P(r)opping up the bar at the Thame Food Festival
A small but perfectly formed version of The Thatch and our sister pub The James Figg popped up again at this year’s Thame Food Festival, and what a day it was!
This year’s festival was hailed as the biggest and best yet. More than 25,000 foodies came to Thame on the day to tuck into some amazing locally produced food and drink, watch celebrity chefs in action and take part in the festival’s first ever baking competition, the Big Thame Bake.
This was a fabulous chance for bakers of all ages and skills to rise to the occasion and put their baking skills to use for good local causes. Over 120 bakers took part, bringing their tantalising tray bakes, sweet treats and show stoppers to the town hall to be put through their paces by judges from across the baking world.
Local food writer and Big Thame Bake organiser Jane Hornby and food festival patron Lotte Duncan drew on all of their culinary connections to enlist the help of Great British Bake Off’s Frances Quinn, Luis Troyano and Miranda Gore-Browne alongside patisserie legend Benoit Blin and development chef Adam Johnson from Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Mark Peregrine from the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, to decide which baker would be crowned a winner.
Ten category winners eventually emerged and took to the stage to be presented with their prizes. GBBO winner 2013 Frances Quinn then went on to reveal who had won the title of The Big Thame Bake’s Best Baker and with it a star prize. Vibeke Jepsen from Maidenhead was awarded the crown for her strawberry almond tartlets which the judges said were near faultless. Afterwards, all the bakes went on sale in a fabulous vintage tea room in the town hall run by the Thame Belles WI with all the proceeds going to the Thame Food Bank and the food festival itself.
Outside, the streets were lined end to end with 207 stalls of cracking produce, most from within a 30 mile radius of Thame. Our friends from Bucksum salads and veg, the Vale Brewery, Ross & Ross Foods and Belmond Le Manoir were among them, and it was hard not to spend a small fortune on fantastic fresh stuff, locally baked cakes, local ales, charcuterie, bread and cheese.
At one end of town there was the AGA cookery theatre where we watched culinary stars including Raymond Blanc, Richard Bertinet, Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi and BBC One Masterchef 2013 winner Natalie Coleman in action. Four prize winning pupils from local primary schools won the chance to go on stage and cook with Natalie as she did the event’s first ever demo especially for children to sit at.
Meanwhile down on the interview stage at the other end of town, festival patron Lotte Duncan chatted to the chefs and was joined by cookery writer and celebrity chef Sophie Grigson for a tasting of produce from the stalls.
One of the highlights on stage was the Big Thame Bake – Fully Risen, a group chat with GBBO stars Frances Quinn, Luis Troyano, Miranda Gore-Browne and Howard Middleton, about all things baking. Paul Jagger who recently left the bake-off tent in the current series even made an impromptu appearance on stage!
Happily we were at a handy central point right in the midst of all this excitement, making for the perfect pit stop for a pint of local ale or refreshing cider. It was great to see so many new friends and old who popped over for a drink, and we were busy all day.
The sun shone all day as well and it was a glorious event which really shows the historic market town of Thame at its best. Thame Food Festival is a fabulous, free foodie day out. If you haven’t been, you must!
Keep an eye out on the festival web site for details of next year’s festival. See you before then, though!