As Eat Drink Bristol Fashion kicks off in Bristol’s Queen Square, we get the low-down from co-founder Josh Eggleton…
This is Eat Drink Bristol Fashion’s second year, how different will it be from last year’s event?
It’s bigger! Ha. But as well as being double the size and on for longer, hopefully it will be slicker, more professional and able to cater for more people. We’ve also added more restaurants, chef demos from 102 Cookery School, a sustainable food summit and Bristol’s famous Love Food Festival to close.
What did you learn from the previous year about making this one even more successful?
Well, this year we’re improving the serving system and doubling the kitchen capacity. We’ve got twice as much space in the venue so more hungry people can get their hands on our modern British tapas.
Will it be going anywhere else in the country at any point; and are there any other plans for the future?
Hmm… yes and no. We got asked to do something in Bath on a smaller scale but one event on this scale is enough. Believe it or not, we organise this in our spare time and it really is intense for two or three months beforehand. And besides, the whole point is about promoting Bristol because we love the city.
That said, after this event we are going to be moving to a semi-permanent café in Temple Quay as part of the Creative Common project. It will be a giant yurt opening in June – oh, and we’re going to Glastonbury too! So no let up until July really.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
New restaurants and new collaborations. For example, we are doing really exciting things with Bristol’s street art teams at Upfest and See No Evil.
Who came up with the idea of eating in tipis? What are the challenges involved in cooking and serving in them?
It all stemmed from an event we put on back in 2011 in a field near the pub. Luke has a tipi events company and I can cook! So it all just worked. We put on a ‘secret Sunday lunch’ on a whim and managed to knock out 400 lunches overlooking Chew Valley Lake. It was great, so we figured we could roll it out to the big city. But never did we realise that in two years’ time it would be as big as this!
The British tapas menu went down a storm last year (we loved the chip shop chips with curry sauce). How did you think them all up?
I just think about British classics, then the produce I’ve got; then I work backwards. How can we make that different? What produce have I got that will fit there? Everything is made from scratch by our team – you would not believe how much prep it takes! This year we’ve gone big because last year we’d run out of food by the end of the first night, and had to stay up all night re-prepping. To be honest I blimmin’ love curry sauce and chips – so why not do our own?
What were the most popular tapas dishes last year?
Mini organic beef sliders. Basically top drawer little burgers that use the very best meat from The Story, Luke Hasell’s (EDBF co-founder) farm and other fresh produce from around the Bristol area. Everybody likes the famous Pony & Trap scallop pops too.
Has Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ recent appearance on Great British Menu helped to develop interest in ticket sales? Will he be recreating anything from the GBM menu for EDBF?
It’s hard to say because Casamia’s night sold out within a few days – but it probably would have done so anyway! It’s a little known fact that Pete, Jonray and I actually all went to the same school in Bristol (Chew Valley School) and have been mates for years. It’s just funny how things have turned out. They are absolutely incredible chefs with brilliant talent so I think they would have done alright without the Great British Menu to be honest.
It’s great that future chefs from Bristol’s Catering College are doing two of the lunches. What advice would you give them to make sure everything runs smoothly?
I’ll be in the kitchen with them so I’ll be able to give them advice on the day… Well – I say advice! In all seriousness, I am absolutely delighted the College students are back with us as it gives them a real opportunity to get first-hand experience working with Bristol’s best chefs. It makes them employable and will be a key part of their development. We are actually building the City of Bristol’s whole second-year work experience component into Eat Drink Bristol Fashion so it really is a unique partnership. We’ll have chefs out the back and hospitality staff out front, so it will be an all-Bristolian affair for sure.
You recently became a director of Community Farm, what are its aims and ambitions for sustainable farming and spreading the knowledge of the origins of food?
The Community Farm, again is on Luke’s farm and is just a mile from The Pony & Trap. It was set up to increase the knowledge of growing, to give a hands-on experience and the chance to offer new skills to people from all walks of life. The aim is to reconnect people with where their food comes from and give them a greater understanding of what it takes to produce food.
My role as a chef is to roll out that ethos to the restaurant trade. Chefs can be real champions of the sustainable movement and that is what we’re trying to do with the tie up with Eat Drink Bristol Fashion. We want to use EDBF to promote the ‘field to fork’ ethos and encourage people to think about where they get their food. In short, the aim of Eat Drink Events is to make Bristol the sustainable food capital of the UK, and the Community Farm can play a big part in that.
What do you think about Bristol’s current culinary scene?
Bristol’s food scene is thriving. There is so much going on with differing restaurants, festivals, pop-ups, food clubs, online communities and much more. The rich multicultural fabric of our city is well-represented in its food and I believe the South West is the best region in the country for sustainably sourced produce. Bristol is at the epicentre of it all – the coast is nearby and there is farmland all around, making it a great place to be in the food industry.
Eat Drink Bristol Fashion is a tribute to Bristol food and, I’d like to think, a way of showcasing what we do to the rest of the country. Bristol really is getting a reputation as a food mecca and I think we can certainly build on that over the next few years.
To do that, I’d like to see more independent restaurants given a chance to shine in the centre of the city. The authorities have done so much good work in making the waterfront and centre a lovely place visually, but scratch beneath the surface and there is a dearth of thriving independents in places with large footfall. We could do with giving them a leg up to move into the city, and give Bristolians and tourists alike more options than all-you-can-eats.