Piggin’ Awful Weather but Piggin’ Great Fun!
Well folks we did it again with the help of some old friends and amazing new ones added to the UCFF family in Padstow this year – when Padstow didn’t quite know what had hit them!
Our big top tent went up on one of the pastures at Padstow Farm Shop thanks to the help of the Watson-Smyth’s family allowing the use of one of the fields on the family farm, a great location where you can see and smell the sea – brilliant! Just down the road Ross Geach (former head chef for Rick Stein) from the Padstow Kitchen Garden was busy cutting kale and some amazing vegetables for the chefs demonstrations on the main stage.
Our friends at Trevibban Mill Vineyard hosted a fantastic welcome event for all our sponsors and supporters on the eve before the main event kicked off! We were blessed by amazing weather and were the very first visitors to their brand new purpose built event & visitors centre in a breathtaking location with grapes ripening just feet away from the door. We sampled their stunning English wines and dived in to serving boards and platters of local cheese, charcuterie, with salads that would make Ottolenghi jealous! Chef Andy Appleton in his new found home in the kitchen served up a treat with the help of his lovely wife Lindsay serving up some local beer from Sharps brewery along with the wine from the vineyard which is made underneath the restaurant in a state of the art production facility.
The weather wasn’t quite so kind to us on the day of the event but I guess it wouldn’t be a proper festival without rain and wellies would it? The day kicked off with a brilliant demonstration from Paul Ainsworth’s team from restaurant No6 Padstow although couldn’t attend as he was away on holiday he sent his team from No 6 who absolutely stole the show with their lively and informative demonstration using a whole local lamb and freshly caught mackerel. Chefs John Walton and Chris McClurg, along with their front of house wingman Alex Tozer, captivated the onlookers with a fast moving session. These are three young and inspiring personalities who clearly and genuinely love being in the “Ainsworth dream team”. No 6 was literally a chefs take over the day before UCFF – it is certainly a spot, like their little sister Italian inspired Rojanas just round the corner, “where chefs eat out!”
Every year myself Lee, Ian and the team at McCullough Moore strive to bring something different to the party. The festival isn’t driven by commercial gain or to inflate the balance sheet of a large organisation it’s powered by the passion and desire to share skills, experiences and knowledge with our peers within the industry. Our aim is for every delegate to take away a small part of knowledge or morsel of information they can use effectively and share with others in their kitchen.
UCFF is a stage not to glorify chefs but for them to use their experience and skills to showcase the amazing produce, meat & fish – celebrating the people who grow and rear the superb produce we as chefs love to touch, feel, smell and taste then create dishes for others to enjoy.
Without the fantastic larder of ingredients our food heroes – the farmers and growers produce we wouldn’t have the tools for our trade. We as chefs all have a responsibility to think carefully about every item we slice, dice, chop, roast, poach or braise. Respect for the produce, reducing waste, thinking about where the food we prepare comes from, why paying more for an ingredient of a better quality is such better practice than cutting corners with poor grade food.
Doctor Rupy from the Doctors Kitchen with Nigel BardenWe are what we eat and Dr Rupy from the Doctors Kitchen may not have ever trained as chef or worn a set of whites before but that doesn’t mean he lacks the skill to show us something different – how we look at food – how we nourish ourselves – how we should make time – even just 15 minutes to fuel our bodies and brains in an increasingly busy world and work schedule. I suspect from hearing stories of dozens of people working in the catering and hospitality industry the last person chefs think about feeding is themselves! A can of Red Bull, packet of crisps or a late visit to the “golden arches” on the way home after service just isn’t the right fuel for anyone who works 12 hours a day in a hot, steamy, cramped and sometimes highly pressurised environment. Everyone can make 15 minutes spare to cook a simple nutritious meal at the start of the day, everyone can spend 10 minutes doing some gentle stretches, walking or maybe a quick swim before work – it’s all about the balance and we all have the ability to address these issues if we really want to. We have one body and one mind – feed it!
We are delighted to see our front man Nigel Barden welcome Hugh Maguire from his butchers shop just outside Dublin to the main stage. Hugh’s incredible smoked black pudding was crowned the Supreme Champion only a few weeks ago in the Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards. His fantastic example of charcuterie was top out of 12,000 entries. Chefs are already snapping up this fine artisan made product and it will be hitting the shelves of speciality food stores and farm shops in the next few months. A brilliant example of a product worth celebrating – we wish him a huge success.
One of my favourite slots of the day in our jam packed programme of foraging, butchery, beer tasting, sushi, charcuterie & shellfish demonstrations had to be the “nose to tail” butchery by Matt Stone who had flown in from Australia for this year’s festival. The live demo in the Surf & Turf tent went down an absolute storm as we watched Matt use every single ounce of meat from the whole carcass of a kangaroo! There were no gimmicks here just a brilliant example of how to utilise every single part of a full animal whether it’s a kangaroo or a cow his principles are one on the same. Matt butchers all his own meat at his restaurant at Oakridge Wines just outside Melbourne, some of which he hunts himself. He also grows his own produce and forages to seek out unusual ingredients in the wild to enhance his recipes. Sustainability and the management of food waste is written in Matt’s DNA he doesn’t preach about it he just executes his values and ethics in his kitchen every day – it’s part of his working practices and how he trains the team who work with him.
One of our other chef friends Colin Wheeler-James brought another great insight in to be keeping and was joined by his buzzing workers and queen bee once again. This year he brought us his very own mead made from just honey & water which has been fermenting since just after last year’s UCFF at Laverstoke. Colin was also pleased to share shis “Slider!” a lethal brew made from sloe berries discarded from sloe gin production steeped in cider. Here’s his great mug shot of Colin taking a look at some of our artisan produce.
Last year we were delighted to welcome the Dingley Dell “Dirty Dozen” BBQ team challenge which has now become an annual event to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust which saw four teams of chefs battling it out for the Golden Pig Trophy.
Paton’s Porkateers – team leader Alan backed up with his wingman Matt Wilby and Jean – Paul Gauci who had flown in from Singapore to defend his title as Grand Pork Chef.
The Posh Boys – Eric Snaith, Rob Kennedy & Russell Bateman and the Pit Pirates hot off the coals from Grillstock completed the teams in a battle with challenges including the rain – not conducive to the best BBQ! More about the winners from this amazing competition in my next blog – coming soon!
We can’t wait to see old friends and new next year which will be our seventh festival. Our long term supporters and headline sponsor WestlandsWow will be “growing” our stage as they have very kindly agreed to host our 2018 festival at their HQ in Evesham.
I would personally like to thank everyone who has supported us for the last six years from sponsors, to chefs, growers, producers, visitors, in fact everyone who contributes to being part of such a fantastic event – something I am extremely proud and honoured to be part of – see you all next time and thanks a million once again for the support we couldn’t so it without any of you!