"Lots of Brits are now taking an interest in food. Taste is expensive but there's lots of people willing to spend. We seem to no longer feel guilty spending lots of money on food, there's this whole history of guilt with the British and food and now it's disappearing."
This is what journalist and food critic, Jay Rayner had to say when asked at this year's Taste of London about how he thought the British attitude towards food is changing. The event attracts 50,000 people over four days, a mixing pot of flavors and smells and the one festival in the year where a person can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at some of the best restaurants in London, a festival in which 30,000 glasses of wine are consumed.
It's interesting what Jay had to say about the British attitude towards food - but I didn't have time to ask him to explain it further as he dashed off to another event, clearly happy all day. Taste is as much for the chefs and food professionals as the public, with Rene Redzepi seen sampling foods and also there to crown the festival winning dish - Pascal Aussignac's Club Gascon top gong for a Foie Gras Burger with Summer Truffle, which Jay Rayner described as "shamelessly outrageous and an absolute joy."
But what he says about the British attitude towards food is in someway true. There's no denying that the British are now more interesting in good food than ever. A variety of festivals are popping up all over the UK, Jamie Oliver has started his own festival catering team taking his brand of healthy nutritional food on the road.
TV channels are brimming with cooking shows, chef related TV productions are two to a penny and this prominence of food on TV is surely dictated by large viewing figures, which one can only equate to a growing interest from the public at large in food.
With a huge mix of people all braving rainy conditions to sample dishes from some of the top chefs of London. Taste is a place where a person can eat Tea Smoked Salmon with Bergamot Gel at The Ritz and then head straight to Marcus Wareing serving a Suffolk Stew with Mutton, Barley and Anchovies or his Gilbert Scot Pork Pie with Piccalilli.
Or if they prefer a different culinary journey entirely, some umami richWhite Tomato soup by Gary Rhodes or a truly indulgent Wild Mushroom Fettuccine with Black Summer Truffle from Lanima, an award winning italian restaurant in the heart of London, run by chef patron Francesco Mazzei.
Desserts that pop in the mouth, bubble tea and beef that pulls apart with the slightest tug of a knife - if Jay Rayner thinks the british once felt guilty about spending lots of money on good food, then this guilt has surely subsided with Taste of London being a prime example of true indulgence of the highest order.
Cheese tasting, wine matching, cooking classes. The richest and most delightful tasting experiences you can imagine. Soufles, rich desserts and the finest ingredients available. The event is frequented by a whole cross section of the British public and presents a huge variety of foods displaying London as the cultural melting pot it has now become through immigration and an embrace of cultural flavours over the past 60 years.
It's not just the elite or wealthy you may associate with fine dining that attend Taste of London but a great mix of cultures, class, race and nationality. With the TV spotlight now firmly focusing on the world of food, people are much more intrigued by high end cuisine and just what a Michelin starred chef has to offer. Visitors all looking for something more meaningful from food, something sensual that refined dining, the dining of the standard offered at Taste can bring.
Families, couples, even a school class brought to learn more about food as one of their teachers said "They're learning different cultures, different tastes, it make a change from the usual sausages. They see things like this and we want them to explore, they could be the Michelin stars of the future".
You see families with children tucking into fine dining and with 200,000 dishes served at the event at no point do you see the slightest hint of guilt on the faces of those enjoying the offerings. And why should there be? Food should be enjoyed, experienced and savored whenever possible - Although I do think I know what Jay Rayner was talking about.
The British historically went through heavy rationing in the 40s during the Second World War and this continued once it finished - but more infectious was the mind set instilled in people during this period, that food was a necessity, something to be eaten purely to sustain, to provide nutrition and to keep you alive.
This kind of attitude once instilled is a tough one to shake, however over time it has changed. Travel and the mixture of food on offer in Britain has broadened the nation's palate. There is I'm sure, dotted across the land, an army of Brits with knife and fork poised. At the ready to hunt out, experience and, more importantly, devour great food. Seeking thrills for the taste buds and collecting memories of smells, flavors and techniques that can be transfered to the kitchen at home.
It was widely reported that in 2005 the French President, Jacques Chiracjoked with the German and Russian leaders about the British diet, saying "one cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad." But if this ever increasing interest in food continues, with school children attending festivals to sample high end cuisine and throngs of people lined up to take cooking classes to better their home dishes, Britain maybe on the verge of a kind of food revolution.
A revolution in which the British appetite for good food propels new and emerging British chefs and their cuisine to the forefront of the world food scene. You never know, maybe, just maybe, British cooking will one day be as revered as that of Mr Chirac and the French.
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