last week I found myself in “THE NORTH” at the universal cookery and food festival, which was this year based at the sunny Vallum farm, located just on the borders of Newcastle. If you’re as geographically inept as I seem to be I can tell you now it’s pretty far away from London, don’t get a bus! As for the festival however, I would walk the journey to participate, it was a great crack.
I was found by one of the event organisers Ian Nottage (chef director, Reynolds, @IanNottage) one day back when I was running the Smoking Goat. Ian’s a top bloke and it didn’t take him long to get me excited about what they’re up to at the festival, also got to love the commitment to the cause of rocking up at the doors of everyone he wants involved and speaking to them in person.
Ian explained to me that he organised the festival with two friends and associates from the craft guild of chefs, the largest chef’s associated in the country, Lee Maycock (chef director, LBM food solutions ltd, @LeeMaycock1) and John Feeney (culinary director, Europe, griffiths laboratories). He went on to say that the ethos between the three of them and their reasons for collaborating were to start a festival that truly showcased the heart of the food industry in the UK at the moment. It’s not a festival based on celebrity chefs and making money, it’s a collaboration of likeminded individuals that share the same passion and drive within the industry. The successes of the food industry as it stands, leading the way and showing us juniors how it should be done, with networking, music, beer and lots of amazing food.
The day revolves around cooking demonstrations on a main stage with lots of things to do and eat dotted all around the festival throughout the day, such as shooting lessons, foraging, butchery and hunting demonstrations and lots more. This years festival saw the likes of Aaron Muliss (head chef, the hand and flowers), Nick Beardshore (head chef, the coach, marlow), Jose Souto (book author & chef lecturer in culinary arts, Westminster Kingsway College, @wildboyfood), Sat Bains (chef patron, restaurant Sat Bains, @Satbains1), Paul Lewis (executive chef, prezzo, @fatchefpaul), and many more greats from the industry sharing with others what they do best, and worth a mention the two mc’s Nigel Barden (food and drinks broadcaster, @NigelBarden) and Rob Kirby (chef director, Lexington catering, @lexyfood) who both helped make the day a loud and cheerful one.
This year I went on behalf of EatGrub and teamed up on stage with the guys from edible bug farm. Matt and Adam (edible bug farm founders) focused their discussion around educating people about entomology, whilst I did what I do best (well, sometimes) and cooked up some bugs. The line up for the festival had been created with purpose, which once again demonstrates another way the festival is benefiting the industry. Each selection of demonstrations were focused around different discussion points in the industry, all designed to provoke thought and interest to everyone involved. No better place to do something like this than in a tent full of everyone that is leading the industry at the moment. My inclusion to the line up this year was to get people thinking about the future of food and what choices we have available to fix the growing hunger problem.
Every way you look at it the Universal cookery and food festival is a great event and I think the guys behind it are doing a smashing job. It’s success so far shows what good can come from people having the right idea and the drive to make it more than just an idea- hats off to you guys and I’ll see you at the next one.
Every year the festival moves into different locations around the UK, next September it will be hosted at Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire.