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Why food?

I’m Oli and I am going to be running the food page at Cherwell this term.  Appropriately I suppose, I am obsessed with food and a lot of people ask me what it is that I love so much about it.  In reality, meals themselves and flavours are of course a big part of it but, more than anything, it’s what goes with it.  For me, food is about experiences:  I love bringing people together with food, getting to know different cultures through food, the art of constructing dishes, and am fascinated by the industry.  Food writing can too often be pompous, prescriptive, and presumptuous.  I love a Michelin-starred restaurant as much as the next person but you know what I prefer?  Finding an amazing street food stall on holiday or a tiny little Italian café down a side street that’s quietly been trading for decades.  This term I’ll bring you reviews, recipes, stories, and hopefully a whole world of food discovery.


Cooking is so many things for me.  First off, it’s an unbelievable stress reliever.  After a long day churning out essays or reading there are few more pleasant things than putting on a podcast, opening the fridge, and creating a dinner out of what I can find.  A different kind of non-academic challenge, as long as there are some onions, tomatoes, garlic, and eggs then I know something good is possible!

Even better than that though?  Cooking for a crowd.  Every week I love bringing together ten friends or so and putting on a dinner party.  Think sharing plates, roasts, cheese, wine, good music, and great chat.  Please try this!  Put your money together with a few friends, buy a whole chicken, and whack in some potatoes, chorizo and onion for a super low-budget, ridiculously low-effort, delicious feast.


I do a lot of food reviews and I visit a lot of restaurants for my podcast.  On it, I talk to the chefs, managers, and owners of places from Oxford, to London and further afield.  The meals become twice as meaningful when you know the way in which they are created and the life story of the people behind them.  One of the first podcasts I ever did was with the owner and founder of Bbuona (Gloucester Green), Andi.  When you hear the love and passion that goes into creating every dish there, the challenges he is facing with Brexit and price rises, and the fact that he is the only restaurant in the country to import some of his in ingredients, that pizza tastes ten times better.

The industry

There has never been a more fascinating time to learn about the food industry.  Starting with Brexit, UK restaurant owners and chefs have faced a more challenging few years than ever before.  The import restrictions and work permit chaos caused by that combined with the supply chain issues created by war in Ukraine and crippling price rises across the board have forced adaptation and inventiveness.  The places that have survived have begun to use new ingredients in different ways, change their organisational structures, and manage price rises.  Next time you are in Love Coffee just ask them about this stuff:  they might be full all day every day but razor-thin margins and astronomical rents mean that profitability is far from guaranteed.

More than this, there are new and exciting concepts trying to disrupt the market all the time.  Next time you are reading a menu just pause and think about how many more vegan and vegetarian dishes there are compared to five years ago.  The world of food and drink is changing in front of our eyes and it’s incredibly easy to miss.  Just in the last 12 months, I’ve had a ground-breaking 13-course vegan tasting menu at a supper club (Table 13), a shot glass of wine that would usually cost hundreds a bottle from an Enomatic machine (Wilding Wine Bar on Little Clarendon St.), and chosen the bean for my coffee only to see it roasted, ground, and served into my espresso inside 60 seconds (Roasting Plant Coffee Co.).

So, the world of food is endless and the possibilities for enjoyment and fascination are limitless.  Hopefully, this term I can help you discover the joys of cooking, eating, and learning about food.

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