Welbeck food school founder turns television judge in new BBC series

Alison Swan Parente, left, with Top of the Shop presenter Tom Kerridge and fellow food judge Nisha Katona.
Alison Swan Parente, left, with Top of the Shop presenter Tom Kerridge and fellow food judge Nisha Katona.

The founder of the Welbeck Estate’s School of Artisan Food made her television debut this week, in a search for the UK’s finest produce.

Alison Swan Parente is one of two judges on the new BBC Two Series Top of the Shop, which aired for the first time on Tuesday, April 17.

Over the course of eight episodes, Alison will give up-and-coming amateur food producers the chance to showcase their goods and grow their business – if they can impress the discerning customers of a Yorkshire village shop.

Alison said: “I founded the School of Artisan Food in 2009, and said yes to taking part in Top of the Shop, as both are about going back to basics and reconnecting with good food.

“I realised if we didn’t do something to halt the decline quickly, the art of not just baking, but everything from pickling to jam making and butchery would become obsolete.”

Judging alongside food writer and restaurateur Nisha Katona, Alison will examine products from categories including chutneys and preserves, to cheese and chocolate.

Alison said: “After the Second World War, we fell in love with convenience food.

“It was a revolution in so many ways and it did bring huge advantages, particularly for women.

“Along with a number of other social changes, it helped free them from the kitchen, but in the rush for quicker, more convenient food within a couple of generations the recipes and skills which would have normally been handed down began to disappear.

“What was gained in some ways was lost in others, in terms of health, quality and taste, as food became more and more processed.”

The first episode focused on four fledgling businesses making preserves, pickles and spreads: from an apple and chili jelly made in a London garden, to a homemade low-fat peanut butter, a Filipino papaya pickle, and a homemade runner bean chutney.

The second episode, screened on Wednesday, April 18, was dedicated to cheese.

Both are now available on BBC iPlayer at https://goo.gl/PkXGcR.