Meet Matthew Pennington, Founder and Chef Patron of The Ethicurean –– Somerset's responsible restaurant situated in a bountiful walled garden. As we give one lucky person the chance to win some seriously stylish togs from Maze and a spiffy experience dinner at this Somerset jewel, we have a quick natter with The Ethicurean’s main man about sustainability, seasonality and style.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello Maze friends.
I'm Matthew Pennington, food Author and founder of The Ethicurean restaurant. I've been deeply fascinated by food, flavour and how that intersects with the quality of our natural world. I'm a stickler for gathering – indoors or out – around food and libations alongside the fascinating folk I've met along the way. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant and creative human folk can be when positive and thoughtful. I work alongside my incredible business partner and Chef Mark McCabe, attempting to re-write the rule book on what a sustainable restaurant can be.
The writings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE, 2291 years ago!) inspired me to form what evolved into The Ethicurean. Epicurus is documented to have lived in a renowned bountiful garden, cultivating close friendships centred around food and seeking pleasure.
He advocated finding life's purest joys in the unique richness of human encounters. Wisely insisting that simple pleasures create happiness in life. He approved of retiring from public life so that we may explore and pursue a way of living harmoniously with nature. Even in great pain from illness in his early seventies, he insisted the memory and love of his lifelong friends made happiness prevail even then.
His philosophy resonated with me in the sense that growing food and gathering around it to eat it provides a significant opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Every meal should be well considered, for here lies joy! We created our infant business inspired by Epicurus, fascinated by this ethos while caring about doing so ethically. Ethics and Epicureanism had a chance to be thoughtfully combined.
Of course, I'm ever so pleased that the Michelin guide now recognises that sustainability in fine dining is essential for its followers. I also look fondly back to 2011 when the Observer Food nominated us as the best ethical restaurant in the UK. That was an incredibly proud moment too. They put us on the map, and not long after, we were invited to publish our cookbook. We're over twelve years *young as a restaurant and thrilled to be recognised as a leading sustainability enterprise now influencing how food guides review.
We are not staying still, and 2023 looks like a unique yet challenging year with plans afoot. While we initially embarked on a project that is a restaurant at heart, we want to tackle some of the broader issues to help build resilient food security in the UK. We are launching a series of Ethi-Life Talks, where we will host conversations with authors, chefs, food strategists and mental well-being groups. This will hopefully raise awareness and aid the movement for sustainable food, something we consider vital to every part of the community.
What's your personal style when you're not at work?
Thank you Matthew for taking the time to talk to us and give a deeper insight into your fantastic business. With its views out to the Mendip Hills, The Ethicurean has long been one of our favourite places for a spot of lunch. Their seasonal, sustainable approach has earned them numerous accolades and awards and we couldn’t be more pleased to have partnered with them for our latest giveaway.