James Whetlor founded Cabrito after keeping a few goats to solve a land management problem. He was cooking at River Cottage at the time, and a few of the goats ended up on the menu. After seeing how well the kids sold, coupled with the fact that male kids in the dairy industry were euthanised at birth, he determined to start selling kid and goat meat to chefs and shops everywhere.
Locavore recently spoke James about Cabrito, and the full interview will be published in Volume Two, available to buy here.
Below, James tells us of the challenges of starting out, and his plans for the River Cottage Food Fair, to be held over the May Bank Holiday weekend (26th & 27th). For more information on the Food Fair, click here.
What were the challenges, starting out?
Maybe we shouldn’t have started with goats, they do have a propensity to escape. We spent a lot of time getting them out of peoples’ gardens, apologising, and chasing the goats down the road. The thing that really surprised me was the weight of the responsibility. It sounds daft to actually say it, but they’re living, sentient animals. We had twenty at one stage, and that’s a big responsibility; it can’t not be part of your everyday thoughts.
We don’t keep livestock ourselves anymore, we rely on farmers on a larger scale, and I’m more appreciative of the work that they do. One of our farmers texted me at eleven o’clock last night, and he was out in the barn trying to make sure the water was running. It’s minus eight degrees in the barn and he’s got three thousand animals…
In a large-scale dairy, the entire modus operandi is that these animals have to be as fit and healthy as possible. That’s the basic tenet of farming – you’re there to keep the animals well, and if you do, they will reward you with milk and cheese.
You’re appearing at the River Cottage Food Fair at the end of May. What are your plans?
I’ll be talking to people, answering their questions. I am one of those people for whom food is pretty much at the centre of their existence, so the idea of talking to people all day about it is great.
I’m going to be cooking on the fire pit. I’m quite a new convert to open-fire cooking. I worked in restaurants most of my life, and this was before the ‘live fire’ revolution that’s going on at the moment. I’ve put some ovens in the back garden and I’ve really got into it. I think its one of those additions to fine dining – and a surprising one – that is here to stay. I’ve watched so many fashions come and go, but I think this has added a flavour and a technique to fine dining. People think it’s easy but it’s not. If you need your oven at 400ºc for service and it’s at 500ºc, you’re really in trouble. And getting to know which wood compliments which meat, and the timings.
I’ll obviously be cooking goat. Probably slow cook a shoulder in the smoker. For me it’s the best way to cook it; that and a bit of bread and you’re pretty much home and hosed. I’ll probably bone out a shoulder and marinade it – I particularly like preserved lemon marinade on the kid goat – because it has this reputation of being tough, but if you give it to people medium-rare you can show them it’s not, it’s a well reared, quality product.
James’s new book, Goat: Cooking and Eating, is out now. (Quadrille, £20.00)
Photography: Mike Lusmore