Food Focus: James Tanner at the Nottingham Food and Drink Festival
FOR celebrity chef James Tanner, "the festival season" does not mean Glastonbury and Leeds as much as getting out to meet the people who watch him on television, buy his cookbooks and occasionally make pilgrimages to Tanners, the Plymouth restaurant he runs with his brother.
"It's great because I get the opportunity to go to wonderful places all over the country," says James of food festivals. "You name it, I've seen it. The length and breadth of the UK; it's very vibrant."
James will definitely get to see a vibrant food scene next week in Nottingham. He is one of a handful of renowned chefs travelling to the city for the first Nottingham Food and Drink Festival.
The five-day festival, which begins on Wednesday, features masterclasses, restaurant evenings and demonstrations on everything from seafood to vegetarian cookery to cocktails.
From his perspective, he loves any event that puts him in touch with people such as local food producers.
"When you're listening to producers talking about how they actually produce it, they've got their passion in it and they're selling a great product. They should be shouting about it because they're brilliant products," he says.
James is a big believer in shouting about British food. And he is glad to see more and more people who share that sentiment. He knows it was not always the case, but he believes we are now seeing a shift in kitchen values.
"In the UK there was a lost generation where people used a lot of convenience food. A lot of cooking didn't get passed on as much."
But now he sees cookery returning to schools and well-travelled Brits returning home with more exacting ideas about what they want. He sees people talking about, and getting excited about, food.
"They've got more interest in it and with the power of television – and even chat shows that have a cooking slot – people see something and think 'I'm going to give that a go'.'"
Part and parcel with that is a return to less expensive, more traditional foods. Like the stuff you can still get from the great British butcher.
"There's nothing wrong, in the colder nights, buying those cheaper cuts of meat," he says. "It's not all fillet steaks and sirloin.
"Fancy recipes are fine, but so's a good honest stew simmering away all day. Come back in and you've got home-cooked food which tastes great," he said.
So what do James's foodie talks and demonstrations entail? Well, that depends.
He mixes it up based on, for instance, the time of year and what he is getting in abundance at the restaurant. He also usually likes to chuck in a bit about vegetarian cookery; the carnivores should not get to have all the fun.
"There is more to life than wild mushroom risotto," he says, likely echoing the beliefs of veggies everywhere.
Then he finishes off with a restaurant-inspired dessert. The sort of thing people often think they could not make at home... until they find out they can.
"I don't think people should freak out about it. If you're a novice, yeah, keep it simple.
"But as your palate grows and your confidence grows, experiment. I do it in the kitchen – what if we try a bit of that, what about this?
"You'll be amazed with the results, you'll be amazed with how little it cost to do it, and you'll be amazed with how little time it's taken to do it."
For a full list of Nottingham Food and Drink festival events, visit www.gotonottingham.co.uk/foodanddrinkfestival
James gives his demonstration at noon on Thursday in the Rangemaster Chef's Theatre at noon and 2pm. He will be signing books from 3:45pm at Vienna, King Street.