“I had to step back from the stoves to focus on my wellbeing and mental health”

Sean Hope, co-founder and former Michelin-starred head chef at The Olive Branch in Rutland, writes about his tough decision to step away from the stoves and his exciting new product range, Add Hopes…

In April 2018, I decided to step away from the stoves at The Olive Branch after nearly 20 years. The reason was simple. It was starting to affect my mental health. 

Exiting the pub kitchen was difficult. Cooking is an ingrained passion I’ve held dear for more than 35 years. It left a huge void in my life, but while recovering from my diagnosis of anxiety and depression, I was able to spend valuable time with my family.

Sean ran The Olive Branch kitchen for 20 years. In that time he won many awards, including a Michelin Star.

Another door opens

I also followed another passion of mine – growing fruit and vegetables. Three years ago, I developed a plan for The Olive Branch paddock, which is located over the road opposite the pub. Of late, I have returned to the paddock to continue what I’d started – growing sustainable, seasonal organic ingredients for the pub. Doing so has inspired me and rewarded me with greater peace of mind.

My approach is to use as much general waste from the pub as possible alongside a ‘no-dig’, organic policy. We’re using old cardboard to make growing beds, and combining coffee grounds with waste fruit, veg and fireplace ash to produce compost. My composting area is like mother nature’s stockpot for fabulous food!

Sean’s new workplace – the allotment he created, situated over the road from The Olive Branch in Clipsham

Add Hopes is born

I came up with the idea for Add Hopes while working in the paddock and while talking to family and friends. The importance of sauces and condiments to my Olive Branch cooking style often cropped up in conversation. The question came: “Why don’t you make them, bottle them and sell them”?

Add Hopes is the result. I’ve painstakingly developed each product, taking the time to perfect each one. They are designed for people who, like me, adore food but sometimes don’t have enough time to make complex sauces and condiments at home.

I want people to Add Hopes to their dishes. You might sprinkle Add Hopes Hoisin sauce – made from paddock-grown hawthorn berries – to a midweek stir-fry. Or maybe you’ll add Add Hopes spiced tomato sauce to a simple ratatouille. Or perhaps you’ll complement grilled spring lamb or your Sunday roast beef with Add Hopes creamed horseradish (grown in the paddock).

When the weather has been less fair, I’ve spent time creating the www.add-hopes.com website and online shop to bring my products to a larger audience.

Exploring fermentation

Most recently I have been researching fermentation, which I find fascinating. The result is a local organic Rutland beer vinegar and my interpretation of Worcestershire sauce, which has been in development for almost four months! I’m also developing kombucha brewed with paddock-grown lemon verbena. All my products will soon be available to try at The Olive Branch and buy in the pub shop.

Mind Space Stamford

After struggling with mental health and finding it hard to get the right support, I was delighted to discover a local charity – Stamford Mind Space. Their positive and practical support is excellent and much needed, so I have decided to donate a proportion of the profits from Add Hopes to this amazing charity.

The future

Soon, I would love to give people the chance to spend time at The Olive Branch paddock via gardening workshops. I am also planning to take part in a 100-mile charity bike ride in July to raise money for Mind Space Stamford. Also, Sean continues to be involved with The Olive Branch on a consulting level as a director and co-owner.

The Olive Branch’s polytunnel
Guest author
The author: