An excellent event all round The Sheffield Food Festival 2018 had at its heart the Theatre Kitchen which featured three full days of chef presentations, demonstrations and general fun. We were particularly keen to see our Head Chef, Lee Mangles compete in a Ready Steady Cook style contest with Chris Hanson from Blend Sheffield.
In the event the session turned out to be a great education for us all about some of the excellent community food initiatives taking place in Sheffield. Justin Rowntree from Sweetspot Hospitality Consulting did an entertaining and at the same time informative job of controlling the chefs and linking up with representatives from Food Cycle.
After receiving a bag of beautiful seasonal vegetables from Food Cycles the Chefs quickly put together their thoughts on a menu. Both decided on two dishes, Lee a slightly more simple chargrilled asparagus and halloumi stater with a Thia curry and Chris with an ambitious bread making challenge. This he was pairing with homemade baked beans and a courgette fritter.
As the Chefs got to work we heard from Food Cycle. In Sheffield they currently have projects at Gleadless, Firth Park and Lowedges as well as Sharrow and St Barts. Using donated food and volunteers they produce meals for homeless people and others in local communities. It was clear that this is done with great passion by all the people involved and helps bring food in as a highly positive social tool both in its consumption and preparation. They are keen to attract more volunteers and people who wish to be involved through donation of food or simply to take part in the whole community aspect.
With time running out the Chefs started to plate up. Justin putting Chris off his train of thought (and perhaps slightly cheekily pointing out that Chris was not good at mutli-tasking) questioned him about his forthcoming restaurant opening. Blend soon to be on Pinstone Street on the site of the old Fusion shop, is a social enterprise with a vision to use cuisine and hospitality enhance people's lives. Chris shared his passion for the venture and we were able to meet some of the staff who are having the opportunity of employment and a way into work that they may not normally be afforded. We wish Chris and his team all the best for their opening.
Having been impressed by the community work going on around us the result of the contest was becoming less important than the overall celebration of food. However, for the record the appointed judge on the day awarded a narrow victory to Lee, despite Chris's heroic and impressive effort at producing flat bread as well as his two dishes in half an hour!
A big thanks to the contestants, Food Cycle the Sheffield Food Festival and Justin for providing such great entertainment.