If food is your business, then last week at Olympia in London, must have seemed like heaven. For three days, the great and good of the food world gathered for the Speciality & Fine Food Fair where more than 600 exhibitors showed their wares to over 10,000 chefs, restaurateurs, pub, bar, café and hotel owners from across the UK and around the world.
In spite of the tough economic climate, this was the best attended event ever in the show’s 14 year history and is a really encouraging sign that the food and catering industry is not just alive and well, but seems to be thriving. And this reflects what we are hearing from our customers whose Rational ovens we look after in professional kitchens across the south, southwest and south Wales. Bookings are up and customers seem happier to spend more.
But, going back to the show, its aim is to provide UK suppliers of speciality and fine foods with an international showcase for their products. This year there was a whole section of over 60 exhibitors in the so-called “Speciality Chocolate Fair” which included a live demonstration theatre where some of the UK’s top chocolatiers and pastry chefs showed off their talents with creations like a “blonde chocolate sea salt caramel ganache, encased in a moulded blonde chocolate shell” and “caramellized bananas deglazed with orange, lime juice and fresh passion fruit pulp, Jivara and ginger cream”.
Needless to say, I avoided that like the plague.
It wasn’t all about chocolate by a long way though. There was a Fine Food Forum where experts discussed ideas and practical tips to help drive more customers and increase profits; there were sessions to help small businesses become more profitable but, best of all, the winners of the 2013 Great Taste Awards were announced, with a chance to taste some of the most amazing food products this country produced.
Recognised as the “Oscars” of the food world and the “epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize”, the Great Taste Awards are run by the Guild of Fine Food. A panel of 405 judges tasted nearly 10,000 products to come up with 125 three gold star winners which ranged from Himalayan rock salt-aged beef from a butcher in Northern Ireland to a fig and sherry frozen yoghurt from a dairy in Salcombe.
It’s great to see this country well and truly back on the world gastronomic map and producing some sensational food. With standards being pushed higher and higher each year, and all these amazing ingredients available to pubs and restaurants, it bodes well for the next time you dine out.