Jimmy’s hunt for the best British grub

Published: Sunday 15th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Farmer, entrepreneur and TV presenter, Jimmy Doherty has proved himself to be far more than a one-trick pony, winning a well-deserved place in the nation’s hearts since his trials and tribulations setting up Jimmy’s Farm were first documented on screens back in 2004.

Since then, he’s appeared in a string of programmes and had success with countless foodie projects, but he’s the first to admit that none of it would be possible without his hard-working wife, Michaela.

“It helps having an understanding wife, who’s prepared to run the business when you’re not there,” he says with a laugh.

Next up, he’s heading on a mission to discover the nation’s greatest artisanal foods, as part of a competition called Flavours Of The Neighbourhood, run by Hotel Indigo.

And today, he’s hung up his wellies to call for last-minute entrants to upload pictures of their produce to the hotel chain’s Facebook page by February 15.

“After that, it’s up to me and the other judges to visit them and nominate the winner,” says Doherty, who turns 40 this spring.

There’s a £1,000 cash prize up for grabs, plus a professional photo shoot of the produce, which, says Doherty, is “worth its weight in gold”.

And he should know, having put in the hard graft to make his farm a roaring success. What started as a few rare breed pigs on some scrubland in Sussex, has grown to include an award-winning restaurant, butterfly house and wedding venue.

There’s also a food and music festival, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing…

“At the beginning, you have a bit more of a romantic vision of tending your animals and walking around in the evening with a glass of wine, watching the sunset. That all goes out the window as soon as you get the first invoice. You go, ‘Oh, the feed bill needs paying’, and you forget all that romantic nonsense!

Doherty grew up in Essex, and was the self-professed “Doctor Doolittle of the village”, recalling how, as a schoolboy, he used to “breed and sell snakes and lizards”, and washed his neighbours’ cars, in order to save up and buy an aquarium.

He has two daughters of his own now – Molly Rose, four, and two-year-old Cora May – and says Molly’s already getting the animal husbandry bug.

“I bought her some big fish and she’s got some grasshoppers on the go at the moment. We have a walk-through tropical butterfly house in summer, and then we’ve got everything from reindeer to alpacas and emus, and a village of guinea pigs.”

Doherty’s own idyllic childhood also involved having Jamie Oliver as a mate, and working in the Oliver family pub.

“One of the first jobs I had, it was probably slightly illegal actually, when I was about 11. I used to work in the kitchen [at Jamie’s parents’ pub] washing up, and Jamie used to do bottling up and then he started doing the food prep. At a very early age, you could see that that’s where he was heading.”

The pair are currently starring together in Channel 4 series Friday Night Feast, which sees them entertaining celebrities at their Southend Pier cafe.

“You’d never dream back then we’d be working on a show together – not those two kids running around with hair gel on their heads!”

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Sunday 15th February 2015 by The News Editor

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