The TH Interview: Geetie Singh of The Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub

The Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub is the first organic pub in England, opened in 1998 by Geetie Singh. Treehugger interviewed Geetie, the Managing Director, whilst partaking of a delicious lunch at the busy and cozy gastro-pub in the trendy Islington area of London. Having quaffed some Eco Warrier beer to get into the spirit, we asked Geetie about her philosophy at the pub. She said that her menu is led by ingredients that are hearty, basic and full-flavoured. She wants to have all of the food sourced as locally as possible; and tries for a radius within the London area. If the food is not local, then it is of British origin. There are more seasonal foods available now because organic growers have expanded their season due to climate change. Given the compact size of Europe, in terms of cartage, she noted that there is little difference between bringing something in from France or from Scotland. In the same way, wine shipped by sea from New Zealand may cause less pollution than that driven from Italy. Nothing comes by air freight. It is important to find a good chef, give him artistic freedom, and then work with him to think about organic principles.

We asked her what it was like to be organic in l998; which seems like the dark ages. Since she had been raised on a self-sufficient commune where they grew their own food, she didn’t realise how ahead of the times that she was. Having also managed a health food store she knew all the suppliers and sources for many of the foods. Initially suppliers didn’t want to provide bulk food and restaurant sizes and this caused waste but they changed quickly. Meat was always easy to find in England. Because of all the press about organic, more and more producers were interested in supplying to her.
She is constantly monitoring her business to assess where she can become more environmental, keeping tight controls and figuring out how she can reduce the mileage of her suppliers. As for the future direction: provenance is becoming more important. She is placing more emphasis on buying locally. Her biggest challenge is to buy food grown organically and locally. As for the direction of the organic movement in England; Geetie is concerned about the European Union’s loose definition of organic. Restaurants can mix organic and non-organic foods and still be called organic. She feels that full traceability is the key to the future success of the organic movement.

When asked to pick the one thing that she would change in the world, she was unhesitating in her response. She would like to set up a charity that would develop youth centres; to teach young people about political and environmental issues. Children in the poorest areas have no hope; they have no positive role models in their lives and need something meaningful to do.

As we completed our salad with marinated feta cheese and butternut squash and moved on to a dessert of apple cake with maple syrup and toffee sauce, we toasted Geetie, with Pitfield Organic Lager this time, and wished her continued success in this delicious and important endeavour. :: The Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub

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