Thoughts on MK Food Fest 2019

The MK Food Fest is in many ways the biggest event for local producers in Milton Keynes. I’ve been working with this festival since its inauguration in Great Linford 2016 – the first time any event had been right on the doorstep of Fistful of Spice. Attending was a no-brainer – it wasn’t just that though. It was that at its heart the event is committed to keeping the exhibitors local and this is fundamental in MK. Too often MK is labelled as home to franchises and retail parks with the original towns filled with charity shops. This events says otherwise: there is a healthy, vibrant, and popular food scene here.

Nearly a victim of its own success the festival moved out of its birthplace in Great Linford and into Middleton next to historic Milton Keynes Village. At first I was unsure – new venues pose new issues with setup, parking, offloading, and leaving – however it’s always down to the organisers. Parking had been simplified for the exhibitors, especially for those of us in the marquee. The quality of vendor selection was no exception – there was superb variety with some familiar faces from Bite Me Spices, Kaur’s Spice, and Chocolate Mill MK – plus newer treats from the likes of T Sweetmap, and delightful sourdough doughnuts.

On arrival at the event the atmosphere was electric – as the doors opened at 11:00 and the first guests arrived to dive into the samples I had a sense this was going to be the best Food Fest yet. My instincts did not fail: within an hour of hectic tasting my supply of OMG Naga sauce had sold out completely! Needless to say I was surprised to have sold out by 12:00 but I had worked on improving the colour of this one with extra beetroot so it was the natural payoff.

Moving into the lunch phase of the day a few friends showed their faces – much to my pleasure! It’s always such a morale boost when your friends pop in, have a taste, and enjoy the event. More when there was a real hunger on for my personal favourite sauce: Caribbean Mango Chilli. That blend of mangoes with Scotch Bonnet peppers went down a treat with the festival-goers and with the sun shining was the memory of summer barbecues.

The final phase of the event is sometimes the hardest for vendors, as the stock and the energy levels are running low. That initial rush of setting up and getting the stall exactly right begins to peak. A quick reshuffle of the stall and rearrangement of the sauces later I was back on track – before long the habanero sauce was sold out.

The OMG Naga was not the only sauce that had been refined especially for this day. For the first time since 2017 I had been revisiting my Chipotle sauce. Experimenting with chipotle and ancho chillies, blending them with orange juice, roasted garlic, my spice mix, and a dash of chocolate it back. Not the prettiest of sauces mind you but unctuous, smoky, and flavourful. It was in a mole style and the ideal accompaniment to your Mexican dishes. Feedback was positive and to see this test run sell out by the end of the day was truly satisfying.

What a rush! Almost as fast as the day had arrived as it was over – I quickly stocked on some chocolatey treats for an upcoming family birthday and breathed a sigh of relief. It was time to rest and put my feet up. All in, the team at MK Food Fest truly outdid themselves this year. Here’s to hoping for more of the same in Middleton Pavilion 2020.

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