A former Michelin starred chef at Gidleigh Park in Devon and one of Britain's most respected and articulate cooks, Mr Hill is in the throes of obtaining all the appropriate consents to open a restaurant at Ludlow, amid the rolling scenery of Shropshire. All being well, the Merchant House - a 16th-century Jacobean mansion, where he will be chef-proprieter - will be open by Christmas.
Already, he has been inquiring about organic growers. 'It's a sort of Sherlock-Holmes-goes-to- market strategy,' he says. 'I remember at Gidleigh being struck by the vitality of the local organic food I was buying. The most striking example was soft fruit. Organic growers were concentrating on good, old varieties such as the strawberries, Cambridge Vigour and Hapill. They gave off the most tremendous smell and tasted wonderful.
'Then, as the price differential between locally grown organic food and imported stuff from New Covent Garden began to shrink, it seemed that it was more and more feasible to buy organic. These days, on veg, the difference is pretty marginal. Organic meat is still more expensive, because standards don't permit cost-cutting, factory-farming methods. But it's worth it.
'The taste difference between an organic chicken and a battery one is immense. No one with any judgement could say it was just in the mind.
'The thing that motivates me most about organic food is that it represents a clean bill of health. I've been very disturbed by the constant reassurances from government and food industry men in suits that everything is fine with our food supply. They'd be doing the same if the Titanic was going down. When a scandal leaks out, they tell us they knew about it all the time, and it's under control.
'The scandals and cover-ups over foods such as farmed salmon make chefs and consumers very wary,' he said, alluding to artificial colouring that is suspected of being toxic; delousing chemicals such as Nuvan that are polluting the waters; and the risk of disease spreading from farm-bred to wild fish. 'People want food with more integrity. You get that with organic food, but you should get it with all food.
'Recent food scandals illustrate how the driving force in organic and conventional food is entirely different. With conventional food, the pressure is always to produce it that fraction cheaper and make it easier to handle. That means boring varieties, a uniform appearance and size. With organics, the driving force is producing food which is good, more interesting and seasonal.
'I don't make buying organic food a formal policy. I don't like to occupy too much moral high ground. I take all that Green Party baggage not for the ideology, but because it delivers the kind of food I'm after: food that tastes good; food you can trust. For me, pleasure and organic food go together.
'Organic food already has some influential supporters among chefs, and the groundwork is there to attract many of their colleagues. Chefs are starting to buy ingredients that are interesting and tasty in themselves, focusing more on how they have been produced, rather than just cooking techniques. In my experience, people who really care about the quality of food naturally drift into organics.'
This week's Organic Harvest Month events include:
Talk by Brennan Soames on soil structure, Centre For Human Ecology, Edinburgh University (Thursday 13 October, 7.30pm; 0224 272146).
Open Day at Elm Farm, Newbury, Berkshire, Britain's centre for research on organic food and farming (Saturday 15 October; 0488 658298).
Selected price reductions at Spitalfields Organic Market, Brushfield Street, London E1 (Friday 14 October, 11am-3pm).
Organic Education Day at Bradford City Library (today).
Farm Open Day at Frome Organic Growers, Ledbury, Worcestershire (tomorrow; 0684 576266).
Organic Harvest Hotline: 0272 299988.Reuse content