Previously held at River Cottage, Vallum Farm, Laverstoke Park and Padstow, this year the Guild have carefully selected a venue that is a seasoned producer with a 60-year lineage of British produce including traditional, plant propagation and specialty to give visitors an authentic festival experience within one of their exclusive glasshouses.
Lee Maycock, Universal Cookery & Food Festival Director, said: “We have something quite unique and it grows organically each year. We have been true to our word since year one when we promised to move the festival around the country, taking it to the chefs in various geographical locations. So far, we have been to Surrey, Hampshire, Devon, Northumberland, Cornwall and this year to Worcestershire.
“It’s been refreshingly different this year. Because we’ve moved away from our big top tent that we’ve done historically, we’ve come into this glasshouse which has been light and airy. There’s been a nice, relaxed feel to the whole event today. Everyone is happy with the volumes of people and the footfall that they have had on the stands. It’s been a really good day, really positive.”
Established in 2012, Maycock started the festival with Ian Nottage and John Feeney, all Guild committee members at the time, making it a Craft Guild of Chefs event. In the past six years, the festival has included an eclectic mix of demonstrations, workshops, in-land and coastal foraging, farm tours and live debates which have tackled current issues, trends and forecasts for the future such as farming for chefs, health versus taste and the futuristic kitchen.
The day’s programme offered numerous influential speakers, hosted on the main stage by Nigel Barden, food and drink broadcaster and food correspondent for BBC London.
Nigel Barden commented: “We’re under glass today. It’s fantastic! This is a very special event. Organised by chefs for chefs, so to get them all together from all over Great Britain is pretty special. It’s marvellous to be on stage with the chefs, seeing cooking but also hearing from some of the suppliers and root to market. It’s a very interesting time at the moment. It’s a tough market out there but more than ever people want to know where their food comes from, it’s covenant, it’s traceability, the food stories that go with it and how it’s cooked. So, this is a perfect gathering and it’s fun as well.
The Craft Guild of Chefs are the ones that put the meals on tables quietly in many ways and they’re the real ambassadors for the chef trail in Britain. It’s a long-established institution but it’s one to be nurtured, cherished and looked after.”
It’s a tough market out there but more than ever people want to know where their food comes from, it’s covenant, it’s traceability, the food stories that go with it and how it’s cooked. So, this is a perfect gathering and it’s fun as well
The first presentation of the day was given by chef Gerry Ludwig, who gave delegates an insight of his methods of creating trends-based menu solutions.
Chef Gerry Ludwig, Leader of the Culinary R&D department for Gordon Food Service in Grand Rapids, USA said: “I am so pleased with the entire UCFF event. All of these chefs coming together, doing presentations, seminars and sharing their knowledge, it’s been a wonderful event. I’m glad to be a part of it.
The Craft Guild of Chefs is a wonderful organisation. It’s all about sharing knowledge, professional development and becoming better day by day at what we do, so really wonderful!”
Later, that morning, Robert Ortiz, head chef at Michelin star restaurant Lima gave his presentation with Chef Alan Murchison. They spoke about how you can be creative with menus by using plants from root to flower. Ortiz praised the Craft Guild of Chefs by saying “It’s an amazing organisation. I think they way they are engaging with the younger generation. The way they are adding value to us and recognising the industry makes a difference.”
During the day, Tom Beeston, Livestock farmer by trade and has an HND in agriculture and MSc in food policy, was involved in giving delegates his knowledge during a debate about the rise of vegetarian and vegan dining in the UK and what this means for chefs, butchers and fishmongers.
Tom Beeston commented: “The festival is fantastic. It’s really lovely to come and see chefs that really love food. The place is oozing about food and loving food. Everyone’s had a nice time. It’s about upping the game. It’s about sharing. The Craft Guild of Chefs is awesome because it’s a network and we just don’t network enough. We need to share information. The network is fab and the quality of what they are doing is absolutely fantastic! Somebody giving up their own time to do this kind of event is fantastic. It feels like the whole place is giving back.”
Additionally, speakers included Eddie Shepherd, Andrew Dargue, Chris Greenacre, Will Matier, Jen Elford, Chris Chinn, Lee DeSanges, Richard Cook, Brad Carter, Steve Scuffell, Gareth Ward and Alyn Williams. All of which either gave a presentation, was involved in a live debate or demonstrated some excellent cooking ideas.
On the Distillery stage speakers included Sue Purcell, Section Manager at Campden BRI Group. Purcell is sensory scientist in the consumer and sensory science department based in Gloucestershire. Her role is to train people to evaluate food and drink in an objective way, mainly for quality assessment purposes.
Presented by Chef Rob Kirby, other speakers on this stage included Simon Weston, Glenn Evans, Luke French, Simon Poffley, Ben Forte, Mike Robinson, Tom Harfleet, Eddie Attwell, Tracey Colley and Pete Humphries. Delegates were able to get up close to see exactly how and what the chefs were cooking, and chefs also gave them a taster of the final dishes made.
With the Guild’s passion in inspiring and introducing talented young chefs to the industry, they collaborated with The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) to host one of their study tours during this festival. This experience has given head chefs, catering managers and development chefs the opportunity to experience several established and upcoming trends, network with chefs from commercial restaurants and ultimately, take away ideas back to their institutions.
Sarah Mcloughlin, Head of TUCO Academy attended with a number of TUCO members and commented: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the UCFF today. It has been a very relaxed atmosphere, surrounded by many influential people in the industry. It has been a great experience.
“During the day I attended one of the greenhouse tours, ‘Behind the Seeds’. It was wonderful to see Westlands’ automated hydroponic micro leaf glasshouse and given a detailed viewing of their unique growing process. With the event created by chefs for chefs, and with some insight from suppliers, I feel our members have been able to go away with a lot of quality information.”
For more information about the Craft Guild of Chefs or to become a member, visit www.craftguildofchefs.org