PX+ Festival - the UK's first ever festival for hospitality professionals

The Staff Canteen

The inaugural PX Plus Festival was held last weekend – the UK’s first ever festival for hospitality professionals.

With over 150 headlining chefs, bakers and producers in attendance, the festival was held at Duchess Farms in Sawbridgeworth across the August Bank Holiday weekend. A wide range of food, drink, talks and music was on offer, giving people who work in the industry the chance for some well needed down time.

Roasted Cornish monkfish, artichoke, olive and coriander by chef Mark Abbott, Fine Dining is not Dying, PX Plus Festival

Roasted Cornish monkfish, artichoke,

olive & coriander -

Mark Abbott

The food

There were three dining locations on site – the first, a communal garden table called the PX+ Restaurant, hosted lunches and dinner from a diverse selection of top chefs including Chantelle Nicholson (Tredwells) and Bryce Shuman. These meals were overseen by a team of the world’s best front of house experts including Emma Underwood (Stem) and Alexa Walsh (42 Grams).

On Sunday night, five chefs from very different backgrounds hosted the ‘Fine Dining is not Dying’ dinner – an ode to the fine dining format. Mark Abbott (Midsummer House), Jonny Bone (Core by Clare Smyth), Francesco Dibbenedetto (Bibendum), Ian Scaramuzza (In Situ) and Michele Stanco (Carpigiani, ex-The Fat Duck) compiled a spectacular menu, with each chef being responsible for one course. A matching wine flight was also available.

Jonny said: “PX+ Festival is hopefully the future that our industry needs to look to. It’s about celebrating what we do every day. Tonight’s all about fine dining and not being afraid to say that that’s what we do and that’s what we’ve spent a lot of time training to achieve. We all love our jobs and we work very hard and it’s about celebrating that.”

Guests enjoyed some imaginative canapes inspired by the classics, including a Colcannon soufflé, Baton Royale, Kedgeree Tart and Caesar Salad. Other courses included Roasted Cornish monkfish, artichoke, olive & coriander (Mark Abbott) and Whiskey and malt glazed pork rib, pickled lettuce and barley (Ian Scaramuzza). Michele Stanco’s pre-dessert introduced a spectacular visual element, as guests opened an envelope to reveal a pop-up Winnie-the-Pooh scene – the inspiration behind his honey based dishes.

For more casual dining experiences, guests headed to the Crop Circle or the Courtyard, where chefs like Greg Marchand (Frenchie) and Jun Tanaka & Kevin Burke (The Ninth) were cooking on coals. At the Frenchie picnic, there was live acoustic music while guests enjoyed suckling pig and a selection of seasonal salads and side dishes.

Suckling Pig - Frenchie at PX Plus Festival
Suckling Pig from the Frenchie Team

Greg said: “I think that the idea is quite amazing – to gather all of the people from the industry together with a lot of food and a lot of booze! It’s a get together at the end of summer and it’s nice to be with fellow colleagues, restaurateurs and chefs, to be able to engage with each other and to do something we don’t normally do. Taking ourselves a little less seriously and letting our hair down!”

Other foodie delights included desserts and drinks pairings with Andrew Sutton of a.dessert bar. In the Courtyard, guests could sample produce from suppliers including Natoora, Neals Yard Dairy, Lake District Farmers and Flying Fish. With fires provided by London Log Co, there were also chefs cooking fresh produce in the Courtyard, including the Cook It Raw team and Dan Doherty

The drinks

Guests also enjoyed a wide range of drinks from leading brands including Champagne Charles Heidsieck, Trash Tiki bars, Two Tribes Beer, Silly Moo Cider, Rare Tea and Modern Standard Coffee. The wine and sake tent, hosted by Jennifer Docherty MW, Jan Konetzki and House of Sake saw a series of guest sommeliers across the weekend, hosting workshops and tastings. 

Other activities

The Let’s Talk About It barn hosted a series of free industry talks on topics such as ‘How should we run a sustainable hospitality business?’ and ‘From serving the tables to serving a cause: A new role for the restaurant’. Panels of guest speakers from around the world assembled to share real-life stories and debate some of the most important issues currently facing the industry.

Aged beef Jun Tanaka Kevin Burke The Ninth London PX Plus Festival

Celebration of 100 day aged rib of beef

Jun Tanaka and Kevin Burke - The Ninth 

What chefs said about PX Plus Festival

Many of those in attendance said how much they enjoyed the festival (despite the weather being a bit difficult on Sunday!). Hannah Catley, head pastry chef at Chiltern Firehouse, won a pair of Access All Areas tickets in The Staff Canteen’s competition earlier in the year.

She said: “This weekend has been incredible, from the fire pits, to the talks and the insane dinners. It’s reminded me that we are all in this industry for the same reasons and the end goals are the same. It really is like one big dysfunctional family, all burning with passion for what we do. I cannot wait until next year!”

Sean Burbidge, executive chef, The Ivy Collection said: “It’s good to see what other people are doing. The guys that were cooking on coals – it’s not a skill that I have but seeing it, I want to have a go at it. Nobody knows everything so it’s always good as a chef to expand your knowledge.

"There’s food to try everywhere – we had a great dinner last night from Jackson and Cary and a delicious breakfast this morning from the Natoora guys.” He added: “I’d definitely recommend the festival to friends and colleagues.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th August 2018

PX+ Festival - the UK's first ever festival for hospitality professionals