cooking on stage at Carfest

I love cooking in front of a crowd, so when I got a message from the organisers of Carfest, asking me to cook on stage I was so excited. I’d never been to Carfest before but had heard so many good things from friends who had been in the past. The festival is one of the best family-friendly festivals in the UK and was set up by Chris Evans to raise money for BBCs Children in Need.

The more information I got from the organisers, the more excited I was. And nervous too. Especially when I found out I was sharing the bill on the food stage with Tom Kerridge (and that Bryan Adams was on the music stage at the same time as I was cooking). No pressure.

What I cooked

The biggest question that fueled my pre-event insomnia was what to make. I wanted to make something I was really familiar with, so that any last minute nerves wouldn’t throw me. I also wanted to show some of my favourite techniques to help the audience take home some new ways to get more delicious food on their tables fast. And I wanted to bring a bit of what I love from California with me.

I decided to make tacos – something I fell in love with in California and that our family turn to whenever we want easy, adaptable, healthy dinners and when I want to use up leftovers. Tacos aren’t familiar to most Brits, they’re showing up on food trucks but for most families they are yet to be discovered. Tacos also meant I could weave in some of the tips and techniques that I always get good reactions to in class – embracing leftovers, balancing flavour and texture and how to cook meat properly.

taco night

I posted all my taco recipes and tips that I used on the day here so you can try them at home.

The perfect first festival for my boys

A few weeks of thinking, lots of cooking and list-making and the day arrived. The organisers had given me passes for my boys and Pete to come with me – so they got to enjoy it all.

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This was the boys’ first festival. We love a good festival but we usually drop the boys with grandparents when we go to one, as the chaos and care-free vibes I love about festivals has never sat with keeping hold of two bonkers small children! Carfest was the perfect first festival experience for little ones. The crowd was more Boden than the usual festival bedlam and there were plenty of things to keep them entertained and well fed. It was a brilliant family day out.

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The Neff kitchen and back stage set up

When we arrived, we lugged all my kit to the food stage. First up I saw my name on the bill at the side of the stage and it all hit me that it was actually happening. My name may have been in chalk rather than lights, but seeing myself next to my food hero was a very special moment.

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The stage was in a huge open tent and was fitted out with Neff appliances, including a familiar induction stove and oven (phew).

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There was a backstage area with fridges and food prep tables – staffed by an amazing team of people who helped me and even washed my dishes. Not treatment I’m used to – although I guess the other people on stage with me that day expect such luxury!

with the fab back-stage helpers

I was on stage right after Tom Kerridge – a tough act to follow. He and I were both back stage at the same time – he had his gorgeous baby son and lovely wife with him. She and baby Ace did a brilliant job of calming my nerves and he couldn’t have been nicer. Always a relief when your heroes are as nice as you hope. My boys are big fans of his too thanks to their obsession with Bake Off Creme De La Creme so they were starstruck when they saw him. Very cute.

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On stage

This was the first time the boys had ever seen me at work. Usually I’m teaching when they’re asleep so they’ve never seen me in action. I was being filmed and shown on big screens at the side of the stage so that everyone could see – the boys were front row telling everyone I was their mum. It was lovely to see them being proud of me and seeing me not just as their mum for once!

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I had 30 minutes on stage and it went by so fast. I was miked up Madonna-style and had the lovely Andrew Dickens compering who totally put me at ease. He had done his homework and asked the perfect questions to allow me to tell my story as I cooked. The crowd were lovely too. I had lots of eager tasters and was pleased that most of the crowd had never had a soft taco before. I even gave one lady in her 60s her first every taste of avocado.

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It was an amazing event to be part of and I’m looking forward to more festival cooking in future.