Imagine great chefs preparing signature food; Tom Odell, Razorlight and The Christians performing live; and Royal Victoria Park as the backdrop. Emma Clegg chats to Tom Kerridge about Pub in the Park, which is coming to Bath
The Pub in the Park festival in Marlow last year sold all 18,000 tickets within 24 hours. The brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and Chris Hughes of Brand Events, it included a stellar line-up of chefs, pubs and chart-topping music.
A year later, and this success has bred a new, bigger concept – Pub in the Park on tour. Tom and his fellow chefs will be visiting four English towns across the country, bringing his Michelin-starred pubs and a selection of other top UK pubs and restaurants to serve their most popular dishes. Each event will celebrate the very best food, combining this with live music, chef demonstrations, shopping and other festival fun. As well as the headline chef and music names, each will celebrate the local community in the form of artisans, pubs, food heroes and musicians. The event starts in Marlow and then tours to Royal Victoria Park in Bath (from 8–10 June), before going to Tunbridge Wells and Knutsford.What was the original idea behind the event? “Chris Hughes and I both just wanted to create a brilliant vibe in Marlow, because we both live there,” Tom explains. “We wanted to set something up that was great. We thought that the best way to do that was to invite all our mates to come and have a party in the park. So that’s what we did.”
“The event gave people the opportunity to taste the food of lots of different chefs. And there was music as well. So all of a sudden it felt like this could be a great afternoon or evening. Everyone loved it so much. That is why we are going to do it again.”
Tom explains that Bath, Tunbridge Wells and Knutsford were chosen as locations for the tour as they have a similar character to Marlow and a strong sense of family and community. “We wanted to find the sort of vibe in towns and cities where you walk around and bump into friends. So a warm, lovely atmosphere, like a national festival but where everyone knows each other.”As well as Tom Kerridge’s two Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, other pubs and eateries confirmed for the Bath event are Josh Eggleton’s Pony & Trap and Café Murano with Angela Hartnett, both with Michelin stars. Also taking part are The Star Inn (Andrew Pern), The Kingham Plough (Emily Watkins), and Spanish tapas restaurant Paco Tapas, under the direction of Michelin-starred chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias. Candice Brown, the Great British Bake Off winner in 2016, will also be doing a chef’s demo.
Live music in Bath will include Razorlight, Melanie C, Squeeze, Stereo MCs, Toploader, Tom Odell, Sound of the Sirens, Gabrielle Aplin, Scouting for Girls, The Rifles and The Christians. “These are national artists, but it will feel as if they are playing in your back garden,” says Tom.
“You are buying a pot of flavour for a fiver. For each chef, it is your recipe and your personality in the pot”
There will be a festival atmosphere and a strong family appeal. The pubs and the food will be the main attractions, but visitors can wander around to explore the artisan producers showcasing individual products such as cheese and pickles, biscuits and cakes, and gin and beer, as well as gathering around the music area where the different acts will perform.
What are the logistics of serving up food in volume in a park? Tom explains that the chefs start by conferring about their proposed food offerings to avoid duplication and ensure there is plenty of choice. On the day itself, each chef has their own satellite kitchen with fryers and ovens. So the production is done off-site in the restaurant and then it’s brought to the park where it is prepared for serving.
“It’s very similar to how kitchens work,” notes Tom. “You do all the prep work before and then you finish it at the end. So what you have in the park is a finishing kitchen. There’s a big walk-through fridge at the back and then you send 5,000 portions of food out – it’s very easy!”“Meals are served in paper pots,” says Tom. “We are showcasing flavours. So each pub will showcase what they do in a way that people buy into. You a buying a pot of the flavour for a fiver. For each chef, it is your recipe and your personality in the pot.”
It’s clear that having a good time is at the heart of Tom’s commitment to the Pub in the Park tour. “The biggest priority for us is for the chefs to have a lovely time. We are all friends, we all know each other and so while the chefs will be busy doling out thousands of portions of food, there is a really good vibe. If we know they are having a lovely time, then that atmosphere will flow out positively into the space.”
Pub in the Park, Royal Victoria Park, Bath from 8–10 June; booking: 0844 995 1995; pubintheparkuk.com/bath