In the count down to this year's Flavour Fest which runs from 1-3 June, Liz Lawson gives an insight into the last 15 years of the South West's largest free food and drink festival.
You’ve been involved with Flavour Fest since the very first Flavour Fest in 2003. How did your involvement in the event come about?
In 2004 Lawsons were celebrating 100 years of trading in Plymouth. We thought we would like to do some chef demonstrations with local and celebrity chefs but we wanted to do them outside of our store, so that customers would still be able to shop. I went to David Draffan, who was the City Centre manager then, and he said they were thinking about holding a food festival, so we put the two ideas together!
What do you feel makes Flavour Fest stand out from other food festivals?
It is accessible to everyone as there is no cost to get in and everyone enjoys food. Flavour Fest has always been about celebrating local food (from the four counties), about cooking, tasting and enjoying it. I think the chef stage helps people to realise how easy it is to transform food into great dishes and celebrates how many fantastic places there are to eat in locally.
What is it that makes South West produce so special?
The quality, variety and availability. Many of the producers we have at Flavour Fest are extremely passionate about their food.
How has people’s taste changed in terms of food and flavours over the years as Flavour Fest has evolved?
I think people are being more adventurous in terms of flavours and foods they are willing to try.
Lawsons is such an established family business here in Plymouth – what will be on your stand this year?
We are very excited to bring some big brands with us to Flavour Fest this year. We will be supported by KitchenAid, Magimix & Bamix. We will bring the ever popular EasiYo Yoghurt, and as always we will bring the latest gadgets to make your life easier
What trends are you seeing in food and home cooking/baking?
Food provenance is still really important, so knowing where your food has come from and its benefits. Secondly, being plastic free - whether its shopping bags, coffee cups, lunch boxes, food storage or the non-stick on your frying pans – we have solutions for you.
Sweet vs Savoury - what is your favourite food or flavours?
Personally I am much more of a savoury person. I really enjoy spices and am experimenting more and more with these flavours. We recently introduced Spicentice where you can buy the spices you need for a curry for as little as £1.49 and produce a restaurant standard dish at the end, and its endorsed by Slimmer’s World too!
What are you looking forward to most about this year’s Flavour Fest?
Meeting John Torode of course! And working with Jacques Marchal as it's lots of fun!
Any advice/tips for those looking to start a career in cooking/baking?
If you have a love of cooking and baking, a career in this area is extremely hard work but very enjoyable. I would definitely start by talking to your local college (City College or Saltash College). I started my career at City College Plymouth and did a B-tec in Hotel Catering & Management and it gave me the tools I needed to forge my career.
What’s your favourite Flavour Fest moment?
When Ken Hom came I was stood at the back of the crowd watching him on stage and two teenagers walked past me carrying skate boards and one said to the other “Do you know who that is? It's Ken Hom, he’s a legend!” They were too young to have seen him on TV but he had inspired them and that’s what Flavour Fest is all about.
The Flavour Fest launch event will be a pop-up kitchen with The Tanner Brothers held at Ocean Studios on 9 May for a night of fine dining. Buy tickets here.