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Life Support: Stephen Parker-Eaton

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Life Support: Stephen Parker-Eaton

By: Stephen Parker-Eaton, SVP, Consumer Engagement Strategy

River Cottage. A well-known TV Show that became a brand with products, local restaurants called canteens, events, a cooking school with a range of courses, and causes such as getting rid of single use plastics.

Why would a Planner choose to go and learn a set of new skills at a cooking school in England?

Firstly, because the founder, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, had a sillier double-barreled name than me. And secondly, we all know the best chefs are British right (No, not Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, but Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal, Anthony Worral-Thompson, Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson)? But really because the trend of sustainability and provenance and locally sourcing has changed the way we should think, create and consume, and I’m all about rethinking established practices.

The venue was fabulous—a converted farm cottage in East Devon, idyllic and isolated with a 15-minute walk down a seriously steep hill to get there. Particularly cruel that the walk back was uphill, especially after a long days cooking and a nibble or two accompanied by amazing local cider. The attendees were diverse and geographically spread from around the UK and world.

Each day had a different focus – the head chef would show us steps then you were on your own. Day one was baking, turning sourdough to pizza and flatbread. The second day was gutting, filleting and preparing a range of fish. Day three was taking an organically farmed pig and slicing, curing, baking, frying and eating the results. The final day focused on vegetables and how we can use and prepare them in new ways.

The weekend after my trip I relocated to the village I grew up in, staying with my mother.  The village has many houses older than America, and an exceptional local pub with a fine ale menu which I was forced to frequent and sample extensively.

So, what did I learn?

  • England is in my heart and soul, from the people, the food, the ale and the landscape — if only they would stop saying “sorry” all the time.
  • To think about food differently — avoid processed food and waste, be brave, screw up, but embrace it with a smile.
  • To keep trying new things — it’s easy to settle. Re-imagining your approach and world is uncomfortable.
  • Finally, to embrace every memory — our memories are precious and fleeting. Keep creating and celebrating them (#EndAlz)


TMA wants to reward the people who have helped our success throughout the years. So, we developed Life Support. Life Support is a special perk for people who have been at TMA for seven and 15 years. The way we like to describe the program is a sabbatical with a purpose. We ask people to go do something interesting and fun, and come back with a knowledge, skill, or learning that will make you a better and happier person than when you left. Stay tuned for more TMA Life Support stories.