The Real Food Festival, which counts Caterersearch.com among its sponsors, returns for a second showing at London's Earls Court this May after its successful debut last year.
This time round, the mixed trade and consumer event will showcase the products of more than 500 small producers from the UK and abroad who have been hand-picked and subsidised by the organisers.
"You are what what you eat eats" - a quote from food and agricultural writer Michael Pollan - aptly sums up the ethos of the show, which passionately promotes flavoursome and nutrient-packed fresh foods that are produced ethically, fairly and sustainably in healthy soil that is free from chemical pesticides, fertilisers and additives.
The Soil Association, the campaigning and certification body for organic food and farming, has been named as the official charity sponsor of the show, which is also backing a number of smaller charities such as The Real Bread Campaign,
Pig Business, Garden Organic, and Save the Cauliflower.
FOOD FESTIVAL FACTS
The Real Food Festival 20098-10 May
Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Warwick Road, London SW5
Related stories on CaterersearchCaterer preview of the Real Food Festival 2009 >>
The three-day show offers much more than the chance to meet producers and sample their wares. Visitors can also:
- Watch some of the UK and Europe's top chefs in action in the Real Food Theatre
- Join four debates on real food issues
- View unusual livestock, including Petal the water buffalo, rare pig breeds, chickens, and cows, not to mention outstanding ovines at the Sheep Show
- Learn how to prepare and cook the highest-quality ingredients on a tight budget with Barry Haughton's Bordeaux Quay Cookery School
- Teach their children how to milk a cow, make butter, and grow, prepare and cook food in the Education Centre
- Learn how to grow their own organic food at the Kitchen Garden, with advice on composting and planting seeds.
THE REAL FOOD DEBATE
The recession, soaring prices and populations, shrinking natural resources (including peak oil), pollution and environmental degradation have all thrust food security and safety issues to the centre of the stage.
Public trust in industrialised food systems has been undermined by a series of health scares ranging from mad cow disease, genetically-modified foods and the recent dioxin-tainted pig-feed fiasco that sparked the recall of Irish pork from more than 25 countries.
Meanwhile, health campaigners warn of a time bomb of public ill-health caused by nutrient-poor, additive-packed processed foods.
Italian pesto supplier - Sacla is sponsoring four lively debates on the future of food which question the impact that industrialised farming and food production has on our health, economy and environment - and ask whether we can still afford real food in the current economic downturn.
- Feeding people in public institutions (Friday, 8 May)
Why is £2b of our money being spent on bad food?
- The Future of Food (Friday, 8 May)
A perfect storm of climate change, diminishing soil and water resources, peak oil and population growth?
- Animal welfare in food productionm (Saturday, 9 May) Does industrial, intensive animal production really represent acceptable animal welfare standards and how much should we care?
- Putting ethics to the test (Sunday, 10 May) Can we afford real food in today's economic climate?
The roster of speakers include: Zac Goldsmith, environmental activist and green campaigner for the Conservative Party; Tim Lang, the Professor of Food Policy at City University London who coined the phrase'food miles'; investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman, Graham Harvey, author and founder of the GrassRootsFood website; Soil Association director Patrick Holden; and Mark Barthell, special advisor to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme).
THE REAL FOOD FESTIVAL FOOD THEATRE
The Real Food Festival has collected a stellar cast of some of the top chefs in the UK and Europe, along with other leading people in the food trade, to strut their stuff at the Food Theatre, which is sponsored by Scotland of Food and Drink. Luminaries for this year include:
- Show ambassador Raymond Blanc, chef propetior of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxfordshire
- Sally Barnes, Woodcock Smokery in Skibbereen
- Allegra McEvedy from Leon Restaurants
- Giorgio Locatelli from Locanda Locatelli
- Bob Ferrand from the Guild of Fine Food
- Chocolatier Willie Harcourt-Cooze
- Show amabassador Thomasina Miers, TV food presenter and owner of Wahaca restaurant
- Show ambassador Oliver Rowe, head chef and owner of Konstam
- Ashley Palmer Watts, head chef at Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck
- Fergus Henderson, the 'head to toe' chef-proprietor of the St John restaurant
- Cyrus Todiwala, Café Spice Namaste owner
- Nic Watt, head chef at Roka
- Sanjay Dwivedi, head chef of the Michelin-starred Zaika in Kensington
- Andrew Parkinson, executive chef at Fifteen
- Arthur Potts Dawson, head chef at eco-friendly training restaurant Acorn House
- Michelin-starred chefs from the Languedoc Roussillon region of Southern France
WHO WENT LAST YEAR?
The inaugural Real Food Festival attracted a host of top trade buyers last year from all sectors of the food and drink industry, ranging from food service operators, leading hotels and restaurants, institutional caterers, food retailers, and wine merchants.
Last year's visitor's book included such names as
- Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin-starred the Fat Duck, AWT Restaurants, the River Café, Fifteen London, Carluccio's, Starbucks, and BB's Coffee & Muffins
- Compass Group, Tate Catering, and British Airways
- The Four Seasons hotel, the Dorchester hotel, and the Connaught hotel
- Brent Council, Thames Valley University, and the Fairtrade Federation,
- Bibendum Wine and Mars
- Waitrose, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, Selfridges, Harrods, and Fortnum & Mason
WHAT DO THE SHOW'S SUPPORTERS SAY?
- "We believe the core values of the festival - connecting producers and consumers and promoting excellence and sustainability in food production - are at the heart of the organic movement as well.
"The festival presents an unrivalled opportunity not only to sample and buy delicious food and drink, but also to take time to hear the stories behind them. Learning more about where our food comes from is one of the steps in the journey to understanding how we can live and consume in harmony with our environment and in support of the amazing men and women who produce our daily bread."
Patrick Holden, chairman of the Soil Association, the campaigning and certification organisation for organic food and farming and the show's official charity partner.
SHOW AMBASSADOR "Over the past 20 years we have seen, all over the world, the triumph of industrialised farming and marketing. Food has become separated from the farmer, the consumer and the cook and so loses its human aspect, with unhappy consequences for agriculture, the environment, animal welfare, human health and family life. At long last we are waking up from our long undernourished nap, and are once again realising that food is intrinsically connected with our environment, our health and the whole of our culture. The Real Food Festival is a wonderful event for consumers and trade to get together and discover the incredible local food resources available to us today, tomorrow and for the future."
Raymond Blanc,chef-proprietor of Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons
VISITOR "…this is simply the best festival on the calendar. Visually last year looked great and there was a very informal, friendly and approachable attitude from all the producers I was so impressed…looking forward to this year."
David Anthony from Carluccio's
"As a direct result of contacts we made at the 2008 Read Food Festival, the Jersey Oyster Company now exports over half a ton of Jersey-branded oysters each week to some of London's best hotels, restaurants and stores.
The Jersey Oyster Company, which has seen its sales rocket since sharing a stand with six Jersey firms at the first show nine months ago
TIMES AND TICKETS
The show kicks off on Friday, 8 May with a trade-only show (from 10am to 4pm) followed by a Show Preview from 4pm to 8pm. It is open to anyone on subsequent days from 11am to 7pm (Saturday) and 8pm (Sunday).
Tickets on the door costs £25 for the trade show, £12 for the Show Preview, and £18 on Saturday and Sunday. Those bought in advance are cheaper and can be obtained here.