TRAVELLING the world and cooking in America, The Caribbean, France, Germany and more, as well as creating dishes for the likes of Barbra Streisand and Lionel Messi, Paul Collins, 50, now works at Yeo Valley in Blagdon, Somerset.

He has also worked at Lucknam Park in Bath, and then more recently at Daylesford Organics in the Cotswolds.

Paul said: “I’ve never wanted to do anything else and I was quite good at cooking.

“Working in the Michelin star establishments when I was young meant that I met the chefs that people aspire to.

“The last 15/16 years of my life, I have focussed on the organic sector, which is something that I am really passionate about.

“I do still love cooking. I wouldn’t change it. I still love putting my uniform on every morning, I love it. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

The canteen at Yeo Valley used to be a hotel that the company bought around 18 years ago.

Paul, a Yeo Valley Food Ambassador, started working there in 2011 when they used the canteen primarily for the 110 staff on site and opened it to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Five years ago, they decided to open every day of the week to the public.

Somerset County Gazette:

Paul added: “I think we’ve been at the forefront of the organic movement for the past eight to 10 years.

"We are cooking very simple food created with a real passion for the product.

“With our Yeo Valley dairy products, we are proud to be in the supermarkets across the sector. It gives people the opportunity to buy an organic product.

“And by choosing to by that organic product, you are supporting 120 farms in the UK. I think we should shout about this from the rooftops.”

Last year, the Canteen was awarded four stars by the Soil Association’s ‘Organic Served Here’. For this, 75% of the total spend has to be on organic produce, and Yeo Valley are on 84%. Paul explained that he often has the dilemma between buying organic and buying local, hence why they do not buy 100% organic produce.

He explained: “For me, this is the challenge – sometimes you can get these products organically, but they will come from outside the UK.

“It is a dilemma for everyone even in the supermarket, do you go local or organic? It can be a bit of a minefield I guess.

“If you asked Tim or Sarah Mead (Yeo Valley owners) to choose one thing they could buy organically, they would say dairy every time because of the benefits to the environment.

“The difference in price between a litre of milk and the Yeo Valley milk isn’t that much, but the difference you could make to the environment is huge.”

Somerset County Gazette:

Homely, rustic, British and seasonal is how Paul would describe the food at Yeo Valley. They focus on using local suppliers within six to eight miles of Yeo Valley.

“We’re very happy to support local and small producers” Paul explained.

“We are cooking very seasonally and locally. For me, it seems really simple. You have this basket of wonderful products that are in Somerset that are in season right now and our job is to transfer that into dishes that people would like to eat.

“We are all part of that network of people around here who have the same outlook on the environment and understand the benefits of eating organically and locally.”

As well as being organic and using as many local suppliers as possible, Paul also makes sure the waste created by the restaurant is minimal.

All the boxes that the products arrive in are made from recycled products or they are recycled themselves. The fish is tipped into the sinks at Yeo Valley and the containers taken away.

They also have four bins and recycle as much of the rest of the waste as possible.

Paul said: “As chefs we have a duty and moral obligation to do out bit.

“The cooking becomes the easy part; the difficulty is finding like-minded people to jump on board with you and make that difference.

“Our herbs and salad supplier has now moved over to a packaging that is compostable.”

Somerset County Gazette:

For breakfast, one dish that remains popular is the eggs royale, which is made with the trout from the lake near the restaurant.

A member of staff will catch the trout, transport it to be smoked and sliced and then the restaurant will use it on their breakfast dish.

Yeo Valley is known for producing local and organic dairy products. For Paul, this is great, because one ingredient he loves to cook with is butter.

He added: “Because we are Yeo Valley it is like second nature - we have access to it and you don’t give it too much of a second thought.”

Yet the food is not the only focus for Yeo Valley, they want to help the community as much as they can.

One Thursday every month, Yeo Valley offer the Canteen to a charity. Yeo Valley will provide the staff and the chefs, and the charity get to keep all the profits they make.

They also rent out a conference centre and host Valley Fest on the first weekend in August.

For more information visit