It’s that time of year again. Battling your way through shopping centres, arguing over who had the best supermarket Christmas ad, the endless repeats of ‘Home Alone’ and of course, the Christmas markets. Taste of London offers various themed events throughout the year and Thursday saw the start of their 2015 festive food festival.
Words: Toni Hart, Subeditor: Denisa Rosca
Photo Source: Toni Hart
Taste of London kicked off on Thursday in East London at Tobacco Dock, Wapping, with a Christmasy, colourful, alcohol fueled bang. The festival has guest appearances from world-renowned chefs such as Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Tom Kerridge to name a few.
Walking through the doors to the festival we were hit by a tsunami of colours, smells and flavours. The variety of foods available at the show is overwhelming and there is something for everyone. Stalls specialising in gluten and dairy free produce are dotted throughout, as well as American food stalls offering pulled pork and classic homemade peanut butter.
On top of all the tasty free samples, there are plenty of goods to buy. The Taste of London festival uses its own currency called “crown” which can be exchanged for cash from “crown banks” around the festival. Most stalls do accept cash too, so buying crowns isn’t necessary. Although it does make it feel as though you are spending less, not entirely certain if this is a good thing or not? But it certainly feels rewarding.
Each night there are chefs performing live food demonstrations which are occasionally followed by book signings. There is also the opportunity to join the chef’s table and sample the food for yourself. Thursday night was the turn of Michelin star chef, Tom Kerridge. Over a half hour session, he made a number of dishes including lamb chops and venison chili.
Kerridge spoke about his life as a chef, his restaurants – ‘Hand and Flower’ and ‘The Coach’, and offered a few tips on student cooking. His number one tip was to use minced meat as it is really cheap and can make some great hearty meals such as chili’s. He also recommends cooking with cheap wine.
“When I first learnt to cook, everyone said to add a big bottle of wine and reduce down the alcohol. But that’s what you want, you want the alcohol. So use a cheap wine.”
Tom Kerridge is best known for his depth of flavours. When talking about life as a chef he said: “It’s about understanding ingredients and getting the best out of them, but not blinding people with the technicals. It’s all about classic French cooking. That’s the way I was trained”.
Marcus Wareing is currently a judge on “MasterChef: The Professionals”. When asked what was the worst dish he had been presented on the show, he said: “It’s very easy to criticise someone. If you can give me beans on toast, maybe not a standard white loaf, but if you went out and got a nice loaf, and delivered it with some TLC? Priceless.”
For most people, Christmas is a time to spend at home with the family and relax watching rubbish films. However while the rest of us enjoy ourselves, Christmas is the busiest time for the restaurant industry and many, including Wareing, will be working this festive occasion. He said: “I work Christmas Day. I see my family in the morning, I go in and see my staff, and I greet my customers because they’re paying the bills. To me it’s just another ordinary day”.
If you do choose to shop in “crowns” at the festival, “one crown” is the equivalent of £1. Most foods being sold around the festival tended to be an average of about “five crowns”. This was quite reasonably priced for a majority of them as they were extremely delicious. However, be aware that some stalls will rip you off with portion sizes. Regardless how tasty they are, “six crowns” is not worth two bites of an aubergine.
The festival is set out across two floors and is a show for foodies and chefs alike. There are over 130 exhibitors this year, selling everything from chocolate flavoured wine and specialised knives to toffee vodka and candles. Most stalls at the show will give you the chance to try before you buy, so there are plenty of opportunities to sample both alcoholic and soft drinks, and a variety of different foods.