Top chef Michael Caines: Bath is THE place to eat outside of London’
One of the country's top chefs has thrown his weight behind the Great Bath Feast which he believes will give the city the attention it so richly deserves.
Michael Caines started working in Bath three years ago, as executive chef at the Bath Priory, and has been prominent in the South West food scene for even longer.
Speaking this week, he said: "In the area there are some brilliant suppliers that make a great contribution to what can only be described as a really rich culture of food.
"The feast is an important opportunity to put Bath on the map as a destination city.
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"There are so many up-and-coming cafés and restaurants that to single Bath out as a location and we need to highlight the food culture that has always been in Bath. "
Mr Caines, who is also director of the ABode Hotels chain, which has its headquarters in Queen Square, said the event would be a boost for the city's economy.
He said: "First and foremost it's important for the local economy, the city must embrace it to keep people coming into Bath.
"Bath has always had a strong tourist industry and food and drink is now part of that and I'm pleased to see that being celebrated.
"It's quite clear there has been a difficult time in the economy in Bath along with other cities, but at the same time it is quite robust the types of growth we have seen in the city, which have drawn more people in and brought the right quality of shops."
Mr Caines believes in reflecting regional food and makes sure dishes celebrate local produce and menus reflect what is available. After all, he says, though you can buy strawberries all year round, they don't taste very nice.
And it is that quality of flavour that he says has become the focus, taking the priority away from presentation, reflecting a massive shift in the approach to dining. The stuffy restaurants and hushed, starchy service of the past are on their way out, a move the chef welcomes, especially in Bath, whose restaurants "are much more informal and more relative to the way people want to dine today."
Of course, such a change in no way reflects a drop in quality, proven by the quality of the chefs who have been showing their prowess at the Great Bath Feast since it began in September, culminating today and tomorrow in the Chefs' Theatre at the Octagon, where Mr Caines will be giving a demonstration.
He is joined by Nick Brodie, of the Olive Tree, Charlie Digney of King William and the Garrick's Head, And Chris Staines of Allium Brasserie.
Tomorrow, the Chef's Theatre brings in more renowned names to carry out demonstrations and sign books. Garry Rosser leads the way, bringing his expertise as a fishmonger and chef. Michelin-starred Hywell Jones discusses his inspirations, ahead of Lucknam Park Hotel opening cookery courses, before Richard Buckleigh helps Rachel Demuth show off some of the vegetarian plates that have made her restaurant such a success.
Following that, one of cooking's great technicians, Philip Howard, arrives in the city from his kitchen at the Square, Mayfair, bringing the secrets behind creating the very best food that has won him two Michelin stars.
Rounding off the theatre falls not to a cook but to cookery writer Xanthe Clay, principal food columnist for The Daily Telegraph and writer for other publications. She will be singing the praises of simplicity, allowing ingredients to do the talking.
The quality theme is one to which Mr Caines returns: "More focus is put on the quality of the food and drink rather than the way it is presented."
And for him, that quality often means buying locally, given the quality of the food available within spitting distance of the city.
"Buying local also helps the local economy, it is more environmentally friendly with fewer food miles – there are lots of win wins."
And it is to this hinterland that the festival also turns its head, tomorrow and next Saturday.
Newton Farm, at Newton St Loe on the western side of Bath, specialises in locally sourced and grown produce.
A handful of producers will be at the farm shop showcasing their produce, offering tastings, sampling and special promotions. Among them are Bath Soft Cheese, Heavenly Hedgerows, Bath Cake Company and Bertinet Baker to name but a few.
Vegetable expert Charlie Hicks will be sharing some of the tricks of his trade next week. On the Way to Market starts at 6am on Tuesday at Bristol Market, when Mr Hicks from the French Garden greengrocers will join Chris Staines to look at how to buy the best fruit and vegetables. To book call 01225 461603.