Tom Kerridge talks Pub in the Park

Foodies, rejoice! Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park is on the move and coming with it is a whole host of new chefs, great local producers and some belting music. Katie Thomson caught up with Tom and his guest host Josh Eggleton ahead of tickets going on sale to find out more about this…

Katie Thomson: The inaugural Pub in the Park in Marlow last year was a sell-out success – you must have been both surprised and thrilled by how quickly the tickets sold? 

Tom Kerridge: Absolutely! We thought it would be a really nice event and we would get all the tickets sold by the time it rolled around, but we never expected it to sell out in 24 hours. We wanted to create a really fun, food-led local festival with great bands – people really got behind it in a way we couldn’t have imagined. I guess it ticks a lot of boxes – it’s local, but it’s got great, nationally recognised chefs and bands that everyone knows, but it still feels like it’s just around the corner from your house. 

Because we knew it was successful we didn’t want to increase the footprint in Marlow as it would have lost that nice feel, so instead we thought we can look at some new areas that feel the same; to create a local festival that has national style chefs. 

KT: You want something with the Michelin factor?

TK: Exactly, it’s got that national quality. We were looking for a similar vibe to Marlow – family led, community-feel towns and cities with a foodie culture. 

KT: So the concept of the festival as a whole is a great day out for anyone who has an interest in food? 

TK: Yes – but not just top end food – the whole spectrum – if you’re interested in BBQs they’ll be a specialist in that, if you love gin you’ll find the same. Then there’s the whole host of chef demos to watch and get involved in. Most of the time the chefs are demonstrating things you can actually make at home – taking the basics and adding something special. 

Tom Kerridge

Josh Eggleton & Tom Kerridge

KT: How do you both find cooking in front of the crowds? Equal parts terrifying and exhilarating?

Josh Eggleton: It’s great – you get to interact with people. Everything is more open these days – people are interested in what goes on in the kitchen. Chefs are much less secretive too – you can ask someone for a recipe and they will give it. 

TK: I love the interaction.

JE: Me too – I can talk for England, so it’s great to have the audience questions to break it up a bit.

TK: I normally just get heckled! 

KT: Do you think there has been a cultural shift in the way we Brits appreciate food which has facilitated events like this?

JE: Obviously the music festivals have always been around, but the combination that Tom is offering is really unique and such good fun. 

TK: People have a greater understanding of food and more of an interest for sure. This is driven through media and it’s great to see the uptake. The most important people in the food industry are the ones buying the food and cooking it at home, and the customers in the pubs – without that interest it doesn’t have anywhere to go. There has always been an interest in food in this country but more of a sub-culture, now it’s much more mainstream. 

KT: The music acts have been confirmed – what a great selection!

TK: Yep – Toploader, Razorlight, The Christians, Tom Odell, Scouting for Girls and more! Tom Odell did Marlow last year and he was amazing. 

Tom KerridgeKT: There’s real broad appeal then?

TK: For sure – there will be artists there who you think ‘ah of course I love that song’ or just some with great hits that you might never have seen on their own but they make the festival great!

KT: How do you go about deciding what to cook on the day?

JE: My very good friend Peter [Sanchez-Iglesias of Paco Tapas] asked me what he should be making and I said keep it simple! I had visions of him on the day with his little tweezers out and the micro herbs going on – never mind the queue of 1,000 people waiting for food! 

TK: The dishes have to feature flavours that represent our pubs – we want to cook something that tastes amazing and get’s the identity of your pub across – likely something slow cooked and full of flavour. We then sit together and make sure we are all offering up something different. Every kitchen is doing three dishes, all £5 each and you can try a couple from each restaurant – you know, come hungry!

KT: I was listening to Angela Hartnett, who will be appearing at a couple of the festivals, on Desert Island Discs recently and she talked at length about the industry and the balance of TV and the kitchen. How often do you get back in your whites behind the pass? 

TK: I’m like a really old man! My role has changed massively – I’m there every day but there’s always loads going on. My happiest place is always behind the pass at the Hand and Flowers, but I guess you have to divide your time. I mean, Josh has got a lot going on – he’s got more businesses than Richard Branson! Lord Sugar of Bristol!

JE: Haha! Well, I’m based at the Pony and Trap all the time but I do visit the other sites and I help out if they’re short! We are all obsessed with food – if I’m not at the Pony and Trap I’m at one of the others. I also find What’s App a godsend – I’m sending ideas around at 3am!

KT: One of the things Angela said was that when you lose that passion to make your food the best it can be, that’s when you leave the industry.

TK: We’re all in love with what we do – there are so many levels. Whatever you do, it has to be the best it can possibly be. Simple is beautiful, if you make it perfect. 

KT: Lose Weight for Good has beeb amazingly popular, as have your diet books – did you ever think you’d be fronting a diet show?

TK: Haha, nope! Did we ever thing Leicester City would win the Premier League! Miracles happen! It wasn’t anything to do with TV or books for me – it was a lifestyle change and the BBC approached me after when they were looking for a different angle on weight loss. It was a personal journey for me. I really tried to take the people doing the show with me under my wing – as well as helping them, I’m hoping it will help inspire the people watching too. It’s amazing to think I’m helping people, even in a small way, to help change their lives for the better. 

KT: I bet it’s really satisfying to bust those misconceptions that diet food has to be bland? 

TK: Oh definitely! I started doing low carb food which meant I could still enjoy a steak in a load of butter. But then I took a look at the NHS 12 week low calorie plan and it was insipid, dull – no wonder people fall off the wagon – I mean you’re still hungry after most of them! I wanted something that had meals that feel like a proper portion and have lots of flavour. We took the recipe and then worked backwards to see where we could cut unnecessary calories – and actually, sometimes they taste better because you’ve amped up the flavours in other areas. 

KT: A final question for two very foodie chaps, and obviously with diet talk it’s all about moderation, but what are your absolute food guilty pleasures? 

TK: I’m a massive fan of Pepperamis! The red ones! 

JE: I’ve never had a red one! I will always go for a bag of chips – I can’t drive past a chippy without popping in for one! 

Tickets for Pub in the Park go on sale on Friday 2nd February 2018 at 10am. Tickets sold out in 24 hours for last year’s event, so make sure you sign up to the Pub Club before 30th Jan to be the first to hear the news, and for access to priority booking a day in advance on Thursday 1st February at 10am. https://www.pubintheparkuk.com/sign-up

You can find out more information about the new venues, the chefs and artists at www.pubintheparkuk.com