The Exeter Food Festival is a massive part of the culinary calendar for foodies in this wonderful city. Each year Eating Exeter has written about it and attended dutifully, watched the demos, tweeted and blogged about the experience enjoying the wealth of talented producers and chefs that our region produce.
This year myself and Steve Heath (Chilli Head Chef) had the honour of being part of the action in more ways than one. Not only was I part of the Question and Answer panel in the BBC Radio Devon Tent, but I was an ‘official’ (ish) photographer and Steve took co-hosted a demo with South Devon Chilli Farm in the Dart’s Farm Teepee.
The festival started off with a photo-call where we were able to snap some newspaper worthy photos in the presence of the great MC himself.
It was a very informal meeting, where Michael proved that having an Otter Valley ice-cream for breakfast was part of living the dream!
Neither Lauren or I could make the Saturday, but we definitely had Sunday and Monday covered! This wasn’t the only thing that was covered, because it was a good thing the majority of the food festival was covered as it rained pretty much solidly on both these days.
But across the board, this was the only dampener on a fantastic event that constantly draws a large and eclectic array of people from across the region. The Northernhay Gardens is Britain’s oldest public space having been laid out originally in 1612, the gardens curve around the base of Exeter Castle which makes this the ideal space for holding an event like this, and with the inclusion of the Castle as part of the Festival too, not only can festival-goers experience the best food and drink, they are treated to a walk through history at the same time.
I genuinely love this festival. The structured program of events, the vast range of activities and goings on, the producers, the after-dark parties and the sheer number of organisations and businesses make me proud to be in a county that takes as much pride in its food & drink as ours does.
Now know that this post is completely bias. It is also mostly made up of photos so please scroll down for more images of the Sunday that I attended.
The first stop for us was the Beer Tent. I had pre-radio nerves and needed some liquid assistance. As usual I go for Otter Brewery Otter Bright and Tori went for her Dartmoor Ale favourite Jail Ale which was very much needed.
Being invited to speak on the radio was a great honour. I was lucky enough to share the stage with my foodie friends Tara (Tara’s Busy Kitchen) and Harry who was standing in for Nick Hook who is Mr Devon Food Hour.
Thirty minutes passed like five, and before you know it, its over. We had a blast talking about writing a food blog and the fun that it can be, also how easy it is just to start writing.
In no-time at all we were sat waiting for the highlight of the day in the Question Tent, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Tom Kerridge and Michael Wignall answering questions.
It was fascinating to see into the minds of these great chefs, what a rare opportunity to have four of the UK’s best in one place!
Then it was time to hot-foot it down to the Cookery Theatre to see the mighty Tom Kerridge demo a classic British favourite.
But before that, we were lucky to catch Michael Caines and Adam Little’s demo. Adam is a fantastic chef and is Head Chef at the Exeter Golf and Country Club that we reviewed a while back; it was great to see Adam taking the stage even though he was going back later for evening service!
After Adam and Michael’s demonstration finished, the crowd swelled in readiness for the main event. Tom Kerridge, chef-owner of the Hands and Flowers which has two Michelin Stars demonstrated essentially Steak and Chips, a perfect accompaniment to the Otter Ale that was being served at the VIP guest table.
It was quite awe-inspiring to see the master at work, and even more of an honour given the photos that I ended up taking were some of the best (imho) of my dubious photography career.
I was also thrilled see the legendary Paul Ainsworth’s demo towards the end of the day as well, I have never seen a man handle a lime with so much ease and grace! Joking aside, I really enjoyed his demonstration – he explained everything carefully and really engaged the room.
The come-down from seeing these demos needed food and by the time we had got our fill of chefs doing magical things with meat, we needed food badly.
I had my eye on a couple of vendors but I was particularly taken with The Guildable Manor, a fresh import from Borough Market in London and we met the lovely affable Dan who introduced us to his lovely sausage-kebab creations with his scratch made sauces and fresh baguettes.
By the end of the day we had run out of time, so we didn’t really get to look at the producers this year. We did enjoy a small glass of Crispy Pig before we left, but our day was tiring and it was definitely time to go home.
Had we made it to Monday as well we would have seen one of my favourite food bloggers, who coincidentally happens to also be the husband of Co-Editor Lauren, the Chilli Head Chef Steve Heath take part in a demo with South Devon Chilli Farm along with another one of my favourite food bloggers, Mr Marcus Bawdon (in the Hawaiian shirt)!
Steve co-hosted with Phil of SDCF and answered questions from the public. Steve also helped out with the chilli sauce eating competition with James Dart of Dart’s Farm compering, and Marcus cooked some meat in one of SDCF’s newest sauces.
Exeter Food Festival will always be my favourite food festival. We are lucky enough to live in a county with a reputation for exquisite and epic food producers and culinary creators, and the festival is a gleaming example of how to celebrate this. Next year the fun repeats with big names and awesome events – Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink returns for its 15th year on 5th, 6th and 7th May – the early May Bank Holiday 2018.