September 15, 2014 / 11:24 AM / 3 years ago

Chefs take spotlight at London debut music-and-food fest

LONDON (Reuters) - Gourmet food proved to be the new rock ’n’roll at a weekend festival in London where 10 acclaimed chefs, three of whom hold Michelin stars, demonstrated their culinary prowess against a backdrop of live music.

Headliners at the first On Blackheath Festival included Massive Attack, Grace Jones and Aloe Blacc.

But it was the chefs, among them Richard Bainbridge, who heads up the Michelin-starred Morston Hall in Norfolk, England, and who demonstrated how to cook a Sunday roast to a packed audience, who stole the show.

He served the dish a couple of hours later to festival-goers lucky enough to get his sold-out 25-pound ($41) ticket for two courses and wine in Gizzi’s Chef’s Club, an on-site pop-up restaurant offering sittings of the meals presented at the Saturday and Sunday event.

Other chefs serving up meals included the BBC’s Valentine Warner, multi-award winner Simon Hulstone, pop-up veteran Carl Clarke, BBQ chef Neil Rankin, baking duo The Meringue Girls and Jack Stein, son of the acclaimed cookbook writer and restaurateur Rick Stein.

The On Blackheath festival was a first for London but only the latest in Britain putting food at the fore.

TV chef Jamie Oliver and Blur bassist-turned-farmer Alex James collaborated three years ago to start The Big Feastival. It took place at the end of August featuring headliners such as Fleetwood Mac and De La Soul while revelers sank their teeth into food by Michelin chef Nathan Outlaw and restaurateur Mark Hix.

Next week, musos and foodies can flock to  the Good Life Experience in Flintshire, Wales. Led by singer-songerwriter Cerys Matthews, it will include a diverse musical line-up, cooking classes and food stands.  

FINE DINING

Back at On Blackheath, named for its locale in south London, Gizzi Erskine, a pop-up chef and TV personality who curated the Chef’s Club, said the aim was to make fine dining more accessible and present it to a new audience.

“We’ve chosen people who are doing the best that they’re doing within the industry,” Erskine told Reuters at the festival on Sunday. “Michelin-food for 25 pounds quid ($40)? That means they’re getting out there. They’re showing people what they can do.”

She said that eating has become a more important part of festivals as people’s desire for good food grows. 

“We look at other festivals that go on throughout the year like Wilderness and Latitude and the food offering there is amazing... We’re not just happy with your average burger anymore or to go through a sea of noodles – we want something proper.”

John Quilter, a music fan and chef who hosted the live food demonstrations, agreed that food was becoming more important to festival-goers.

“When I was 20, what was important to me were the trainers that I was wearing and listening to the music that I was into at that time,” he said. 

“Food was not on my radar. Twenty-somethings today are still getting those Nike Airs, they’re still listening to the music but they’re now carrying that smoked salmon under their arm....”

(US dollar = 0.6156 British pound)

(In this refiled version of the story, a dropped word has been added in paragraph seven)

Editing by Michael Roddy/Jeremy Gaunt

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