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July 24, 2012


Foodies Edinburgh: going gourmet in the great outdoors

For the latest in our Chewin’ the Fat series of interviews, the 5pm blog has had a chat with Sue Hitchen, organiser of the Foodie Festivals.

Now in their sixth year, the Foodie festivals have grown from a single event, held in Edinburgh’s Roxburgh Hotel, to a series of seven summer festivals taking place all over the UK.

The next one will take place in Edinburgh’s Inverleith Park over the weekend beginning Friday 10th of August.

A mix of producers’ stalls; cooking demos; drink master classes; an entertainment stage and a host of new features, Foodies fits its name perfectly.

Look out for a special Big Deal on Foodies tickets which will be running on Wednesday 25th July.

Sue Hitchen: Foodies founder

Can you give us a potted history of the Foodies Festivals?

SH: We started with a single event at the Roxburgh Hotel in Edinburgh and that was so successful that we moved it to the Sheraton the year after. By the third year, we had realised that it would work best as an outdoor event so we moved to Holyrood Park.

We started seeing if there was a market for the idea in other cities. This summer, we are running seven Foodies from Brighton to Edinburgh and we will also be running a Christmas Foodies at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre at the start of December.

What will be new this year?

SH: Lots of things. For a start, we are working with the Stockbridge Farmers’ Market and the Castle Terrace Farmers’ Market are also being very supportive. This is the first year we have put the event on at Inverleith Park and we think there will be a very strong crossover between people who go to the farmers’ markets and those who come to Foodies.

I understand that you have a debut public appearance by one foodie who has been in the headlines a lot recently?

SH: Yes, Martha Payne, the school girl blogger who writes the Never Seconds blog, is going to talk about her experience of school lunches. I think it’s her first public appearance.

Tell me about the Street Food Avenue?

SH: We have a lot of people coming up from England to set up street food stalls. Many of them are regulars on the South Bank in London. There will be Mexican, Thai, Jamaican, Mediterranean, Moroccan and Spanish churros – a really good spread of international food. It’s great for street food to be taken so seriously. Scotland is perhaps lagging a bit behind on the street food front so this is a good chance for these experts to come up and show what it’s all about.

I hear the big screen is coming to Foodies?

SH: We’re going to have a pop-up cinema showing films with a foodie theme. So, if you’re watching Dr No, then you can nibble on Jamaican food and drink dry martinis. We’ll be showing films like Tampopo, The Big Lebowski and Bugsy Malone – it’s a good fun line-up.

Is there lots for kids to do?

SH: The Children’s Cookery Theatre is going to be a big part of the attraction and we also bring in entertainment from the Fringe. Comedians like Tim Vine, Lucy Porter and Stephen K Amos will be demonstrating their cookery skills. In previous years, Tim has showed off rather unconventional approach to cooking techniques such as tying on a pair of boxing gloves and trying to punch popcorn as it cooks.

It’s a good family day out. Foodies is people who are interested in food getting together and discovering new food and drink, meeting the producers, all in a civilised and fun environment.

Time Vine: funny guy but not the tidiest cook in the kitchen

Are there any chefs in particular that you are looking forward to seeing at Foodies?

SH: On the Friday and Saturday, we’re going to have a Malaysian cookery theatre with Norman Musa which I’m very excited about. Norman has a fantastic restaurant in Manchester called Ning and, over the last couple of years, he has been acting as a Malaysian food ambassador and doing TV and other media work.

If I could get anyone to cook for me then it would be Norman. His food is mind blowingly good and reminds me of trips to Malaysia on holiday. He is also a real character so spending an evening with him would be delightful.

Norman Musa: Malaysian food whiz

Are you a keen cook?

SH: No comment is probably my best answer to that. I once served roast pigeon at a dinner party and all the guests commented that the bat was extremely dry.

Where do you like to eat out in Edinburgh?

SH: My favourite is L’escargot bleu. I love the food and the atmosphere there. It’s very relaxed but also very welcoming. It’s also very Parisian so it feels like an escape when you walk in.

What has been your most memorable meal recently?

SH: I had a meal at Castle Terrace just before Christmas. We were taken down to the chef’s table in the kitchen and entertained by the chef Dominic Jack. He is so passionate about what he does and really pushing forward. He’s also encouraging the staff to live and breathe it. It’s inspiring to see him in action.

After Edinburgh, you have more summer Foodies to do. Will you fit in a break before starting work on the Christmas Foodies?

SH: I hope so. Working on seven Foodies back to back does mean that I sometimes I dream that I’m sleeping in one of our marquees.