Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in 2009
BornHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
(1965-01-14) 14 January 1965 (age 47)
London, England
Occupationcelebrity chef, television personality, journalist, food writer
Known forRiver Cottage
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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in 2009
BornHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
(1965-01-14) 14 January 1965 (age 47)
London, England
Occupationcelebrity chef, television personality, journalist, food writer
Known forRiver Cottage

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (born 14 January 1965) is a British celebrity chef, television personality, journalist, food writer and "real food" campaigner, known for his back-to-basics philosophy.[1][2] He is best known for being the lead personality in the River Cottage series on UK's Channel 4, which focuses on his efforts to become a self-reliant downshifted farmer in rural England and feed himself, family and friends with locally produced and sourced fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and meat.


Early life

Born in London to gardener and writer Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall and Robert Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh was brought up in Devon. He was educated at Eton College and St Peter's College, Oxford, where he read philosophy and psychology.[3]

After graduating from university, he began a career in conservation work in Africa. He then spent a brief period as a sous-chef at River Café. Fearnley-Whittingstall says "being messy" and "lacking discipline" made him unsuited to working in the River Café kitchen. He regards it as an event that helped shape his current career.[4]

He became a freelance journalist, published in Punch, the Evening Standard and The Sunday Times.[5] In 1994, Macmillan published his Cuisine Bon Marché, which contained recipes and guidance on a wide range of food commonly found in British markets.

Television shows

On television, Fearnley-Whittingstall's reputation is that of an eccentric chef. His initial television exposure was on Cook on the Wild Side, an exploration of earthy cuisine. His habit of "picking up roadkill and eating the hedgerows [...] earned him his nickname of Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall."[5] He followed this with the series TV Dinners in which, during one episode, he notoriously flambéed and puréed a human placenta which was served as a pâté[6] and "much enjoyed by the baby's family and friends."[5]

In 1997, he moved into River Cottage, a former game-keeper's lodge on the grounds of Slape Manor in Netherbury, Dorset, which he had previously used as a weekend and holiday home. This became the setting for three Channel 4 series: Escape to River Cottage, Return to River Cottage and River Cottage Forever (directed by Garry John Hughes). He has since bought a farm in Thorncombe, Dorset, with his family. Through his experiences on these programmes, in which he had to produce everything himself in The Good Life style, he has become a keen supporter of the organic movement. In 2002, he presented the six-episode series, Treats from the Edwardian Country House.[7] In 2004, Beyond River Cottage followed Fearnley-Whittingstall's progress as he set up a new business, River Cottage H.Q., close to Dottery (near Bridport), Dorset. In 2005, a series called The View from River Cottage was produced using extracts from the four previous series, accompanied by newly-recorded narration. This was followed by The River Cottage Road Trip, consisting of two brand new one-hour shows. 2005 also saw Fearnley-Whittingstall appear on the first series of Channel 4's The F Word, advising Gordon Ramsay on the rearing of turkeys at his London home. These were subsequently eaten in the last episode of the series. Further appearances on The F-Word in 2006 and 2007 involved Fearnley-Whittingstall advising Ramsay on the rearing of pigs and lambs respectively, again with their being eaten in the last episodes of the series.

During 2006, Fearnley-Whittingstall moved River Cottage H.Q. from the original rented and converted barn near Bridport, to its new premises, Park Farm, a 66-acre (270,000 m2) farm near Uplyme on the West Dorset/East Devon border.[8] A new series called The River Cottage Treatment was filmed there and was broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2006.[9]

In 2007, Fearnley-Whittingstall presented the short series River Cottage: Gone Fishing, which examined some of the lesser-known fish to be caught around the British Isles.

At the start of 2008, Fearnley-Whittingstall – along with fellow celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay – was featured in Channel 4's Big Food Fight season. His contribution to the season was Hugh's Chicken Run, shown over three consecutive nights, in which he created three chicken farms in Axminster (one intensive, one commercial free range, and a community farm project staffed by volunteers), culminating in a "Chicken Out!" campaign to encourage the eating of free-range chicken.

Fearnley-Whittingstall also presented a magazine-style food programme produced at River Cottage HQ, River Cottage Spring, which ran from 28 May to 25 June 2008 on Channel 4, and was followed later that year by River Cottage Autumn, which ran from 16 October to 6 November. He was a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on 31 July 2009.

He was a permanent team captain (opposing a different guest captain each week) on a food-based panel game, The Big Food Fight (not to be confused with the earlier project of the same name) which began on Channel 4 on 8 September 2009.

On 19 October 2009, a new series of four River Cottage episodes started airing at 8pm on Channel 4, titled 'River Cottage - Winter's on the Way'.

In September 2010, a new series of River Cottage episodes titled ' River Cottage Everyday' began. The series is intended to encourage people to cook from scratch more frequently. It is accompanied by a book of the same name.

In Autumn 2011, a new series, River Cottage, Veg Every Day, began as Hugh developed awareness for how much meat is consumed daily and promoting interesting and delicious vegetarian meals.[10]

In September 2012, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made an appearance on The One Show.

A new series of River Cottage entitled 'Three Good Things' aired on Channel 4 in December 2012.

Fearnley-Whittingstall also appeared on BBC2's satirical music panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, on the episode recorded in 2008 but delayed airing until January 19, 2011, due to the scandals surrounding Russell Brand leading to his resignation from the BBC.

Fish Fight campaign

As of July 2012, Fearnley-Whittingstall continues to film for a Channel 4 series, Hugh's Fish Fight; the series explores sustainable fishing and the origin of fish products—he has filmed in locations such as Thailand and Antarctica.[11] From Tuesday, January 11, 2011, the series was broadcast in three parts, on subsequent nights, on Channel 4, and was part of Channel 4's "Big Fish Fight" season.[12] The Fish Fight campaign has benefitted from the use of social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter, as well as its own website, and prior to the airing of the programme, the campaign had received 13,000 signatures—as of July 2012, the campaign's website claims to have received over 700,000 signatures.[13]

Chicken Out! campaign

Fearnley-Whittingstall has presented three one-hour shows detailing how commercial breeds of broiler chickens are reared for their meat in just 39 days. This compares to slow growing breeds which live for at least 75 days in more humane and natural surroundings. Fearnley-Whittingstall is currently trying to encourage people to become more aware of food production issues through his "Chicken Out" campaign.

As part of the campaign, Fearnley-Whittingstall singled out Tesco as a major retailer of chickens which failed to conform to the standards laid down by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in its "Five Freedoms" concept. As a result, he purchased a share in Tesco so that he could take advantage of a procedure set out in section 338 Companies Act 2006, which entitles any shareholder of a company to table a resolution at a general meeting of a company provided he can garner a certain level of support from other shareholders. Fearnley-Whittingstall managed to find sufficient shareholders to support the tabling of a resolution at Tesco's AGM on 27 June 2008, which, if passed, would have committed Tesco, within a reasonable timeframe, to take appropriate measures to ensure that chickens purchased for sale were produced in systems capable of providing the "Five Freedoms". An insufficient number of shareholders voted in favour of the resolution for it to be passed.

In an interview in January 2008, Fearnley-Whittingstall extended the call to hospitality and food service operators:[14]

It's one thing to challenge individual consumers to give up intensively reared chicken but it's also an issue where anyone in the business of selling chicken has to take a stand... in some cases I know chefs, not naming names, at the very high-end sector who are not using free-range birds. Some of them are on the road to Michelin stars.

Other projects

Fearnley-Whittingstall helped develop Stinger,[15] a nettle-flavoured ale, with the Hall & Woodhouse brewery.

Another Fearnley-Whittingstall project was the conversion of an old inn in Axminster to an organic produce shop and canteen[16] which opened in September 2007.

In 2009, Hugh became a patron of ChildHope UK, an international child protection charity working in Africa, Asia and South America.[17]

In 2009 The River Cottage Summer's Here programme promoted the Landshare project which seeks to bring together people who wish to grow fruit and vegetables but have no land with landowners willing to donate spare land for cultivation. The online project was commissioned by Channel 4.[18]


Fearnley-Whittingstall has also written the popular cookbooks, The River Cottage Year, The River Cottage Fish Book, The River Cottage Cookbook (winner of the Andre Simon Food Book of the Year Award, the Guild of Food Writers’ Michael Smith Award and the Glenfiddich Trophy and Food Book of the Year) and The River Cottage Meat Book (the last two books included photography by Simon Wheeler);[19][20] the latter details his philosophy of organic husbandry, whilst also covering many aspects of selecting, preparing and cooking meat. His most recent book, published on 29 March 2011, is River Cottage Every Day.[21]

Fearnley-Whittingstall has written articles for The Guardian and The Observer since 2001. A collection of his short articles was published in October 2006 under the title Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All: Dispatches from the Gastronomic Frontline. He also edited the The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions, written by Kenji Kawakami.

Personal life

He is married to Marie and has four children: Chloe, Oscar, Freddy and Louisa.[10] They live at Castlehayne Farm, Colyton, Devon, nearby Park Farm is used as a filming location and as headquarters for the River Cottage food and cookery oriented courses.

Published works


  1. ^ BBC (2012). "Food Chefs: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  2. ^ "Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Profile". The Guardian (London). 3 October 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
  3. ^ Vallely, Paul (12 January 2008). "Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: Crying fowl". The Independent (London).
  4. ^ "Getting fired — the best thing to happen to me Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall | Life and Health". London: 30 September 2006.,,1882269,00.html. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "Lynn Barber, ''Observer Food Monthly'', 14 March 2004". London: 14 March 2004.,9950,1166234,00.html. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  6. ^ "report of the Broadcasting Standards Commission reprimand, 28 May 1998". BBC News. 28 May 1998. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  7. ^ Wall to Wall (2012). "Treats from the Edwardian Country House". Wall to Wall. Wall to Wall. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  8. ^ September newsletter.
  9. ^ October newsletter.
  10. ^ a b "Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on why River Cottage has gone veggie". Radio Times (London). 16 October 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  11. ^ Charlotte Richardson (23 July 2012). "River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is coming to town". The Weston Mercury. Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  12. ^ Channel 4 (2012). "Hugh's Fish Fight". Channel 4. Channel 4. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  13. ^ Hugh's Fish Fight (2012). "HUGH'S EXPERIENCE". Hugh's Fish Fight. KEO Ltd. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  14. ^ "Exclusive video interview with, January 2008". 23 January 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  15. ^ "Stinger Homepage". Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  16. ^ "Local Produce Store and Canteen Homepage". Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Our Patrons". ChildHope. ChildHope. 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  18. ^ "Landshare — How it works". Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  19. ^ Fergus Byrne (10). "Simon Wheeler". The Marshwood Vale Magazine. Marshwood Vale Magazine. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  20. ^ Simon Wheeler (2012). "Simon Wheeler : About". Simon Wheeler Photography. Simon Wheeler. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  21. ^ "River Cottage Veg Every Day!". River Cottage. River Cottage. 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2012.

External links