Autumn 2008: Make it special

12/04/2013 11:04
For inspiration and ideas, foodies from all over the UK will be heading for the annual Speciality & Fine Food Fair at London's Olympia exhibition centre in September

Returning for its eighth year, the Speciality & Fine Food Fair will run from September 7-9 offering visitors a superb sourcing experience and the opportunity to discover new products, meet new suppliers and benefit from practical business advice and creative ideas through its specialist forums.

The growth of the fair sees its move from the National Hall into Olympia's Grand Hall. Last year the show attracted a record breaking 6,440 visitors including buyers from top chefs, restaurateurs, deli owners and distributors, and more are expected this year.

More than 700 producers are exhibiting, of which 100 are first timers. From speciality meat, fine wine, and an array of cheese, to unusual condiments, luxury bakery goods, organic, “green”, and “free from” food, the show offers the chance to see and sample lines that have been produced using traditional methods and top quality ingredients.

The fair will act as a launch pad for many new products, from Key's of Lincolnshire's sweet tasting pink onions never before grown commercially in the UK, to Flavours of Spain's range of seaweed, already a favourite with Michelin starred chefs such as Heston Blumenthal. The company offers more than 10 varieties including nori, wakame, dulse, agar agar, kombu and sea lettuce.

Passion Shed will be exhibiting its new premium sweet and savoury snacks inspired by tastes from some of the culinary capitals of the world, made from ingredients such as premium extra virgin olive oil, Modena balsamic vinegar, high quality nuts and Swiss chocolate, while Quai Sud of France will showcase organic blueberry hibiscus sugar, made using unrefined sugar from Brazil, which it says will brighten up yogurts, pastries, pancakes, fruit salads and herbal teas.

Chef and restaurateur Barny Haughton has been working with local and organic suppliers in Bristol for 20 years and believes strongly in the importance of supporting artisan products, such as those on offer at the fair.

His food is heavily influenced by southern Mediterranean cookery but combines those traditions with the regional ingredients of the West Country. At Bordeaux Quay, his restaurant, deli and cookery school, he works with a wide variety of small producers and specialises in using organic, local and seasonal produce.

After many years in the area he has built up a good network of suppliers but is always keen to discover new ingredients. He says: “It's essential that we work closely with independent suppliers to source the most interesting and best quality ingredients available, whether that is St George mushrooms from a local forager or a new artisan goat's cheese.”

An extra bonus this year is the launch of the Speciality Chocolate Fair, which will give caterers and pastry chefs an opportunity to meet suppliers and chocolatiers and to find out more about sourcing artisan chocolate. In addition, the Fine Food Forum will be running dedicated chocolate talks and demos.

New chocolate products will include a range from Ooh La La Chocolaterie, a new company that specialises in making bespoke chocolates to order, which is launching “Ten Tea Truffles” – 10 tea infused truffles with flavours such as Earl Grey, jasmine, green tea and white tea with peony and lychee infusion. Also available in the UK for the first time will be Dammenberg products, which cater for multiple allergies and food intolerances.

Other special attractions at the show include the prestigious Great Taste Awards, known as the Oscars of the fine food world, which is now in its 15th year.

This year was another record breaker for the organisers, the Guild of Fine Food, as it received 4,790 entries from 1,018 food producers. For these awards, judges seek out entries that represent the best quality food and drink available in the marketplace, and these are unveiled at the fair.

Forum programmes have been designed to include interactive presentations, be inspirational and informative with sessions such as menu design trends, and geared to offer practical advice to help small businesses improve profitability. Places are available free of charge at these events on a first come, first served basis.

Event director Paul MacDonald says that over the past six years the fair has proved phenomenally successful. “It is widely regarded as the premier sourcing event of the year, offering chefs and restaurateurs a truly inspirational experience. The breadth of suppliers and quality artisan produce has never been greater, which accounts for the attraction of more chefs than ever to last year's event including Tom and Rob Aikens, Angela Hartnett, Mark Hix and chefs from Claridge's, The Dorchester, Fifteen, Galvin, Hakkasan and Nobu.

“Our dedication to research and industry integration ensures our visitor attractions – the fine food forum and small business forum – are lively and entertaining but most importantly beneficial, providing invaluable insight, information and practical advice.

“Whether visitors are interested in new menu ideas, innovative ingredients or simply keen to pick up tips from some of the food industry's finest, the fair has earned a reputation for staging an event which helps caterers run successful and profitable businesses.”

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