Only months into her new role Tara has already made local sourcing a priority. Visitors to cafés and the restaurant, as well as students on the growing campus of Schumacher College and the newly launched Dartington Art School are offered a variety of delicious meals, using food grown on the mediaeval 1,200 estate or supplied by producers nearby.
Recently Tara staged a series of ‘Kitchen Takeovers’, allowing local chefs who have lost business during the Covid-19 lockdown an opportunity to use the White Hart restaurant kitchen. She is also planning a series of regular food markets to support local businesses.
But her vision for the future goes much further. The estate is already home to a number of food enterprises but she would like it to become a thriving hub for a range of producers and growers.
“I would like to see more production on the estate like cheesemakers, bread makers, and sausage makers – even a vineyard. We have the space and we have the land.
“I think there are producers out there, who maybe don’t need to rent a space every day or maybe they need a fridge or perhaps health and safety guidance. I think we can facilitate all this.”
She has been passionate about food from a young age and worked in a number of kitchens in her native Vermont, USA, before moving to Dartmoor where she now lives with her writer husband and three children.
She acknowledges that what we choose to eat can be a contentious arena with discussions between meat eaters and vegans inspiring equal passion.
But she declares she has no interest in what she describes as ‘ersatz food’ – food that has been designed to taste like meat.
She says she is happy to eat meat of the kind that comes from her neighbour who rears beef cattle on grass, without antibiotics, on a steep patch of land in a rainy part of Devon that would be unsuitable for any other type of farming.
“I don’t feel bad eating those animals but I would feel bad eating meat that came from a feedlot where they can barely move. That’s no way to live and no way to raise any animal.
“But I also know how to put a put a bunch of vegetables together and maybe some beans and make a really good vegan meal.
“I think people should eat whatever they want,” she says. “I don’t think there’s anything such as good or bad food they need to make their own moral choices.”
Tara arrived as a chef at Schumacher College in 2012 but it wasn’t long before the opportunity arose to run and manage the popular Green Table Café, which sits in the heart of the estate. She took on the role of Food Lead earlier this year, just weeks before being plunged into one of the most challenging of years for the hospitality industry.
She says if she feels stressed she is happy to disappear into her kitchen at home where she finds cooking her own form of meditation as she invents new recipes.
Her signature dish is her Sri Lankan potato soup has become a favourite with students and visitors to the estate.
“It just flies out of the door. It’s got just the right amount of everything. I love creating things like that. It’s like a little victory moment where it all comes together.”
While Tier 2 restrictions are in place for us here in Devon, our food and drink outlets are able to stay open. For details and opening times head to this Food and Drink page.