfolk Food Heroes is simply about supporting my friends and that’s the best way to try and explain what the enterprise is all about. I have an office within No. 8 (which is owed by Sarah and Richard of the Red Cat Partnership), I have recently been awarded Food and Drink Champion 2016 by some rather amazing folk whom do so much for our county. These include Sarah De Chair and Anna Stevenson of Norfolk Food & Drink Ltd. I’m also Patron of The Feed CIC and Leap - both amazing social enterprises, based in our city, which are truly changing lives via following the vision created by Barry Allard.
What gets you up in the morning?
Knowing I’m home and working in the county I love. It’s quite simple really - it’s about working with people who have become amazing friends. We often joke that we shall all be in retirement homes together talking about food. Now that would be funny... But that’s why our county is so special. It's about friendships and doing the best for each other. This is what helps to make Norfolk sing.
If you had to advise someone visiting Norfolk three things they must not miss, what would they be and why?
I think this must be the hardest question, so I’m going to round-up my answer in three categories...
1. The food and drink. We have some of the best producers making the most amazing products from fab oils at Crush Foods to Crabs from fishermen like John Davies of Cromer. And who would have guessed that we even have our own Wild Knight Vodka and amazing brewery’s like the Norfolk Brew House. Pairing these alongside some of the best eateries in the country like Benedict’s, Braisted’s, The Dial House, Stratton’s Hotel, The Maids Head, and with The Assembly House now incorporating Richard Hughes Cookery school, and you find yourself asking 'where better for a true Food Destination?'
2. Our Heritage. There's such a choice - from the vastness and beauty of Norwich Cathedral and our amazing Castle that’s sit above our fine city (just how she has for hundreds of years), to hidden gems such as The Great Hospital in Bishopgate, serving our city since 1249. Then there's our most wonderful Norfolk Broads where children and adults alike can become swallows and amazons (if only for a week or a day). And don't forget our amazing country homes like Felbrigg, Blickling Hall, and perhaps even more importantly those like Holkham and Walsingham that are, still to this day, lived in and treasured by families for whom Norfolk is the core of all they do.
3. Our agriculture. Get yourself on an open farm day. We have to remember that so many folk don’t even realise how our food chain works - where our pork comes from, how rape seed oil is made or how asparagus is grown. As a food and drink champion this is my life and core of all I do in Norfolk. You have to remember too, that there are so many children who come to our county that might have never seen a cow or a sheep apart from on the telly. So through our work we are not only helping to educate, but also giving children an amazing memory to cherish. This sums up what Norfolk does best - it is county that has this very special magical dust that when sprinkled with the right moderation, not too much or too little, creates something very special all on its own.
Norfolk has a 93-mile coastline. Which is your favourite beach and what is so special about it?
I have to say Cromer for two very special reasons. The first, because my parents loved the place. Most weekends after Chapel on a Sunday we would sit upon the cliff tops with flask in one hand and (my father’s love) Gala Pie in the other. The second is that, on one of these very early Sundays, I first saw the RNLB Ruby and Arthur Reed Cromer Life Boat coming safely home. Recently, at the age of 43, I became part of the Crew at RNLI Cromer. A boyhood dream complete should I say!
What’s your favourite event on the Norfolk calendar, and why?
Can I please have two...
My first, in seasonal order, is The Royal Norfolk Show. It has a new Show Director in Mark Nicholas whom, with his team, is putting a real emphasis on celebrating all that Norfolk is so famous for. Whether you go for the farming aspect of the show, the Norfolk food and drink producers within the food hall (where the new and very successful Art of Butchery made its debut in 2015), or simply to meet with friends whilst having a great lunch or watching the Grand Ring with a Pimms in hand, everyone agrees it's a great show with an emphasis on providing everything for every one for all ages great and small.
And secondly, how could I not mention our award-winning PorkstockUK of which I am a Patron. It's a real celebration of pork, Norfolk producers, local bands and live music, craft beer and cider. By day, it's a cool and happy free family festival with the emphasis on children and parents spending fun and quality time together. There's a host of fab activities and some rather humorous chef demos with the likes of Alan Paton - Stoke by Nayland, Mark Poynton - Alimentum, and the ever-readily charged Hardeep Singh Kohli. In the evening the venue turns into a non-piglet event with two different music venues - a main stage for bands and a gin palace where Talulah Good Times and her Electro Swing keeps every on their toes. Aswell as great fun, we also use the festival to raise as much for Norfolk Charities as we can. In 2016 we raised over £10,000 for Nelsons Journey - the most amazing children's charity based in the heart of our county.