|The Masterchef stars / hosts: John Torode and Gregg Wallace|
The show is basically a Masterchef-themed celebration of food, cookery and eating. Lots and lots of stalls selling food and drink (plus the obligatory vegetable-peelers and kitchen-cleaning gizmos of course), interspersed with talks, demonstrations and "Food Theatre" performances.
With admission to the show for two days, we were able to go at a fairly leisurely pace, with frequent rests in the VIP lounge, where complimentary food and drink was constantly available. Actually the best aspect of the arrangement was simply having somewhere relatively quiet to retreat to for a sit down and a drink. We spent the first day having a good look round, trying lots of different products (most of the traders offer free samples) and making plans for what we would buy on the second day. First stop was at the Gower Cottage Brownies stall, where we had a chat with Kate Jenkins (with whom Jane frequently converses via Twitter). Kate very generously provided us with some free samples of her gorgeous brownies. Emma took care of those for us (she's currently "eating for two", if you know what I mean). Moving on, this huge display of chillis by Edible Ornamentals naturally attracted my attention for a while. I liked the fact that you could buy the chillis singly, rather than having to buy them in bags or packs.
Probably the most common product on offer at the show was the hot chilli / curry sauce. There must have been literally dozens of stalls specialising in the stuff! In Britain today we have a large community of people whose origins are in the Indian sub-continent, and they have exercised a huge influence on our food culture. Chicken Tikka Masala is now more likely to be seen as our national dish than roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
My son-in-law Dave was probably more interested in this handsome beast though (I know that he is toying with the idea of having a Hog-roast of his own, put on by his local butchers...)
During the afternoon we visited the Wine part of the show, and sampled a wide variety of different offerings. It was nice to see English vineyards well represented (English wine has improved a lot in the last few years), but I was less impressed with the Croatian and Uruguayan wines! It would take a lot to convince me that there is a nicer type of wine in the world than the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Without a doubt, the best wine we sampled was the Jackson's Estate Sauvignon Blanc, from Marlborough. It's exactly what I like best.
Towards the end of the first afternoon we attended one of the Food Theatre events, and watched Michael Caines cooking alongside Nick Pickard ("Tony Hutchinson" from Hollyoaks), a recent Celebrity Masterchef contestant. For those of you who don't know him, Michael Caines is a chef very well known in the UK, holder of two Michelin stars, and Executive Chef (+ owner) at the fabulous Gidleigh Park in Devon. You would hardly know this, but he only has one arm, having lost the other in a car accident! The final of the recent Celebrity Masterchef series was filmed at Gidleigh Park, so Michael and Nick were well known to one another - as you could tell from the constant banter between them. They both cooked (different) dishes using Duck. Considering that they only had about 25 minutes to do it in (during which they also had to endure repeated questioning by the compere), they both did really well, but naturally enough Micheal's dish was the best from the culinary perspective.
On Day 2 we were queuing up at the doors as the show opened. First on the agenda was another Food Theatre performance. This time it was the 'A' team: John and Gregg, alongside Tim Anderson (the adventurous young American winner of this year's Masterchef contest) and former England Rugby captain Phil Vickery (this year's winner of the "Celebrity Masterchef ").
|Tim, John, Gregg, Phil|
After spending the rest of the morning having another look at some of the stalls, and making a few purchases, we were escorted into the VVIPs' lounge - the place where all the celebs go to get out of the public gaze, in between their stage appearances. Over (another) glass of wine we were able to mix with some of the people who we had seen on stage earlier, and have a brief chat with some of them. Here is Jane with Michael Caines (right) and Marcus Bean (left) - winner of "Iron Chef UK 2010".
And with Tim Anderson:
We didn't get to speak with John or Gregg, but we did see them at close quarters - particularly Gregg, whose dynamic personality and incredibly loud voice it is impossible to miss!
Finally, home to Fleet on the train, exhausted and laden down with bags of goodies, but happy after an amazing outing.