I’ve been asked to write a blog post to introduce myself and the Leon series I present. I was given the rather nebulous word count of “longer than an Instagram caption, shorter than an essay” so I hope this satisfies the powers that be.
My name is Jack Burke and I’m a chef, writer, presenter and Leon cookbook author. I host a series called London Jack where I visit Leon’s producers to find out where our ingredients come from and meet the people who make them. When I told my flatmate about the name of the series he commented, ‘Oh very clever. I like that. It’s an inversion of Jack London, right?’ We’re not that clever. Full disclosure: the name came from the rather more prosaic fact that my name is Jack and I am from London. The producers thought it would be entertaining to see a soft-handed city boy, who grew up in Zone 2, be put to work on real farms with real farmers and do an actual day’s graft. And entertaining it was, both for the farmers exploiting their free labour, the producers, and anyone who watches the films too.
We also filmed a special episode in association with Veolia, the company in charge of collecting and processing Leon’s recycling. I’ll be honest, when the producers told me that I had to do a full shift on a bin lorry starting at 4am, then follow the recycling as it travels around two massive facilities on the outskirts of London, I was questioning why I ever agreed to do this series. And I’ll admit, I struggled. But It ended up, being one of my favourite days of filming. It was genuinely fascinating. The people were passionate about their work and indefatigable in their commitment to recycling. Vince and Dave, the two guys who gleefully had me picking up recycling in the dark, early hours of a wintry Wednesday morning, took real care to make sure the bags of recycling weren’t contaminated as that could mean the entire contents of the truck were rejected and sent to landfill instead. And Richard, Veolia’s Technical Director and recycling savant, has made it his life’s work to create an efficient and usable system for recycling plastics – thereby reducing the need for environmentally-damaging virgin plastic.
Richard was the one who gave me a tour of both the Southwark and Dagenham plants (watch the video to find out more about each). As someone who has always been a fan of the cult TV show How It’s Made, I followed him round like a little boy, genuinely fascinated by the machinery he had dreamt up and helped put together. It left me feeling mighty confident that there is a system in place to deal with the astonishing amount of plastic we use in our daily lives. It’s foolish to say we simply need to get rid of all plastic packaging. It is incredibly useful. But there’s no denying that we use far too much of it and that a lot can be recycled in an efficient and clean way. I just hope the quiet, sensible voices of people like Richard aren’t drowned out by the loud and extreme opinions on either side of the debate. He is someone we really should be listening to.
I hope you enjoy the videos as much as I did making them.