In its second year, Goatober will be soon upon us, providing yet another perfect excuse for feasting throughout the cold month of October.
Not that we ever need an excuse.
For the uninitiated, Goatober is the UK’s month-long celebration of the dairy billy goat meat industry and was brought into life by none other than ethical meat champion, James Wheltor; who is the driving force behind Cabrito and supplier of goat meat to Turner & George. In celebration of this wonderfully versatile but much under-used meat, restaurants across the country will be putting a goat dish pride of place on their menus and urging diners to try something delicious and new.
To get the low-down on Goatober, T&G Content Editor, Danny Kingston, had a quick chat with James, to find out what it's all abaaaaaaaaaaht, Alfie...
Hi James, so Goatober kicks off soon and already, the event is looking bigger than last year, what are you looking forward to most?
The food! I was a chef for over 10 years, I’ve worked in food almost all my life and I love restaurants. All the Goatober events have brilliantly talented chefs cooking, so I can’t wait to start eating. It is more than that though. We built it from the bottom, basically. There were very few people selling kid goats when we started and no one on any kind of scale. So many times, I drove to London with two goats in the van, or to Manchester or just about anywhere else trying to get the business off the ground and now we have these events, with these chefs. It’s kind of amazing really and so, so satisfying.
Bristol, Manchester and Somerset have been added to the list for 2017, have you got any plans to make this bigger? Is Goatober in every city on the cards?
Well, ambition isn’t something I lack! I would love to do a Birmingham or Liverpool or Newcastle event or anywhere that will have me really. But the exciting expansion plans this year are all international. We have an event in Dublin and in two in Holland. The Eindhoven one is very cool. It’s part of Dutch Design Week, with an NGO that works on food waste issue in the EU. We are helping them out with a few projects with the aim of pushing Goatober out Europe wide next year.
Roast smoked leg of Devonshire kid goat, braised shoulder pie, turnip, wild horseradish, cobnut jus - Stephen Englefield, Head Chef at The Jugged Hare, London
Tell me about Cabrito then? How did all of this start? Why did you decide to promote goat?
It started with 4 goats and an overgrown field. We were looking after some land for friends and part of it was an overgrown paddock. We thought goats might be able to help us out so we found four kids from a local dairy and put them to work. They did the job and come autumn it was time for them to be moved on. I was cooking at River Cottage at the time and thought I’d try them out on the menu. They sold really well and I thought maybe I could sell a few goats to the restaurants I knew in London. That was the start.
Have you seen a change towards goat as a result of your efforts?
The answer to that is two-fold. There is the bit that you can see, such as the restaurants who now have goat on their menus, the recipes in the Sunday supplements and businesses popping up on twitter using goat. Things you wouldn’t have seen five years ago are obvious proof, to me, that Britain’s attitudes towards goat as food are changing. The other bit, and the bit that I think is Cabrito’s real achievement, is on the farming side. These animals just weren’t kept alive in any numbers before we started. We have built the relationship with the dairies, both the individual farmers and the dairy groups to convince them to keep the animals alive, rear them for meat and sell them on, rather than euthanising them at birth. That’s overturning an industry norm and creating a better system and I am proud of that.
Are there any chefs in particular who have been instrumental in getting goat onto the scene?
Neil Rankin’s goat taco changed my life. I’m only half joking by the way. I was sat on a sunbed in France when I first saw his Goat Taco on Instagram, at the very first Meatopia. And I then thought - ‘we are going to be fine.’ It’s authentic, delicious and beautiful and something that captured the food loving public’s imagination and gave them a way to try our product with very little risk. But there's also the guys at The Jugged Hare, or Darren Goodwin at Losehil House in Derbyshire, or Mary-Ellen McTague; who bought goat consistently when we started out. They are the reason we are still here. Their custom kept the business afloat in the early days.
Smoked goat taco - George Wood, Head Chef at Temper, London
What's the most innovative dish you've seen created using goat so far?
Geez, that’s a tough question! Junya Yamasaki once served me raw kid liver with rice wine at Koya. That’s was spectacular, much to my surprise. Most things at Duck and Waffle are incredibly innovative. They’ve got a pulled goat donut on for Goatober which is amazing. There is one that is more classic than innovative, but I’d never seen it on a menu before. And that’s Jeremy Lee’s ‘Duet of Kid’ at Quo Vadis. It’s a chop and a faggot but it read so beautifully on the menu, I got a copy framed for my bathroom.
Kid tartare with deep fried oyster and crispy seaweed - Gill Meller, River Cottage, Devon
Is there more work to be done and what are you doing to encourage this?
As I mentioned before, the farming side is in place. It is now a case of keeping more of the kids alive as demand increases so all the work is on the sales side and there is always more work to be done on the sales side! Obviously Goatober is a huge part of encouraging more people to try goat and also to understand the reasons why they should.
You just recently appeared at Meatopia with Romy Gill, how did that all pan out for you? Did you have fun there and what were your highlights?
It’s so much fun and I just love doing it. It was my fourth year and it keeps getting better and better. It’s really hard work, mind. I was there at 2am on the Saturday night rolling a massive drum of Romy’s tamarind marinade around the floor so it was mixed properly. Then back in at 7am to get the tandoors lit! I have to say though, this year I was just the muscle, Romy put the dish together and it was an absolute stunner. She’s a real talent.
I didn’t get the chance to try anyone else’s because I was flat out. Selin Kiazim did out kid chops and sold 500 portions in 4 hours. That is pretty cool!
Non-goat related question! What is your favourite meat or cut of meat?
It’s hard to look past Sika deer. I used to get a few from Cornbury Park, where the Wilderness Festival is held. They are semi-wild, with their diets being supplemented in the winter, other than that they live a stress-free life so never loose any conditioning. The prickets, shot around 18 months old, were extraordinary. So that and hogget. I love hogget. It has much more depth of flavour and without that gacky fattiness you can get with lamb.
What is your end goal with all of this? Where do you see Cabrito/Goatober in 10 years’ time?
Cabrito has a one-line mission statement. It says the goal is to put all the billy goats born in the UK into the food system. That won’t all come from us, of course, but we hope to create a market big enough that they all find their way in. I think that is easily achievable in 10 years. Whether that is all to restaurants and catering butchers who knows but we will keep plugging away! As for Goatober, anywhere there is a goat dairy industry, there is ‘Billy goat problem.’ As I mentioned earlier we are already working on Goatober in the EU but I think Australia and New Zealand are a real possibility. Then there is the USA. The idea for Goatober came from Erin Fairbanks while she was working for Heritage Foods in New York. I think it would be great to do an event in NYC with Erin and the Heritage Food guys. It would pull all the strands together and make Goatober a global initiative. Stay tuned for more news on that as we have it Danny…