Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi, Michel Roux Jr. and Pierre Koffmann are among the chefs planning to attend Taste of London, which opens on June 16 in Regent’s Park. If that’s too many cooks, Gwyneth Paltrow is also going.
Paltrow will be signing her cookbook “Notes From My Kitchen Table” on June 19. She should be able to pick up a few tips from some of the culinary masters at the annual event, which attracts thousands of food lovers hoping to meet their kitchen heroes and to sample dishes from fancy restaurants.
The gastronomic highlight this year is a five-course meal created by Roux, Koffmann, Chris Galvin, Gary Rhodes and Silvena Rowe. There are four seatings, two each on June 16 and 17. Just don’t get your hopes up: It’s a corporate-hospitality event for which the tickets cost 474 pounds ($773), which is 395 pounds plus value-added tax. The standard door price to Taste of London is 26 pounds for four hours.
“I always enjoy Taste because it’s a chance to represent your restaurants and to meet your customers,” Rhodes said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It’s also an opportunity to meet other chefs, swap a couple of dishes and have a glass of wine together. But it is hard work. We’re looking at doing 3,000 or 4,000 main courses and another 3,000 desserts.”
Visitors buy vouchers known as Crowns, which they swap for tasting portions from participating restaurants. The list this year includes Barrafina, Benares, Bocca di Lupo, Club Gascon, Corrigan’s Mayfair, Gauthier Soho, Le Gavroche, Opera Tavern, the Ritz and Tamarind. Crowns are two for 1 pound and the average dish is 8 to 10 Crowns.
That’s not cheap when you consider that the set lunch is 27 pounds for three courses at Corrigan’s and 25 pounds at Gauthier Soho. The advantage of Taste is that you may meet leading chefs and it can also be enjoyable to spend a few hours in the park with fellow lovers of food and drink. There are bars and wine-tasting tables and also cooking demonstrations, including an appearance by Ducasse at 1:30 p.m. on June 16.
British Airways, one of the main sponsors, will operate a stand called Height Cuisine, inspired by the TV show “Heston’s Mission Impossible,” in which chef Heston Blumenthal showed how taste changes in a pressurized cabin. Visitors will be able to sample new dishes and take part in wine and food tastings.
Chefs will compete in the Laverstoke Park British BBQ Championship heats, for which I’m a judge on June 18. (It’s unpaid and I was invited by Laverstoke Park, the farm of former Formula One champion Jody Scheckter. I’m not involved in Taste.)
This year, there’s an exclusive area called the Secret Garden, for which tickets cost 125 pounds on the door or 95 pounds in advance. If you think that’s expensive, spare a thought for the organizers of Taste of London.
Taste Festivals Ltd. posted net income of 179,578 pounds for the year ended March 31, 2010, down from 470,484 pounds a year earlier, as sales fell 26 percent to 3.38 million pounds.
Taste of London, June 16-19 in Regent’s Park. Information: http://www.tastefestivals.com/london/
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)