To show you what The Foragers is all about, and how it came to be, we’d like to tell you a little bit about ourselves, the founders:
George Fredenham and Gerald Waldeck
George: Tastier Things
For eight years, George worked as for a firm in the city advising large corporations on emerging markets – a time of his life he now refers to as “that briefcase nonsense”. At times his work took him to interesting places like Zimbabwe, Sudan and various Eastern Europe and South American countries. When it did, he would often find himself sitting across from some senior executive or other, and thinking less about the product he was trying to sell and more about the local street food. He was always more focused on what each area could provide in terms of new food experience than on its business potential. Even at home, his mind was always on other, tastier, things: he’d spend most of his free time and money building an ideal kitchen for his house and scouring London for whatever exciting food he could get his teeth into.
With the recession hitting hard, and emerging markets no longer emerging so quickly, eight hours work a day for George quickly became sixteen hours work for the same result. That’s when George decided to quit his job in the city and pursue his passion for food. He took a job setting up bread stalls in markets across the London area. This new lifestyle was hard at times – his house, complete with dream kitchen, had to be rented out – but George was one step closer to doing what he loved.
It happened that one of the bread stalls was in St. Albans, where George grew up. It was here that he got talking to Gerald. Gerald’s oldest daughter was friends with George’s brother, so the two had known each other for years, but it was only in 2010 that they discovered their shared interest in great, honest, real-tasting food. Gerald introduced George to the world of wild food, an exciting area of huge, often untapped, potential. The two threw various business ideas back and forth – campfire cookery, sourdough baking, mobile wild food catering. Then, quite by chance, George got talking to the owner of The Verulam Arms, a pub in St Albans which had recently closed down. This became a base of operations for The Foragers. At first the food they served there was good, simple fare – a hearty stew, for example, with some foraged ingredients, and a chunk of soda bread on the side – but as George and Gerald began to forage more, and to experiment with the new wild tastes they were discovering, the menu escalated into more adventurous, restaurant-style food.
Since then, as well as offering wild food mobile catering, The Foragers’ business has expanded to include a series of pop-up kitchens in London, where The Foragers’ chefs serve up a wide range of wild food, inventively cooked, and mixologists prepare cocktails using The Foragers’ own range of wild syrups and ingredients.
More than this, what started as a simple food project has become a whole movement based on tradition, resourcefulness and natural, tasteful foraging. With the collaboration of bushcraft organisation Woodland Ways. Kev Palmer, The Foragers now offer wild food talks, courses, demonstrations and expeditions, to share their knowledge and love of the wild with everyone they can. George doesn’t miss his briefcase at all.
Gerald: Sourdough Dreams
Gerald is a retired master baker. Though he spent his career growing a single small bakery into a large company, he was always wary of the industrialisation of the baking process. The bigger and more automated the machinery in his bakeries became, the more Gerald was drawn to all things real, slow and handmade in baking – the “slow bake” as they call it in Germany. Though he was always careful to keep the human touch in his business, he wished he could go further. He sometimes dreamed of running a smaller operation and having the time to make traditional sourdough bread by hand.
When he and George got talking about starting a food project, they realised that they shared an interest in good, honest, real-tasting food. Gerald’s sourdough dreams were a big part of these early talks, but he brought more to the table than bread. Having recently retired, Gerald was spending his days walking his dog through the fields and forests of Hertfordshire, and had suddenly found himself with just what he had been craving during his hectic years as a baker: time. Time to pay close attention to nature, to learn the names of every tree, and, most importantly, to learn which plants were good to eat. Growing up in the country, Gerald remembers, from an early age, gathering wild foods like blackberries and sweet chestnuts. He had always kept one hand in the hedgerow, but as he walked further and learned more, foraging went from being an occasional pleasure to an expert passion. Combining this with his love of fishing, Gerald was soon regularly preparing dishes entirely from the wild.
The satisfaction Gerald took from foraging was, in many ways, similar to that of making sourdough bread. Both are about tradition, wildness, real taste and, of course, time. It was from Gerald and George’s discussions of these very ideas that The Foragers – a movement based on tastefully foraged wild food, resourcefulness and traditional techniques – was born.
Gerald, as chief hunter and gatherer, is now responsible for bringing in the majority of the wild plants, fruits and fungi served by The Foragers, along with some of our freshly caught fish. Ironically, he hasn’t made a lot of sourdough bread lately. As the busy co-founder of a foraging movement, he just doesn’t have the time…