26th May 2010
In villages, towns and cities
across the UK,
local communities and event organisers are planning hundreds of food events.
Yet few, if any, are as well known as the Taste festivals.
Established six years ago, Taste
of London has grown to attract 50,000 visitors each year, while the franchise,
which is part-owned by Channel 4, has now spread to other UK and international destinations.
There's Taste of Birmingham, Edinburgh,
Cape Town, Dublin,
Amsterdam and Sydney. Come September, Taste of Milan will
be held for the first time. It's an amazing success story, especially as other food
events are struggling.
The continued popularity of the
Taste festivals, and the London
event in particular, is down to the "unique nature and the quality of the restaurants" which take part,
according to Hannah Pike, Taste's festival director.
"There is no other event [with] the calibre and
the quality and of the Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants," she noted.
This year's London
event will be attended by La Gavroche and Gary Rhodes from Rhodes
24, while celebrity chefs Heston Blumenthal and Rick Stein are also taking
"These kinds of chefs haven't and won't do any
other type of event… Heston, in particular, never does a live event
format," Ms Pike added.
Another unique feature of the events is that Taste
also draws people and companies who tend to favour displaying their produce at
local farmers markets, rather than on the high-street, under the one roof.
Although other events have
struggled during the economic downturn, the Taste festivals have been
"quite recession-proof", she noted, adding that this was probably
thanks to the pricing and ticket structure.
"There are certain different levels, so you could
either get a standard ticket at £20 or a Laurent-Perrier Masterclass at
The markets to which the tickets were positioned to
seem to have gotten through the recession without too much of an issue, she
said. "Last year's event we sold out at 50,000 visitors so it didn't seem
to put anyone off."
"Certainly sponsorship has been tough but we've
had the best year ever working with British Airways, Waitrose, Peugeot, San Pellegrino, O2, Laurent-Perrier and
an amazing list of great quality brands who have chosen to stop their other
activity in favour of just doing Taste of London," she noted.
The event organisers are hopeful
that this year's Taste of London, which takes place from June 17-20th,
will be equally as successful as previous years. "It'll be a sell out at 50,000," Ms Pike predicted, adding that even
visitors who have been before will find something new to discover.
Some 40 per cent of the restaurants taking part this
year have never previously been to Taste before, while it's also Heston
Blumenthal first time at the event.
"We also have Rick Stein with our Taste of
Malaysia area. Those are probably the biggies – the restaurant area and the two
celebrity chefs," the event organiser added.
A new area for the festival, Taste of Malaysia will
focus on the country's cultures, traditions - including the tea ceremony - and
its food. Other sections include the Waitrose Kitchen and the AG main theatre,
"which is where all of the big chefs come and do demonstrations".
Nyetimber, an English sparkling wine, will be offered for tastings, alongside
samples of salmon, while visitors can opt to also visit other areas for the
chance to chat to small-scale wine producers about their vintages.
But the Taste organisers aren't
neglecting the rest of the UK.
In Edinburgh, from May 28th-30th,
Jean-Christophe Novelli and Rachel Allen will be showing off their skills, while Birmingham's event, from
July 16th-18th, will feature Midlands-based restaurants and top Indian chef Angela Malik.