I attended Taste of London a few years ago, with some VIP tickets I had got through a very cheap deal via my mobile phone provider. I had not been since, for no particular reason. This year, I actually visited twice, on the opening and on the closing day and the two sessions could not have been more different. In fact, on opening night I volunteer as a cook in one of the kitchens, run by a major charity. The final day, I visited, courtesy of Asda, with my friend and fellow blogger @OrienteExpresso and we ate and drank and were merry like everyone else. So here is what I thought of Taste behind the scene and as a visitor.
Day 1 – in the kitchen
I arrived (late, as I got lost) and met my fellow volunteers at the ‘exhibitors’ entrance, this alone felt pretty cool. Picked up my pass and we made our way to the opposite end of the site, where our booth was. Walking past the other stands, a flurry of activity; the event was going to open only in a couple of hours but most exhibitors were still building their stands. I spotted a couple of chefs whizzing past (Jose’ Pissaro, always smiling), everyone pretty much rushing. We arrived at our kitchen and met a professional chef who was there to, I thought so, manage us and the food. We pretty much picked up tasks as we went along until service time, a few hours later.
We were there to prepare 5 different kebabs, designed by as many chefs, only one of them actually present on site (Sabrina Ghayour). From Michelin starred Alyn Williams to Bruno Loubet, we surely had a responsibility! I chopped herbs, tomatoes, gerkin, mixed the yogurt marinade, sliced onions and then, when it was time to feed the crowds, I made the ‘Sabrina’, the most ingredients heavy kebab (thanks Sabrina!), and one of the most popular ones as well. It was indeed delicious, and I must have made about 100s of them. The day went really well for the charity, resulted in a nice sum raised, and I am sure the whole weekend would have been very productive. We worked solidly for hours with a very quick impromptu break (during which I took the opportunity to visit my friends at Duck and Waffle), and by 11pm we were scrubbing clean the kitchen with a well earned glass of prosecco. I loved being in a fast paced kitchen, and while I’d have liked more space, more tools, more equipment, it was really good fun and the people I met a pleasure to volunteer with. I got home absolutely zonked !
Day 2: browsing the festival
We returned on Sunday afternoon, the last day of what had been a very busy event. I have newly found respect for the industry staff, 5 hours knackered me, I cannot imagine doing it for 5 days in a row, from morning to evening. We started our visit by popping in the Asda stand (the Cow Bar), which during the weekend, held bbq demos using their prime cuts meats including wagyu beef. Asda Extra Special beef, worth noting, is 100% British and Red Tractor approved
We then of course paid a visit to our friend Edy who was exhibiting with Pizza Pilgrims showcasing their Pococello, an English version of limoncello made using beautiful Amalfi lemons. We loved our Pococello and Tonic and made our merry way across to the Duck and Waffle site (where else?) where we tried a few dishes including show’s special corn mousse with pistachios, caramel and chocolate sauce. All of course delicious.
There was so much to do at Taste, and not enough time – really one could spend an entire day from demo to cooking show, from one drink to another. We tasted samples of organic coconut water (deemed to be all the rage this year), organic coffee, Flos Olei winning Italian olive oil and more. I had a great afternoon being a punter as well as being a cook. Here’s to next year!
On the second day I was a guest of Asda: I was not asked to write this post, opinions are my own.