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TONY BLAIR got more than he bargained for when he went for lunch at the Duke of Cambridge, in Islington, London. The PM was taken to task by the...

TONY BLAIR got more than he bargained for when he went for lunch at the Duke of Cambridge, in Islington, London. The PM was taken to task by the pub's licensee, seasonal food champion Geetie Singh, over the government's policies on allowing produce to be imported from abroad.

The incident in 2001 highlights the approach taken to seasonal food by the Duke of Cambridge, the world's first certified organic food-led pub. Everything on the menu is sourced from organic growers and producers under strict ethical guidelines - there is no cod because it is considered an endangered species, for example. More importantly, the pub - whose menu changes twice a day - sources everything according to season.

The menu is dictated by the fruit and veg that can be grown and the meat that can be reared, in Britain at that particular time of year. Occasionally Geetie will also buy produce such as citrus fruit from Italy when it is in season. However, she has a policy whereby none of the pub's ingredients can be imported by air freight, severely limiting how far afield she can go with her shopping basket.

Having built up a list of suppliers certified by organic campaign group the Soil Association, Geetie buys largely from whole food retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Infinity Foods. Much of it also comes directly from local farmers and producers. Everything is bought in small volumes and cooked on the premises.

Geetie grew up in a commune in Worcestershire before moving to London to work in restaurants and pubs. "I was shocked by the lack of thought about sustainability and the number of food miles," she says. "I thought the industry was appalling in its ethics, and that it could be done differently."

So she set about establishing the Duke of Cambridge. The pub was certified by the Soil Association, and opened in December 1998. She was fortunate to tap into burgeoning consumer interest in terms such as 'traceability' and 'food miles'.

The success of companies such as Ben and Jerry's and The Body Shop at the time were pointing to the possibility of making profits from ethically-managed business.

However, Geetie believes her success - turning a profit in the fifth month after opening - can be replicated this springtime elsewhere in the country.

"Chefs must change their mindset," she says. "Call the supplier in the morning and ask what they have, rather than demanding 'this, this, this and this'. The ingredients will be delicious. Seasonality is all about the freshness and the taste. If it's grown in a natural environment, you are going to get a better taste."

She adds that the hard work comes in establishing a list of like-minded, trustworthy suppliers. She spent time initially trawling farmers' markets to find individuals and small businesses that she could source from. And, above all of course, having seasonal produce is not the be-all and end-all of success - just one ingredient. Geetie summarises: "This can't be your only agenda. We are a bloody good pub too, just one that happens to be organic."

Let's hope Tony agreed.

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