Tag Archives: west London

Getting inventive at MasterChef Live

Lured by the promise of tasting top notch, gourmet food and spotting celeb chefs, I attended the MasterChef Live press breakfast at Olympia, followed by a gander around the exhibition.

Unlike the TV programme, MasterChef Live is aimed at chefs and foodies of all abilities and there are a number of workshops, demonstrations and top tips sessions from the UK’s leading chefs, offering insider tricks and new techniques.

A big highlight of the weekend is the Invention Test, critiqued by John Torode and Gregg Wallace and hosted by Andi Peter.  30 pre-booked competitors will be given just 30 minutes to prepare a dish from a set of unseen ingredients and impress the judges.

Invention test

The first session seemed to get off to a flying start, with the budding chefs toiling away over the stoves at their work stations, although things got a bit precarious when someone’s pan caught fire!

I also saw the rather handsome James Martin (of Ready Steady Cook fame) doing a cookery demonstration and  Theo Randall giving advice on how to make the perfect pasta at the Hot Tips Pod.

At the centre of the exhibition hall is the beautifully designed Restaurant Experience, where you can pick and choose from special lunch menu, created by a variety of London’s top restaurants.  You can sample Hereford Beef and Bashed Neeps at Urban Caprice, a pork belly bridge roll from Roast to Go and vanilla and ginger cheesecake from Boxwood cafe.

dining room

There were exhibitors from all over the UK, from big players like Rachel’s Organic promoting their delicious new toffee and milk chocolate yogurts and The Co-operative to smaller specialised producers like Loopy Lisa’s Fudge and the decadent Bougie Macaron and Tea.

After the copious amount of artisan pastries and coffee at the press breakfast, eating more food wasn’t the first thing on my mind, so I took a few laps around the venue to try and forge a new appetite to taste the food samples on offer (well, that’s why you come, isn’t it)?

My top discovery of the day was Jacc’s Gourmet Coffee flavoured coffee beans.  I bought a small bag of their Irish Cream and Hazelnut roasted beans, which they ground for me, and I’ve been addicted to it since. The beans are flavoured with essential oils, so you get a deep, natural flavour, rather than the aroma disappearing as soon as it hits water.

coffee

In the Producers Village, you can find top cuts of organic meat from Brown Cow Organics, artisan cheeses at Keens Cheddar, authentic American cupcakes from Beverly Hills Bakery and freshly iced oysters from Mersea Oysters and Ale.

oysters

I was also intrigued by the Aladdin’s cave of different varieties of garlic at The Garlic Farm – my choice is usually limited to single or a pack of three!

But Keith Floyd disciples shouldn’t despair, as there’s plenty of booze to sample from producers including Frangelico, Funkin cocktails, Thunder Toffee Vodka, The Bubbly Champagne Company and Chateau Civrac.

garlic

MasterChef LIVE is on this weekend at London’s Olympia (13th – 15th November).  Tickets are priced from £18 and there are a number of packages available.

Get down to the Invention Test, sponsored by Plenty at MasterChef LIVE.  Just like the programme, contestants will need to hone their skills and hold their nerve to create something tantalising with some tough ingredients – and this time in just 30 minutes. Previous TV MasterChef winners will be there as well as formidable duo John Torode and Gregg Wallace – and Brenda & Audrey, the housewives from the Plenty adverts, will even be there to cheer you on! Go to www.plenty.co.uk or www.masterchef.com for more details.

Vivienne Westwood’s manifesto reading

Last night, I went to a reading of Vivienne Westwood’s Active Resistance Against Propaganda, organised by The Last Tuesday Society, at  The Tabernacle in Notting Hill.  The manifesto was read by Viv herself and children’s theatre group, The YoungStars Academy, in front of an audience of fashionistas, activists, artists, students and proud parents.

Vivienne Westwood was as flamboyant as ever in a glorious printed jumpsuit, white statement specs and a headband with BRANDED emblazoned on the front.  She introduced the manifesto to a rapturous applause and the children read their parts aloud.

Two of the older kids played the main characters, Alice and Pinocchio exceptionally well and everyone in the audience squealed when the tiny girl playing the White Rabbit bunny hopped across the stage, wearing tufty white rabbit ears – so sweet!

 vivienne

Vivienne Westwood wrote her manifesto 2 years ago and it has since been performed twice – the second time I peered through the glass of the Design Museum while out and about on the South Bank to see Vivienne reciting it with the help of Peaches Geldof and what looked like Jaime Winstone from a distance. 

Vivienne believes that by immersing ourselves in art and culture, we can find happiness in a soulless age, and that as judges of culture, we should strive to get the art that we deserve.  She had a few stories to tell about modern art ‘bullshitters’ who questioned her sense of appreciation because she didn’t deem their works as relevant or true art.

viv

Another part of her ideology is that art should be universal and if the meaning is obscured or inexplicable for the majority , then it is not really art. I agree that the artist should be able to explain his state of mind and motivation, but art based on complex theories shouldn’t be dumbed down for a quick overview, and sometimes a bit of mystery and open-endedness can be enjoyable.

Vivienne references Aldous Huxley in her manifesto and agreed with his peceived three evils in the world –  nationalistic idolatry, non-stop distraction and organised lying. By taking influence from art and to some degree history, Viv believes that you can make yourself completely immune from propaganda and their detriments.

The reading was really entertaining as well as educational, as Vivienne’s humour, warmth and passion really brought the words to life.  She digressed, dismissed things as quickly as stating them and told amusing stories to stress her points.  Vivienne had the disarmed nature of a family member rather than one of Britain’s biggest fashion icons, although what she was saying was not to be taken lightly.

vivienne 3

There was a bit of time left to answer just three questions and as usual in Q and A sessions, an audience member perplexed both Vivienne and the audience with her overblown terminology and pedantic questioning regarding spiritualism and the ‘earth keepers’ in the Amazon. Saving the rainforest was meant as a post-script to the reading, and I’m still not sure if she was suggesting that Vivienne should go and live with a rainforest tribe or something. The confrontation did make Vivienne more impassioned and urgent though, and she came off-stage to discussed it with her while everyone went downstairs for a complementary Hendricks gin and tonic and some tropical beats from Todd Hart of Dalston Oxfam Shop.

Like the majority of the audience, I left the reading feeling inspired and while there were some aspects that I didn’t necessarily agree with, Vivienne reminded me to pursue knowledge and to try and find what it is that at this point in life will make me truly happy. So, remember what Vivienne says: books are cool, culture is vital and pretentious ‘art’ is bullshit.

To find out more about the AR Against Propaganda Manifesto, visit:  http://www.activeresstance.co.uk

Carnival time!

The UK summer may be coming to end, but the Notting Hill Carnival brought one last glorious day of sun-drenched partying.  Westbourne Grove’s bijou designer shops were boarded up for the bank holiday weekend as hundreds of thousands of people joined in the second biggest street festival in the world.

Carnival swan

Notting Hill Carnival was formed in 1959 by the Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean community and has seen up to two million visitors since.

Sunday is known as the ‘family day’, but on the Bank Holiday Monday, the streets of Notting Hill are filled with the best soundsystems, barbeques and of course the procession.  The food is usually pretty good and generously sized, with most of the stalls selling jerk chicken with rice and peas and fried plaintains, coconuts and barbequed corn.

Tips for the best time at carnival:

Notting Hill residents make a killing at carnival by selling cans of beer from an icebox and charging anything up to £5 to use their bathroom.  So to avoid mild exploitation from these million pound townhouse Delboys, chill your supermarket-bought cans and locate the nearest portaloos – if you can do it at Bestival, you can do it in the city!

Scour the net to find out about all the parties and afterparties, as some require signing up or a flyer invite.  Liquid Nation had a brilliant recession-busting party this year that had a flat rate of £2.50 for entry, drinks (including cocktails) and BBQ. 

Don’t try to plan too much, as you find something interesting on the way round or can’t get through the crowds in time.  If you’re meeting up with friends, avoid trying to find each other on the small streets around Talbot Road – go for the larger areas around Chepstow Road.