Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: 'Sometimes you've got to make yourself unemployed to succeed'
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has described one of his 'most important gut decisions' in walking away from a journalism job, saying 'sometimes you've got to make yourself unemployed to get to the next stage'.
Speaking to Kate Thornton on White Wine Question Time, the chef and campaigner spoke about his early career, including being 'last in, first out' when he was sacked from London's River Cafe and how he later made the pivot into the world of TV.
The Eton-educated chef, whose River Cottage series and cookery books made him a household name, has also campaigned on issues such as fishing quotas and junk food.
Read more: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: 'Ultra-processed foods are making us ill'
On walking away from his journalism job, ahead of his first TV series A Cook on the Wild Side in 1995, he said it just wasn't 'where he wanted to be'.
Fearnley-Whittingstall added: "Sometimes you got to make yourself unemployed to get to the next stage, then you're going to pitch with a bit more vigour, you're going to go after that thing that means a lot to you, rather than continuing with the thing you're at and saying: 'Well, when I see that other opportunity, I'll know it and I'll jump.'"
WATCH: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall talks about how politicians and big businesses could do more to encourage healthier eating
He said facing the scariness of being without a job was necessary, 'maybe sleeping on a friend's floor for a while because you can't pay the rent', while trying to make something else happen.
After his move to River Cottage in 1997, which he explains started as a shared holiday rental with friends, several TV series and nearly 20 books followed, about the house, and the recipes inspired by it.
His early career also involved a change of direction, when his time working as a sous-chef at London's River Cafe 'came to a sudden end'.
Listen to the full episode to hear Hugh talk about the importance of choosing healthier food, his early career changes and all about his new book
Saying he was one of the last chefs in and therefore first out when there were financial difficulties at the restaurant, he said he nonetheless realised he didn't 'quite have the discipline, or the approach to work in what's probably one of the most relaxed restaurant kitchens in London'.
"Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to try and go work in some basement kitchen for a Michelin-starred chef or someone trying to get their third Michelin star with the stockpots flying past your head and the knives out," he explained.
"I thought that might not be what was right for me. So I decided to go and write about food and go and meet and talk to other chefs about the work that they were doing, see if I could find a way to capture that."
He pitched to various editors and publications, telling Thornton he bought a second hand fax machine to send his stories to editors who often wouldn't call or wouldn't take his calls.
Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "It was a frustrating process, but every now and again, I got a call back or I got through on the phone.
"People gave me a break and a chance slowly, I managed to make my way into into the world of journalism, mainly as a food writer, but also sometimes doing travel things and feature things.
"I just enjoyed it so much. It was brilliant."
WATCH: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on gut health; food education and eating healthy on a smaller budget