Helen Peacocke on Thame Food Festival and the Foodies Festival this bank holiday weekend
Appetites are sharpened by two big upcoming events. Firstly, South Parks is being transformed into a culinary paradise this weekend for Foodies Festival and next month, Thame Food Festival returns with a homegrown flavour.
Foodies will be bursting with the region’s finest produce, street food, and culinary masters, hosted by 2013 MasterChef winner Natalie Coleman. Also appearing is the county’s own Great British Menu champion Emily Watkins, Michelin-starred Glynn Purnell, MasterChef finalists Andrew Kojima, Saira Hamilton and Larkin Cen, food writer Xanthe Clay, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi of The Caldesi Cookery School and TV chef Manju Malhi; all of whom will cook their signature dishes in the Chefs’ Theatre to recreate at home.
“I can’t wait to come to Oxford on Saturday — the line-up in the chef’s theatre is fantastic! Come and say hi and see me make one of mine and granddad’s favourite desserts,” Natalie told The Oxford Times.
A Children’s Cookery Theatre hosts Around the World themed cookery classes, and a Chilli Eating Challenge takes place at 5pm daily, to break the current record of 13 varieties of chillies eaten in one sitting.
The Chocolate, Cake & Bake Theatre host hourly demonstrations with pastry chefs, chocolatiers, bakers and sugarcraft experts, barbecue challenges, meat-eating competitions and a ‘barbecue cake’!
At the Drinks Theatre regular masterclasses and demonstrations offer visitors the chance to taste and learn about wine, champagne, sherry, ales and cocktails with experts including TV’s wine expert Charles Metcalfe, beer expert Melissa Cole and champagne expert Neil Phillips. There is also a daily cocktail-making competition to find the best cocktail in Oxfordshire, judged by an audience of Foodies visitors.
A new Feasting Tent means visitors can relax and enjoy their treats at long banqueting tables in the company of chefs, friends and family.
After a day of feasting, visitors can relax at the Champagne, Gin and Pimms tents with deck chairs and picnic rugs, or escape to the White Isle at the Ibiza Riot Bar with live DJs, giant beanbags, hanging chairs and hammocks to enjoy the entertainment stage featuring live acts through the day until 7pm.
Thame Food Festival lands in the town on September 27. still going strong since setting up shop in 2007.
Although the festival had small beginnings, its popularity has grown year on year, such that by 2013 it was formally constituted as a not-for-profit community interest company, with everyone declaring it a great success. This year the stall count increases from 150 to 170, all of which are vetted to ensure an eclectic mix of foods and products.
Festival organiser Alison Isherwood said the food was all tasted and tested before being given a place; she feels this is important if Thame is to achieve its aim and become the biggest and the most mouth-watering food festival in south England.
Alison also explained the festival’s heavy reliance on the generosity of local sponsors. “The festival’s ambassador, Raymond Blanc, opens his cookery school at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons on September 22 with a full day’s cookery class hosted by Mark Peregrine, his right-hand man.
“The cost is £365 which Raymond kindly donates to the festival.”
* Foodies Festival takes place from Saturday until Monday, tickets, £10-£38 from www.foodiesfestival.com or call 0844 995 1111.
* For more details on the free Thame Food Festival and to book a place at the cookery school, visit thamefoodfestival.co.uk