Exeter Food Festival: A quick round-up by Chris Gower

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.

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It was a very informal meeting, where Michael proved that having an Otter Valley ice-cream for breakfast was part of living the dream!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.



River Cottage announces Spring Food Fair dates – 27th, 28th, 29th May 2017

River Cottage has announced dates for its Spring Food Fair – held across the late May Bank Holiday. This hugely popular event is a real treat for the senses and a must-visit for foodies and gardeners. It’s a chance to get the family down to River Cottage, to explore the farm nestled in gorgeous East Devon and to indulge in the sights, sounds and tastes of spring in the heart of the Devon countryside.


The Fair is packed full of activities and family fun – from chef demos, artisan food stalls, kids’ workshops, talks and live music to garden and foraging tours from River Cottage foraging guru John Wright.

Little ones go free and will be thoroughly entertained throughout with a huge choice of child- friendly activities including falconry displays, donkey rides, felting and lucet braiding workshops, animal area, candle making, demonstrations by local craftsmen, bubble workshops, face painting, skittles and hula hooping – to name but a few.

Grab the chance to take a peek behind the scenes at River Cottage HQ and – new for 2017, visitors can enjoy a sit down meal in the pop up restaurant, located in the famous farmhouse itself. The special Farmhouse Feasts feature a delicious menu designed using fresh, seasonal and local produce. River Cottage street food will join forces with local producers to make sure no-one goes hungry as they enjoy the festivities. As well as delicious dishes from the street food stands, there will also be a fully licensed bar serving local ciders, beers, wines and exciting seasonal cocktails.


A team of experts will be on hand to share their culinary tips and seeds of gardening wisdom throughout the three-day weekend. The Main Stage will be packed with cookery demonstrations from guest chefs, while green-fingered visitors can head to the Garden Stage to listen to expert talks on a huge variety of topics related to horticulture.

River Cottage has confirmed an exciting line-up of chefs. Taking to the Main Stage are Gill Meller, Matthew Fort, Signe Johansen, Tom Hunt, Mark Hix, Louise Gray, Naomi Devlin and Rachel De Thample to name a few. Organic kitchen gardener, chef and writer, Stephanie Hafferty will speak on the Garden Stage with Charles Dowding, market gardener, author, teacher and ‘no dig’ advocate alongside River Cottage’s head Gardener Will Livingstone and many other garden experts. Talks hosted on the Garden Stage will cover all aspects of organic, sustainable and unique horticultural methods including; seed-saving, biodynamics, market gardening, no dig, soil and compost and much more.

Those keen to learn something new can book onto one of the popular masterclasses.


Starting at just £15 these include Bread & Butter from scratch in an hour, Wild Cocktails and Super Salads and Ferments, whilst kids can learn the secrets behind Cookies and Doughnuts.

For more information and to book tickets, visit the website:

www.rivercottage.net/springfoodfair. River Cottage is running a free park and ride service to and from the Fair or add to the experience with VIP parking onsite available for just £5 per car.

Photos courtesy of River Cottage/OneVoice PR

10 Questions for Tim Maddams

One of the reasons why I started the 10 Questions posts was to highlight and showcase some of the foodie heroes that we in Devon have in our midst.  I first met Ex-River Cottage Chef Tim Maddams at a Pop-up dining event held by Jonny Does Dinner in a polytunnel at Trill Farm.  I  found him an affable and approachable chap who was happy talking to a socially awkward food blogger at the end of the table.

He speaks passionately about sustainable cooking and making it accessible to a wider audience.  Not only is he a food hero here in Devon and the South West, but on a national level too.


Cutting the mustard under culinary greats such as Fergus Henderson, Alistair Little, Marco Pierre White and Mark Hix, Tim was VIP Head Chef for the Ferrari F1 Team.  Returning to the West Country he became Head Chef at River Cottage Axminster.  During his tenure at RC, he became a spokesperson for sustainable ethical cooking as well as starting a successful media career.

Tim is a regular on television, a writer, a forager, a chef and educator.  Last year he published his first book and can be found writing regularly for notable national publications.

He is a much sought after instructor and educator, sharing his knowledge at Exeter Cookery School, Vale Kitchens and Essential Lifestyle Group to name a few and also a Private Chef.  Please make sure you check out Tim’s website for all the details on how to book this fantastic chap.

Thanks to Lauren for organising these 10 Questions!

1. Many people will know you from River Cottage so in a snapshot, what are you up to at the moment? What gets you out if bed in the morning?

Ha! Well, my 4 year old Daughter is the one who tends to het me out of bed, but I get your meaning. I’m working a lot as a private chef for various individuals all over the country, Europe and beyond.

I am also busy writing for various publications such as Devon Life, West Magazine, Rifle Shooter, Sporting Shooter, Shooting Times and a few others. What really gets me going is the writing; I love to share my foodie, hunting and foraging stories tips and ideas with others I am also planning a new book and doing a few guest slots on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch program.

2. You hold pop-up dinners in village halls under your umbrella business Hall and Hearty – have you got any more planned this year?

There are a few in the pipeline, to be honest I am getting a little busy for Hall and Hearty, which is a shame as it is a great idea.  Myself and Robin Rea are thinking of selling it, but only to the right person.  It takes a certain amount of flair and care to pull off these events.

3. Your book most recent book Game: River Cottage Handbook No.15 
was based on game – what would you say is the easiest game meat to cook that people should try at home?

Pigeon. Probably one of the best too.

4. What is your favourite fruit/vegetable in season at the moment, or about to come into season?

Come on! Its mid-summer and ALL the good stuff is on, that is like asking to choose a favourite child!. When you commit to eating seasonally, and really stick to it, each new veg, fruit, meat, fish and Fungi hold a certain exciting mystery and the sense of anticipation is immense. I have been enjoying this years tomatoes a lot though…

5. When we spoke you were up in Lancashire at the Great Eccleston Show, what delights did you cook up for them?

Well, each demo was a 5 course tasting menu,

  • Cider and Elderflower fizz – which is a drink, clearly
  • Cauliflower Bahjis, garlic yoghurt, anise hyssop.
  • Slow cooked mutton, chilli, mustard leaves, fresh coriander seeds, rape seed oil, lemon verbena.
  • Slow cooked courgettes, fresh pasta, mature cheddar, wild water mint.
  • Pan roasted pigeon, tomatoes, basil, puff ball, garlic.
  • Honey and geranium frozen yoghurt, strawberries, crumble.
  1. I’m sure you’re a busy man with business and family, what do you do to relax? 

I cook, I hunt, I gather and I enjoy my family. I find getting outside, involving yourself with nature is a great way to keep the stress of modern life at bay.

7. You’ve had the privilege of working with many great chefs, is there anyone on your wish list or someone you’d love to work with again?

Alistair Little, I’d love to work with him again, or Furgus Henderson

8. You’re known for, amongst other things, educating foodies about foraging and finding food in the wild. What tips would you have for those who want to start foraging and cooking their finds?

Be certain of what you are picking, be prepared to go on a few courses and buy a few books, it is a wonderful thing to do, but some of those plants and fungi are deadly poisonous; its worth bearing that in mind. That said, its easy to stay safe, with things like blackberries, elderflowers, crab apples and nettles. Just start at the beginning and aim to add a couple of new things to your list for every season. Foraging with others that know more than you is a great way to extend your knowledge.

9. Some of our readers might have seen you on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme Fish Fight which succeeded in highlighting the fishing industry amongst other achievements . Which sustainable fish would you like to see more widely adopted in restaurants and pubs in the UK?

Crikey, that is a big question. Rather than looking at that end, lets look to the other. Lets get everyone to stop eating Tuna and farmed Salmon, that will make the biggest difference, then we can look at whats left and decide how best to use this resource sustainably – if you think of oceanic fish as a mine of food its simple. If you mine just a little bit every year, there will always be plenty more in the mine, but if you delve too deeply, too greedily into the mine, it will cave in and become barren. Infinite resource or temporary profit, the choice is yours.

10. Finally; what is your home brewed wine of choice? Fancy sending me a bottle?

I dont brew much to be honest, but I do make a rather tasty crab apple vodka…….. I dont think there is any left though!

Catch Tim on social media – TwitterFacebookInstagram

Photo credit – www.timmaddams.com

The Great Artisan Feast Festival – Southernhay Gardens

The team behind Exeter Street Food will be transforming Southernhay Gardens for The Great Artisan Feast Festival on Saturday 15th October 2016, 10:00am to 8:00pm.

Now a familiar sight on Exeter’s elegant Southernhay Gardens the Exeter Street Food team are launching their new food and drink experience for all, called The Great Artisan Feast Festival.

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The all-day festival features local artisan producers, street food, deli stands, ‘Granny Garbutt’s ‘Gin Palace’, ale bar, guest brewers and other beverages. There will also be guest food speakers, cooking demonstrations from Exeter Cookery School, sponsor stands plus live entertainment.

There will be large undercover marquee with a bar & seating from which to enjoy the unique atmosphere right at the heart of Exeter city centre. Entry is free.

In addition to a wide selection of producers selling delicious food from Exeter and the South West, visitors can also enjoy Granny Garbutt’s ‘Gin Palace’, serving a wide selection of specialist gins, whiskies from the Whisky Wagon and local ales and beers. There will also be a variation of botanical drinks available.

There will be cookery demonstrations from Exeter Cookery School, who have been exploring opportunities to work with Exeter Street Food for some time. Live music will also add to the ambience of the event in the picturesque Southernhay Gardens.

Quality and Variety

As with all the Exeter Street Food events, The Great Artisan Feast Festival will also focus on quality and variety celebrating the best food and drink from across the South West.

Visitors will be able to choose from designated food and drink areas including Very Veggie, Meaty Mouthfuls, Tantalising Tipples, Relax & Natter, Sweet Sensations, Delicious Deli and World Flavours. There will be plenty of vegetarian and gluten free choices too.

Karen Skerratt, Managing Director of the Hubb Group, the company behind Exeter Street Food and The Great Artisan Feast Festival said:

We can’t wait to bring The Great Artisan Feast Festival to Southernhay on October the 17th. Our Exeter customers are very adventurous and the festival affords them a chance to meet the producers, ask questions and give direct feedback.

The Festival, which is free to enter, will feature our extremely popular Gin Palace, which alongside the live entertainment and demonstrations will make the event a truly unique experience to city folk and visitors of all ages.

The Artisan Festival reflects how we at the Hubb Group are learning and developing our offer all the time. We take pride in responding to both our customers and our stall holders and working hard to not only meet their needs but also exceeding their expectations.”

The Hubb Group created, organise and run Exeter Street Food, Bath Street Food and a variety of bespoke pop-up festivals, markets and other unique and award winning experiences. The Group is currently undergoing a period of sustained growth and company expansion. With a hard earned reputation for quality and variety, the Hubb team are skilled in planning and delivering events designed to meet their company mission ‘Be Inspired, Be Unique’.

Jim Fisher, co-owner of Exeter Cookery School who will be running cookery demonstrations at The Great Artisan Feast Festival said: “We have watched with eager anticipation the development of Exeter Street Food Market and are delighted to be involved in their inaugural Awards and Great Artisan Feast Festival in Exeter. We will be tempting visitors with some more unusual ice cream flavours, such as Margarita ice cream and caramelised rum-infused pineapple with a Pina Colada ice cream.”

The Great Artisan Feast Festival is on Saturday 15th October 2016 10:00am – 8:00pm at Southernhay Gardens for more information visit www.streetfoodexeter.co.uk or on Facebook at facebook.com/exeterstreetfood

Festive feasts fit for the Lord of The Manor

On Tuesday 24th November, Exeter Cookery School will host the first in a series of exclusive new pop-up cookery courses at Bridwell Park, the home of Lord Ivar Mountbatten in Uffculme. Surrounded by far-reaching views over rural Devon and with its very own deer park, Bridwell offers a sumptuous setting for these intimate cookery courses, which promise to educate and entertain in equal measure.

The first will focus on creating a magical Christmas feast for friends and family, and will take students through a range of classical and modern cooking techniques. Over the course of the day, you will learn how to create three sensational dishes, starting with Sautéed Duck Liver on Toasted Brioche with Onion Marmalade and a Glass of Chilled Monbazillac, closely followed by roast loin of Bridwell venison with confit shoulder, creamed mash, Savoy cabbage and venison chorizo. The piece de resistance, a Louis XV – the decadent multi-layered celebration of chocolate, hazelnuts and meringue – will round off the meal in style.

Lucy Fisher, MD of Exeter Cookery School says: “We are really excited to be launching this collaboration thanks to the generosity of Lord Ivar. We hope this will be the first of several pop-up cookery events we host at this splendid location, where guests will learn how to prepare, cook and eat some tasty alternatives to those Christmas favourites. Jim will also show you how to cook certain elements ahead of time, so you get to enjoy more time with family and friends.”

Students will learn a wide range of culinary skills, from understanding foie gras and its preparation, seasoning, pan-frying, making onion marmalade and presentation of the dish. For the main course, students will discover the art of preparing and cooking venison, including making confit and roasting lean meat, as well as producing perfectly smooth and unctuous creamed mash and creating a flavour-packed venison sauce. For a suitably Royal end to this festive feast, Jim will teach you how to make a Louis XV – from the hazelnut dacquoise, white chocolate croquante and white chocolate mousse to finishing the dessert off to perfection, draping it with chocolate and using gold leaf for an elegant final flourish.

The brainchild of Jim and Lucy Fisher, who recently returned from running a successful residential cookery school in the Dordogne, Exeter Cookery School is set to open its doors after Christmas in a Grade II Listed building on the city’s historic Quayside, currently the focus of a major regeneration strategy. Once open, Exeter Cookery School will offer a host of exciting culinary courses – each packed with cheffy tips, tricks and techniques honed in busy restaurant kitchens, but adapted to use in your home and designed to make cooking for family and friends fun, easy and stress-free.

The Bridwell course on 24th November runs from 9am to 4pm, with lunch included and ending with a celebratory glass of fizz. As well as leaving with a host of new skills, participants will be presented with an Exeter Cookery School certificate, recipe information and a goodie bag to take away. No previous experience is necessary, but a love of fine food is a must.

This exclusive day course costs £185 – places are limited, so early booking is advised if you don’t want to miss out on this fabulous opportunity. To book, contact: Jim & Lucy Fisher, Exeter Cookery School, 07534 635302; Email: info@exetercookeryschool.co.uk;

Full details are available on www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk


The multi-award winning Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink returns to Northernhay Gardens and Exeter Castle on Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th April for another year of exceptional food, drink and demonstrations from top regional chefs. With more exhibitors, chefs and local producers expected than ever before the Exeter Food Festival is set to be the ultimate foodie weekend and the region’s leading food Festival. 2016 will be its 13th year.

Championed by Michael Caines MBE, the Festival hosts a packed programme of chef demonstrations, hands on master classes and tastings as well as a dedicated children’s programme including Fun Kitchen cookery classes, farm animals, storytelling and craft activities. The Festival’s charity partners Exeter Foundation and Families for Children will be on hand to help teach little ones more about their food and where it comes from.

Exeter Food Festival

The Darts Farm Taste and Knowledge Teepee’s, Festival Question Time hosted by BBC Radio Devon and the Westcountry Bakery Theatre will return with a packed schedule of informative and fun workshops, demonstrations and talks on topical food and drink themes. New features planned will focus on artisan bread baking and a milk bar – celebrating the region’s many dairy farms and looking at the importance of provenance

Visitors can browse from over 100 artisan food and drink producers from the region who exhibit in three pavilions; providing plenty of opportunities for trying, buying and chatting to the people behind the South West’s delicious food and drink. Local musicians will take to stages throughout the festival grounds and the weekend to entertain visitors

Michael Caines, 2-Michelin star chef and Festival co-founder, says, “The Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink promotes the vibrant food and drink of the region giving visitors the chance to try local food, talk to producers and learn more about cooking and farming. The Festival sets out to educate, entertain, feed and refresh people and is open to people of all ages who want to enjoy the great food and drink of our region.

Visitors can also enjoy three Festival After Dark Party Nights from Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd April 2016. With its unique party atmosphere, the Festival After Dark Party Nights bring a host of exciting and talented musicians to the stage to entertain revellers until late. Producers will be selling local beers, wines, ciders and a wide selection of tempting street food throughout each evening ensuring party goers a tasty combination of excellent food and exciting bands and musicians.

Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink is a not for profit event.

For more information or to buy tickets visit: http://www.exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk.