Micah Carr-Hill - Head of Taste at Cawston Press

Source: Cawston Press

Name: Micah Carr-Hill

Job title: Head of taste

Company: Cawston Press 

What was your first job? One of my first jobs in the early 1990s was at Oddbins, the off licence chain that used to be on almost every high street (sadly there are only 17 branches left). Oddbins was a trailblazer in the UK wine scene at the time and it was here that I got my WSET diploma but, more importantly, where I learnt that I had a good palate and fostered a love for fine wine.

What’s been your worst job interview? I can’t remember having a bad job interview, to be honest. However, back in the 1980s I was kindly asked to leave a Saturday job at a well-known high street electronics retailer for turning up hungover and just sitting on washing machines rather than selling them. Thirty-five years later I would never dream of such a thing – ie go to work on a Saturday. 

What was the first music single you bought? Dreadlock Holiday by 10cc in September 1978. God, I’m so old. 

How do you describe your job to your friends? I tell them I develop drinks (and foods, as I also have my own development company, Tastehead). Most friends have heard of Cawston Press so I don’t have to explain further… they just pester me for free samples. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job? It’s when people I don’t know (and therefore don’t feel they have to be nice to me) say how tasty the drinks are, or when I hear that someone well-known goes on about how good a product is that I’ve developed. The recent example of this is James Acaster and his love – in song form – of Cawston Press Sparkling Rhubarb. 

What is the least rewarding part? It’s not so much unrewarding as tiring, and that’s factory trials and productions. They are part and parcel of developing products and can’t be avoided, and it’s always great when the final drink is in a can, carton or bottle, but there are inevitably unforeseen challenges and they rarely finish on time. 

What is your motto in life? “We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!” From the great film Withnail & I.

If you were allowed one dream perk, what would it be? Unlimited budget to eat and drink in the best restaurants as “research”. Our finance director, Joe, would argue that I have already instilled this perk into my working life, but a man’s got to eat, Joe! 

Do you have any phobias? Not really, but I have very forthright views on any number of foods, drinks, ingredients, etc, a large number of which are pejorative. I’m really quite tiresome.

If you could change one thing in grocery, what would it be? My bugbear is with food legislation and how it affects grocery. An example of this is the sugar levy on soft drinks. If the need is felt to reduce sugar consumption in the population and therefore tax sugar, then tax at source, ie sugar as an ingredient, so that all food and drink products that use it are affected (pretty much every category) rather than just one. 

What luxury would you have on a desert island? A top-of-the-range bed, high thread count linen, low tog feather duvet.

What animal most reflects your personality? It would have to be the elephant, for two reasons. Firstly, they are considered to have amongst the best smelling capabilities of the animal world. It’s the olfactory receptors that detect aroma and flavour, rather than the tongue that detects the five tastes, and the elephant has these in spades. Just imagine the joy that one of these animals would get from a fine burgundy! Also, they are apparently one of only two animals (other than humans) that move to the beat of a song and will change the way they move if the rhythm alters (the other is the cockatoo). Those who know me well are acutely aware that I am a very good dancer. 

What’s your favourite film and why? One of my favourite films is Big Night. Set in the 1950s, it’s about two Italian brothers who run an authentic but faltering Italian restaurant in New Jersey. Great soundtrack, food that makes your mouth water, the splendid Stanley Tucci and an excellent ending – a rare treat.

What has been the most embarrassing moment in your life? I can’t actually think of one. I’m not one to get embarrassed, really.

Which celebrity would you most like to work with and why? Fergus Henderson, the man behind St John restaurant and Nose to Tail Eating. Not only did he (amongst others) revolutionise food in the UK, but also writes brilliantly and loves a glass of wine.

What would your death row meal be? Less a meal, more a series of ingredients that I’d like included in a multi-course menu, ideally cooked by Mikael Jonsson from the much-lamented Hedone restaurant. Foie gras, veal sweetbreads, crab, turbot, dairy cow beef, Iberico pork, a La Fromagerie cheeseboard, etc. I would require shavings of both white and black truffles and, therefore, due to the small crossover window of the seasons, I’d have to be killed in December.

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