A classic day out: universal cookery and food festival 2013

The  Staff Canteen
The universal cookery and food festival 2013 took place at Warbrook House in Hampshire on 4th September. As media partners The Staff Canteen were lucky enough to be invited along. Here’s what we found… The universal cookery and food festival organisers, the Craft Guild of Chefs, had chosen the venue for their annual festival well – Warbrook House is a traditional Georgian Manor House surrounded by stunning grounds. They had less control over the weather, of course, but for the second year running that turned out pretty stunningly too. It was a classic British late-summer day in a classic British setting. The line-up of events and chefs had a very British feel too, with its focus set firmly on the local, the seasonal, the fresh and the wild. The event was set in and around a huge marquee between the main house and a small lake framed by woods. In this picture-book setting a host of cooking demos, debates, displays and foraging tours ran throughout the day. It all kicked off with a series of demos from chefs who catered the London Olympics, including former MasterChef: the Professionals winner, Keri Moss. Keri then went on to join Lisa Allen, head chef at Michelin-starred Northcote Manor, to take part in the ‘Girl Power’ demonstration where the two cooked up a storm and made the case for the unsung women heroes of the British culinary scene. Speaking after the demo Keri said: “This was only my second live demo which was pretty daunting! I still get nerves but it turned out great. It was great fun and I’d love to do more.” Lisa added: “It’s a fantastic day and great to see how many suppliers have come and given their time. It’s a real insight to know what’s around you and what produce you can use.” Next up was Russell Bateman, head chef at Colettes at The Grove. Following a debate on the different approaches of conventional and organic British beef farmers, Russell cooked the lesser-used cut of brisket using, rather touchingly, a pressure cooker he had borrowed off his mum. Russell said: “There are two things that make me want to be part of this event: firstly I get to interact with people in the profession and secondly, because it’s a paid event, you know that people who are going to be here really want to be here; it’s a passion for them and you’re going to meet like-minded people.” James Knappett of Bubbledogs followed and cooked a dish of roasted chicken skin, rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam which he serves at his new ‘Kitchen Table’ – an intimate chef’s table dining room within the Bubbledogs restaurant. After so many star-studded cooking demos, taste buds were suitably fired up and ready to be unleashed on the ‘street food village’, a selection of some the UK’s best street food stalls including ‘The everybody love love jhal muri express’ offering traditional street food from Kolkata in India; the ‘Soulful Food Company’, handing out delicious pots of stews and soups; and ‘Stripped Back’, former Roganic and John Salt head chef, Ben Spalding’s company, offering high quality, highly affordable street food. Suitably satiated, the audience waddled back for the afternoon’s events where John Campbell, director of John Campbell Restaurants, showed how to cook flavour-filled food that ticks all the health boxes. This was followed by two of the festival organisers, John Feeney and Ian Nottage, discussing the modern role of the development chef. Finally there was a lively panel debate tackling the various minefields of the modern menu such as allergies, intolerances, food labelling, provenance and sustainability. As if all this wasn’t enough for the festival-going foodie, throughout the day there were live demonstrations in stations dotted around the main marquee where a number of experts did demos on how to pick and prepare seafood, game and fresh produce. There were also regular foraging tours around Warbrook House’s virgin woods, led by Justin Ballard and Stuart Smith of Wild Foragers and head chef of Warbrook House Hotel, Jo Yates. The tour started with some elderflower cordial taken from the local elderflower trees, then moved on to honeycomb made from its three onsite beehives. At the back of the lake there was an introduction to (and a chance to eat) the local crayfish, followed by a similar encounter with some local mushrooms, including a giant polypore, a boletus and an ox tongue as well as this potentially life-saving advice from forager Justin: “Pores scores; gills kills”, referring to the fact that most people die from eating gilled mushrooms in the wild. There was also a chance to feast on wild cob nuts and some local venison paired with a blackberry compote made from local berries. All in all it was a day of foodie heaven with a relaxed and intimate festival feel.  Lee Maycock is one of the festival’s founders and the national vice chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs; commenting on the day, he said: “Last year’s festival was great but this has moved forward; it has evolved and it has been really well received. It’s been a real pleasure to be here and hear some of the comments about what a great day it’s been.” The Universal Cookery and Food Festival is an itinerant affair and the day also featured the exciting news that next year’s event will be held at River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Dorset headquarters. Looking forward to the next event, Lee Maycock said: “I’m already thinking about how to take next year’s festival forward. We’re going to make it even more festivally. We need to get a band involved and maybe camp the night before with a few beers, a barbecue and a big breakfast the next morning; it’s all about taking it to the next level.” Sold. Where do we book?
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th September 2013

A classic day out: universal cookery and food festival 2013