The amazing culinary delights of the festival scene, and what it is like to cook in a field…
Oh, wow and holy moly, if you are a foodie and you haven’t been to a music festival, shame on you! There is some real show stopping food going down and you need to go check it out! I’m planning a cookery book on it for the future but for now, you need to go and see for yourself!
From amazing curries to plain old mac and cheese, with a twist, from excellent crew food to fine michelin star dining at Wilderness and Wonderfruit, there is something for everyone!
Some gems are: curry, rotis and pakoras with The Peckish Peacock (and I’m mentioning them not just because I worked for them (and crashed their truck!) in the beginning!), the amazing choice of stuff, mostly organic, local and haute, at Wilderness and Wonderfruit, The Smooth Criminals (awesome smoothies and cakes), S’Juice Me (AMAZING juices, Kombucha and the like!), Choux Stopper (all things pastry), The Harefield Bakery (good British baking and grub from my good friend and Great British Bakeoff runner-up Davey Chambers though they have moved to purely private catering now), Chai Wallahs (great drinks and wholesome food), The Lizard Stage (great chai and woodfired pizzas), Thali Cafe (excellent thalis), Pho Sho (Pho-tastic!), Big Pan Cooking (great hearty food), Roaming Rotisserie (mouthwatering rotisserie!), Banging Beans (what the name says, Banging Beans!), Dorset Smokery (amazing smoked wraps and bagels!), Nana’s kitchen (wholesome lovely food), Holy Cow Burger (best burgers on the scene), Happy Maki (delicious Maki!), Trewhitts (great healthy food), Beat Root Cafe (fantastic vegetarian food), Coyote Moon Cafe (mega fry-ups and mexican), Strumpets with Crumpets (again, exactly what the name says!), The Allotment (also great veggie food), Oh My Dog (brilliant hot dogs), Nanny Bills (burgers, chicken and tasty things like that), Chai Shop Organic (awesome vegan food) and so many more, you really, really, really, REALLY have to get yourself down to a music festival with a spork and dive in!
Cooking at festivals:
It should be common knowledge that working in a kitchen is hard. Long hours, hot and steamy working environments, tempers and egos, fire and sharp things, a million potential things to go wrong; it is not easy and it’s one reason why we value food so much, producing a great meal under those conditions is a challenge; to put it mildly.
So on that basis we should be awarding Michelin stars to the people who cook at festivals. These people have to build their kitchen and restuarant, in a field, before they can even cook anything. Before that, they have to carry all the equipment there (do you know how heavy ovens are?!), get reliable and committed workers, pass all the health and safety hurdles (e.g. making sure you have hot and cold running water…in a field…) and making it all work and flow smoothly. I mean, come on! I saw a food operation have to close before the festival started because their food arrived when they had no power, they couldn’t refrigerate it, and so Health and Safety made them throw it all away. Festival food really is a tough gig!
Then, you have to keep it all clean (in the mud), deal with disasters (like your stock not arriving because the lorry can’t drive to or find your venue in the forest) and staff not turning up for work because they “accidentally” dropped some acid five minutes before their shift…the list goes on.
Despite that, all these people, from food truck owners to the crew caterers, pull off an amazing job and produce some really fine dining. Another argument for why you have to go to a music festival if you are a foodie.
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In my own experience, (running a crew kitchen for Secret Garden Party, The Artful Badgers and other festivals; and working for food trucks) I can say that it has been one of the most challenging and yet rewarding things I have ever done! For a couple of gigs, we were doing a thousand meals in 3 days for £1 a head; challenging is an understatement! And yet, getting this sort of feedback:
“A quick note from us all at Badger HQ to thank you hugely for all your hard work at Secret Garden this year…a special shout out to Andrew and his catering team…for creating the warmest, safest and most regenerating back of house space I have ever been lucky enough to be part of.”
“Hi Andrew, I wanted to add to the endless thanks, with a particular thank you for the extra mile you went at Wilderness… the extra mile was felt immensely amongst us organisers… for you to set our devotion to our crew apart from others in such a charming and kind way, could only be ANDREW!! Cafe Andrew was also a joy to be a part of!”
“Tastiest lunch EVER. Thank you so much Andrew Philip Mexi Yiallouros x”
“Yep! A delicious roast and the tastiest soup I’ve ever eaten – in two days! OM NOM NOM. x”
So, if you’re thinking of producing food at a music festival, know that it is hard, really hard, way harder than a restaurant. Apart from the above, you can get put in a crap location or it rains and no-one shows up and you make no money and yet have had to pay thousands of pounds for the pitch. I could go on.
But the upside is you make people happy, and I mean really happy. With the energy, joy, love, mishaps and hard work that goes into music festivals, giving someone a good nutritious, tasty meal, is worth more than feeding someone a posh dinner in a restaurant on Marylebone High Street; and they will show you it is worth more too! Finally, the feeling you will have when you pulled it off; that’s priceless!
Check out our photos below…
Festival food photos: Click on the arrows to scroll, or on the image for a larger version (in a pop-up)