Didcot Food Festival review

Last weekend I attended the 4th Didcot Food Festival. It was the first time I’d visited so wasn’t sure what to expect; what did I think?

A magical opening

Didcot Food Festival is organised by a small group of Didcot Events volunteers, including the GBBO contestant Christine Wallace. This year it was held over two days, with a chef’s theatre, food traders and entertainment spread across the weekend.

Morgan & West opening Didcot Food Festival
Morgan & West opening Didcot Food Festival

I arrived on Saturday towards the end of the opening magic show from Morgan & West but still managed to see them hide, and magically find, a ladies wedding ring. After they finished I had a quick scoot around the hall, tasted a couple of sweet things and then entered the chef’s theatre.

Chef demonstrations

Both days had a mix of chef demos and skills sessions (butchery and chocolate). Presenters included chefs from local hotels and inns and contestants from Masterchef and the Great British Bake Off.

I took a seat for Bill Buckley who is, by his own admission, a foodie rather than a professional chef. Nowadays he presents a show on local radio, writes about food and is a restaurant reviewer. Although people of a certain age (mostly those in the audience) may know him better as a presenter on That’s Life.

Bill Buckley at Didcot Food Festival
Bill Buckley at Didcot Food Festival

Bill was an engaging speaker who regaled us with tales of his time on That’s Life and as a Come Dine With Me winner, whilst managing to create panna cotta. And only burning the milk once! He also made a chocolate sauce to accompany the panna cotta; both of which were available to sample afterwards.

Bill Buckley’s panna cotta and chocolate sauce
Bill Buckley’s panna cotta and chocolate sauce

I stayed for the next presenter too, Masterchef finalist Nawamin Pinpathomrat. The room was packed for this demonstration; obviously a lot of Masterchef fans in Didcot.

Al Ryan, master of ceremonies, with Nawamin Pinpathomrat, Masterchef finalist
Al Ryan, master of ceremonies, with Nawamin Pinpathomrat, Masterchef finalist

Nawamin, who just happens to be a doctor and DPhil student at Oxford University, cooked a prawn and crab dish. He was incredibly modest about his achievements, and unintentionally funny with it. Al Ryan, who interviewed Nawamin, asked if his supervisor at Oxford guessed he was on Masterchef. His response, yes of course, she’s an Oxford professor!

I really enjoyed both of these demonstrations; next year I’ll set aside a whole day to attend the festival and see more.

Food traders

After the demos I returned to the main room in the Civic Hall to visit the food traders. These included those selling cheese, pies, cakes and chutneys. Other stands included drinks companies, hotels and eco enterprises.

Food stalls at Didcot Food Festival
Food stalls at Didcot Food Festival

Along with the main hall there was also a place to sit down with coffee and cake and a whole room dedicated to children’s activities.

Didcot Food Festival
Didcot Food Festival

The weather on Saturday was horrendous so I didn’t go outside on my first visit. However there were catering vans and a bar; I hope they got some business despite the weather.

Entertainment

I returned to the Food Festival on Sunday to play in The Dukes, Didcot’s recently formed ukulele group. It feels a little wrong to review ourselves but if you watched us I hope you enjoyed it (particularly as most of us only started playing this year!).

The Dukes at Didcot Food Festival
The Dukes at Didcot Food Festival

The outdoor traders were getting more business on sunny Sunday. There was a reasonable selection, including burgers, a hog roast and a smoothie van. We stopped for lunch, had a final look around the traders and then headed out.

My overall thoughts? It’s a great event for Didcot; congratulations to those who organised it. It was good to see the festival so well attended and I’ll definitely be back for more of the chef demos next year!

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