Clarke, Hix and Corrigan get macho at Love Cooking Festival

Love Cooking is a new innovative food event, featuring Britain’s top chefs cooking live in front of a revved up audience. Successful chefs these days are turning into slebs in their own right, taking over the stage like rock stars ready to the wow the crowd with their slick sautéing skills.

Having already entertained Bristol and Edinburgh, this travelling circus of celebrity chefs finally came to Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday, ready to cook up a storm.

Wine expert and TV presenter Olly Smith was the host for the day, and his enthusiasm for Love Cooking was unmistakeable. Like a breath of fresh of air, he rushed across the stage with his Boris-like locks, and engaged the audience by giving away Japanese cooking knives and his own book Eat & Drink – Good food that’s great to drink with!. If anything, this pre-show performance certainly set the merry tone for the rest of the session.

The cooking demonstration I attended was the ‘Real Men, Real Cooking, Real Drinking!’ session, featuring Oz Clarke, Richard Corrigan and Mark Hix. 3/4 of the audience was of the female kind, which meant that they didn’t quite tap into the right market, but this didn’t stop the cheerful chaps to share their love of hearty British food. Luckily, no butch burgers or beers were present on the menu.

The Devil from Dorset, that would be Hix, and the Imp from Ireland, Mr. Corrigan, each had a cooking station and Oz Clarke leisurely wandered between these, wine glass in hand. Clarke announced that it was a little too early for him (the cooking demonstration started at 12pm…) as he was corking up a bottle of Bordeaux, but he seemed to recover quite quickly.

Corrigan started off making stuffed baby squid with chorizo and feta cheese, while Hix was preparing partridge on toast. Chatting away with Clarke how restaurants are changing in England (for the better), to the current interest and appreciation of artisan products, the two shared plenty of good advice. The chefs also revealed their top seasonal supermarket tips, Corrigan confessed his love for rosehip soup, a traditional Swedish recipe, and Hix mentioned mushroom as a must-buy at the moment.

Even though partridge is expensive, Hix showed that it can be used in a variety of ways, making it great value for money. His first dish resulted in roasted partridge, on a bed of duck liver (although you can also use the partridge’s liver) on toast, with chanterelle mushrooms, chickweed and coconut oil. He also cooked up a partridge salad with more of the chanterelle mushrooms, just to show the versatility of the bird.

Corrigan, who is planning to open up his own farm, was very keen to emphasise the importance of local and seasonal fare. His restaurant, Corrigan’s Mayfair (which I assume most of the audience wanted to visit after the demonstration) is known for its high quality no-nonsense food, and this seemed to permeate the cooking session too. After the delicious-looking stuffed squid, Corrigan got stuck into a poached turbot with oysters and seaweed salad. By this time, it was only 15 minutes left of the demonstration and Corrigan showed off his talent by suddenly becoming very focused, and within minutes there was a perfect dish sitting in front of the camera man’s lens.

Hix had meanwhile worked on a hanger steak with baked bone marrow, filled with parsley, breadcrumbs and shallots. As he was preparing this macho mix he talked about how he wanted people to feel relaxed in his Soho restaurant HIX, and how he would like to see people coming in ordering snacks and drinks, not feeling obliged to order a £40 meal. Personally, I would recommend heading to HIX just for the downstairs bar, they make fantastic cocktails.

All in all, the event was very enjoyable and relaxed, with Clarke, Hix and Corrigan bantering, drinking and clearly having a good time in the spotlight. Clarke’s wine expertise didn’t quite come through, and he was easily outshone by his fellow cooking colleagues. However, cooking is clearly more interesting to watch than drinking (seeing the camera man gulp down two glasses of wine in one go didn’t exactly make me want to try that Bordeaux wine ) and since some of the audience got to sample some of the food (yours truly had a bite of Hix’s partridge and chanterelle), it kept us on the edge of our seats.

The festival heads next to Harrogate for a Christmas extravaganza, so if you fancy some last minute festive season tips, Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall, Gary Rhodes, Rachel Allen, Ainsley Harriott, Antony Worrall Thompson, Oz Clarke and James Martin will be there to help. Be sure to catch at least one of the sessions if you can. You can read more about the the Love Cooking Festival and the cooking demonstrations here.

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