I spent a very enjoyable day yesterday as Master of Ceremonies in the cookery theatre of Oxford Castle Food and Wine Festival. Raymond Blanc and Suzy Atkins opened the festival and I had the pleasure of announcing them, then had a good chat with Raymond about the Children's Food Festival which we've both been involved with from the beginning and is a subject that we're passionate about. I had heard that Raymond was supposed to be taking it easy for health reasons - don't believe that for a second, he is an amazing character, full of enthusiasm for food, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients as well as getting children cooking.
Suzy is the Sunday Telegraph's wine expert and we had a surreal experience yesterday as she was appearing on Saturday Kitchen at the same time she was opening the Festival. Of course, that is the power of the teleportation devices that TV studios and Cookery Theatres have, if you didn't know about that the backstage area of Chefs on Stage cookery theatres are just like being on the Starship Enterprise, seriously, you ought to check them out. So Suzy was beamed in to open the show with Raymond, fabulous.
First on stage was the inspiration Adam, Development Chef at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons who's worked with Raymond for the past 7 years. Adam made three delicious dishes using seasonal vegetables and fruit a lot of which were grown in le Manoir's gardens. He was nervous, bless him, and it was even worse as Raymond was sitting in the audience shouting instructions to him and giving a running commentary. Performing on stage in front of your boss is bad enough, must be even more stressful if he's one of the top chef's in the world too. I did ask Raymond if he'd like my mike as there was no point me competing with him to compare the show, he gracefully declined with a smile and a joke.
I also had first hand experience of a Thermomix demonstrated by Suzanne Chafer, I've been curious about these machines for a while as a lot of chefs I know rave about them and I must say it was impressive, still waiting for my lamb buna for lunch though.
Vanessa Kimbell took to the stage in the afternoon. I was really excited when I found out that Vanessa was demming, we've been tweeting and emailing each other for ages, talked on the phone but never actually met so this was a real treat and we had such a good time on stage, comparing ideas on cocoa powder, sieving and making the perfect chocolate cookie. This is my idea of heaven for a job - chatting on stage with wonderful inspirational chefs and foodies.
Paul Bellchambers, The Late Chef, who alternates with me on Jo in the Afternoon's show on BBC Oxford was on too, good value as ever and finally the double act of Spike and Russ from Malmaison, for get Morecambe and Wise, these two did such a fun dem I'm really sad that I'm not up there today, great chefs, great food, great fun.
Finally a big shout out to Charlie at Waterstones Oxford, I was due to do a book signing for my new book 500 Baby and Toddler Foods but there has been a delay on the publishing and it won't be available until next week. I had one copy which Charlie was in charge of, during the chef intro Charlie walked in front of the stage holding my book aloft a little like the girls who walk round the boxing ring announcing the next round. He refused to wear a sequinned leotard though - I did ask him to, thanks Charlie. I'll be doing a book signing and dem at Waterstones Oxford after Half Term to keep a watch out for dates.
Thank you Oxford Castle for a wonderful day.