Sunday, 22 September 2019

Chefs can’t wait to show off their skills at food festivals

Chefs can’t wait to show off their skills at food festivals

CALLING all gastronauts, foodies, cider sippers, Bake Off and Fake Off fans. The food festival season is almost upon us, writes Paul Clerehugh.

All the chefs booked for demonstrations over the summer are fired up — mad as March hares, we’re excited to demonstrate.

A cookery demo is a performance. Performers looking for a bit of attention. Gives the chefs the chance to show off.

There’s usually a lot of ego and bravado backstage at a cookery demo — chefs behaving like overexcited chimps that have spotted a lion.

Fortunately, Mary Berry is at Stonor Food Festival kitchen, where I’m demonstrating — a calming presence. I shall be showing off at a few other of the following summer festivals.

First up, on the bank holiday weekend of May 4 to 6 is the Mapledurham Food Festival, featuring over 150 stalls, world street food vendors, exhibitors, pop-up restaurants and a host of celebrity and TV chefs, including Great British Menu’s Stephanie Moon, TV’s Rachel Green, and many more. On the banks of the Thames adjacent to picturesque Mapledurham House.

The weekend of June 15 and 16 brings us the excellent Stonor Food Festival. Over 50 produce market stalls. Meet and chat to local producers, bakers, brewers and wine makers. There’s a cookery school where you can take part, pick up some tips and learn new skills.

The Stonor festival kitchen has a packed programme of free events, talks, drinks, food tastings and cookery demos.

Stars of the show include Mary Berry, Bake Off finalist Steven Carter- Bailey, Orwells restaurant, TV chefs Liam and Ryan, Nick Galer from Miller of Mansfield, Raymond Blanc’s world famous cookery school, and many more.

A crowd of 5,000 are expected within the grounds of beautiful Stonor Park — you can also look round the stunning house and gardens and children can enjoy Stoner’s awesome Wonder Woods adventure playground. See if we can get Mary Berry on the zip wire.

The following weekend of June 22 and 23 I will be spicing things up at The Cheese & Chilli Festival being held at Maidenhead Town Moor — including competitions for those who can handle the heat.

On Saturday, June 29, it’s the Great British Food Festival at Englefield. A fun foodie day out for all the family. Live music, food and drink, combining the nation’s love of regional artisan producers, food stalls, real ale and wine bars, foraging walks and chef demonstrations.

Closer to home, from June 15 to 29 there is the Eat! Food Festival Henley to look forward to — to include feast for a fiver in Falaise Square and demos at the Kenton Theatre. Eat! promise to announce more details shortly.

In the meantime, I will be getting some practice in with some cookery demonstrations, wine tastings and lunch at the Crooked Billet on May 8, 9 and 10, when I’ll be demonstrating popular menu recipes alongside my family favourite home dishes.

You’re seated around our demo kitchen, so there will be plenty of tasters while I’m cooking. It’s an informal affair — fun, friendly, informative and chatty.

Louise, our sommelier, will open a selection of wines for you to sample. Champagne and canapes after the demo will be followed by a three-course luncheon featuring dishes from the demo with accompanying wines.

Previous demo days at the Crooked Billet have always proved popular. The format is as follows: arrive at 10.30am, coffee, pressed juices, bake-off including GF goodies. The kitchen brigade on stage at 11.15am and luncheon at 1.15pm.

Tickets are £90 including the above along with a VIP goodie bag, complimentary recipe book and champagne restaurant vouchers.

For more information and to book, call (01491) 681048 or email paulclerehugh@

Hopefully see you at one of the summer foodie festivals — with all those free samples we should get very merry and put a few pounds on.

Paul Clerehugh is chef patron of the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row, and the London Street Brasserie in Reading. Catch his weekly Food on Friday show on BBC Radio Berkshire from 2pm to 3pm for recipes, foodie affairs and light-hearted kitchen chat.

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