When people say they are going to a festival in a field, you expect it to be muddy; to have filthy, overflowing Portaloos (and no toilet roll!); to be strewn with abandoned tents and piles of litter.
Jamie Oliver teamed up with Electrolux to put on a bit of a show in the middle of his mate’s (Alex James, from Blur) field in the Cotswolds for a weekend on the 31st August to the 1st September. Being promoted as a family friendly festival, mumsnet was invited to do a review by Electrolux, so I thought I’d drag 14-year-old DS along. So, we packed some extra loo roll and we caught the train to the Cotswolds so we could go for the second day.
Covering two huge fields – with no mud in sight – we were met with stalls selling everything from giant bubble makers to winter clothing. Children of all ages were catered for; there was a variety of farm animals from Adam Henson’s farm for them to stroke and look at, and a paint lab where they can make as much artistic mess as possible (lovely when you don’t have to clean it up!); did I mention the puppet shows, drama workshops, story telling and vintage funfair?
After stopping to stroke some bunnies (there were washing facilities so we could wash our hands afterwards), we headed over to the Electrolux Chef’s Secrets. Pitched as an opportunity to pick up ‘hints, tips and techniques from a Michelin-star chef by taking part in a hands-on cookery session’, this was something that I was rather excited about. However, being a 14 year old boy who’s only just learned to cook a bacon sandwich, DS was slightly less excited as he knew I’d expect him to test out his newfound cookery skills at home.
The demand for this was huge and we only just managed to get a spot. There were different chefs over the weekend and our Michelin chef was the BBC regular, Tom Kitchin. After a short introduction, the cooking lesson commenced. Luckily, all of the ingredients were already measured and peeled for us so all we had to do was decide who the chef was. I did start off cooking – until DS saw how easy it was to control the induction hob. Before I knew it, I found myself rapidly demoted to kitchen assistant (I would have ended up doing the washing up if it wasn’t for the paper plates). It was the controls that did it; more like using a touchscreen phone! We were slightly envious at how quickly it cooked as we have a gas cooker at home.
In no time we’d cooked it: a scrumptious-looking concoction of peas, carrots, chopped bacon and (practically raw) lamb. There was an award for the most enthusiastic ‘Yes, Chef!’ shout, which we were told was the typical response for any Michelin-star kitchen staff. The award was a seat at the Electrolux Chef’s Table, a meal cooked by the Michelin-star chefs Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias from Casamia in Bristol, with wine to match. Hoping to win the prize for us, DS created the ‘Yes, Chef’ to beat all ‘Yes, Chefs’… and won. We were told to return at 5pm for our prize. After Tom Kitchin had signed our aprons, we were free to roam around the stalls and go on the fairground rides.
For the next few hours we did this, we stopped by the mobile academy where Electrolux were giving children and their parents baking classes, but there was such a huge demand that all of the available spaces had been snapped up within fifteen minutes of the activity opening. So we wandered around, tasting steak and buying chutneys as we slowly made our way around the many stalls whilst listening to the music being pumped out on the main stage: Justin Fletcher from CBeebies entertained us for a while, Lawrence Fox, a rather uniquely sounding band called The Milk, Mark Owen, and others. We could have watched them all, but what did we end up doing? We sat on bales of hay and watched as Simon Hulstone created food that we’d never seen before using a weed called tansy. We sat for half an hour, picking up tricks that we could use at home (if we’d have thought to make notes!) until the time came for us to have a taste of something rather different. DS, the winner of the shouting competition, was enthusiastic… until he learned that they only had water for him and almost everything contained vegetables. The quiche Lorraine was fantastic and the filling was created with a cheese foam that melted inside our mouths. Next came tomatoes and mozzarella, followed by duck with carrot and fennel (even ds enjoyed this!) and finally peaches and cream, which we both thought was the tastiest thing that we’d ever eaten and he forgot all about the fact that he’d only been given water to drink.
We left the Chef’s table and headed back towards the main stage to watch ‘The Feeling’ as the sun softly set over the countryside.
It was a memorable day and we’re making plans to return next year. And the toilet roll? I didn’t need it. The Portaloos were mostly spotless and had hand-washing facilities outside, and thanks to the litter-pickers it has to be the cleanest festival I’ve ever been to.
A huge 'thank you' to Electrolux for inviting us along.