Charles Campion, the London Evening Standard‘s food writer, has teamed up with humanitarian charity Action Against Hunger for its Too Many Critics event. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn ahead of the event, which takes place at the Royal Exchange on 19 October
What's Too Many Critics all about?
Charles Campion It's a fundraising event, and it's a particularly great one because it links the hospitality industry with doing something really good. Action Against Hunger is a very practical charity - it feeds people who are starving and spends a remarkably small amount of money on administration and other costs. The event itself is a fabulous dinner where chefs have a spectacular time being catered for by the food critics.
Who else is taking part?
Among others, Jay Rayner from the Observer, the Guardian‘s Matthew Fort, Nick Lander from the Financial Times, Bill Knott, Tom Parker-Bowles and the Independent‘s Tracey MacLeod.
What will be on the menu?
There'll be canapés and lots of Taittinger Champagne to start off with, and then we're making a wild mushroom soup, followed by a main course of a rare breed of British pork served with all the trimmings. Each critic is also making a stuffing, which will be judged by the chefs. The dessert will be a chocolate tart, so there'll no doubt be a big mess in the kitchen at the end of it.
Are you intimidated by any of the chefs you will be cooking for?
I'm no more intimidated by them than they are by me - and that doesn't seem to be an awful lot. All I can do is raise money for a great charity and offer good, honest food and a terrific party. And I can definitely put together a great party.
What has been your biggest cooking disaster?
At the first Too Many Critics event the dumb waiter froze with a whole lot of plates in it, and there I was trying to fix it, which wasn't a pretty sight. In general, I think the worst thing that can happen is probably when you take your eye off a stockpot and it all dies and burns and stinks the house out.
You've just published the 2009 edition of your London restaurant guide. What are the major trends in the capital's dining scene?
I'm delighted to see that things are going towards what I like best: local, seasonal and carefully sourced ingredients and simple, honest food with very little fancy presentation. Highlights for me have been the opening of Le Café Anglais, Hix Oyster & Chop House and Quo Vadis, which are all keeping it simple. That's perfectly suited to what will be a difficult time for the restaurant sector.
• Caterer is offering you the chance to put Campion as well as the Observer‘s Jay Rayner and the Financial Times‘s Nick Lander on the spot in our new feature, Ask the Critic. E-mail your questions to email@example.com or write to Tom Vaughan, Caterer and Hotelkeeper, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.