Bristol Food Connections festival

Bristol Food Connections is a food festival held in south-west England. One of the key aims of Bristol Food Connections is to change how people think about food.

Around 185,000 people attended events during the first edition of Bristol Food Connections, held in 2014. More than 130 events were organised across the city, including food and cider trails, as part of the 2015 edition of the festival.

“We’re trying to reach a great number of people; people that aren’t necessarily interested in the traditional food festival format,” says Lorna Knapman, Creative Director and Curator of the festival.

“Food, obviously, is a vital part of everybody’s life. Through food as a medium we’re trying to bring together people of all ages, all backgrounds and all walks of life, and make the event really accessible. We offer lots of usual events,” she adds, of a festival..

Hands on food events

“We offer lots of hands on events rather than the traditional food festival format which, quite often, is expensive to get in and there’s quite a lot of fancy skills and techniques that aren’t very helpful to the food movement. We try to have something for all levels of interest – some of them more complex, some of them quite basic – to give people confidence to get into the kitchen,” says the festival’s creative director.

Talks involving chefs are scheduled, gourmet dinners will be served and people can also learn skills such as filleting fish and dumpling making.

The Bristol Food Connections legacy

“One very important thing about Bristol Food Connections is that we aim to leave a legacy. It not just for nine days and then away. It’s about starting conversations and lightbulb moments, understanding issues in communities and what can be done to improve things.”

The BBC played a key role in initiating the festival. “BBC Food is based in Bristol and they could see that there are some great organisations and projects in this city. So they got together cooks and food producers and started a conversation. It’s gone on from there,” explains Laura.

A Bristolian, Laura is upbeat about what her city has to offer foodies.

Independent restaurants in Bristol

“Bristol has got some amazing independent eateries. We’re really lucky there are lots of great places to discover. We’ve got over 50 restaurants and cafes, coffee shops and street vendors taking part in Bristol Food Connections and they’re all going to be doing something special for the nine days of the festival. It might be they’ve got a special Bristol venue or are doing a tasting.

They’re be a deli counter that only has food from a ten mile radius for the nine days. It’ll all be labelled, so you can see where the cheese has come from and the charcuterie and will bring to life what’s great about Bristol,” she says.

“The type of food we eat has a massive impact on the land on which it’s produced or grown. We want to get people to think about whether their money stays in the local economy or goes further afield. Thinking about packaging and nutrition and how real food really does help our bodies and minds to be the best they can. If we’re going to make big changes we need to work together and we need to think about the food we’re eating, where it’s coming from and how we can solve issues,” says Laura.

Changing perceptions about food

A number of events have been held to change perceptions about food while aiming to inspire people to use quality, local ingredients. An example of this was the Veal Night, on 1 May 2015, at Source Food Hall and Café (1-3 Exchange Avenue; tel. +44 (0)117 9272998). Five savoury dishes – all featuring veal – plus a dessert (a strawberry sundae patterned in the style of Frisian cow) were served with the aim of dispelling the myth that calves are reared in crates to produce British rosé veal.

“The male calf of the dairy herd would be killed at birth rather than being given six to eight months to live out in a field and a happy life, then making its way to the butchers. British rosé veal is outdoor reared in grass fields,” says Joe Wheatcroft of Source.

British rosé veal dishes

“We’ve got a real classic dish we’ve borrowed from Fergus Henderson’s St John restaurant in London. We roast the bones with the marrow inside and serve it with salad and sourdough toast. We’re also doing a smoked veal brisket with a summer salad…we’re using every part of the animal, we’re not just taking the prime cuts,” he adds.

“It’s an evening to highlight what veal is, how versatile it can be and what would happen if we didn’t eat veal,” explains Joe.

Source is an independent restaurant and shop which opened in 2009 with the aim of connecting suppliers of seasonal, locally produced ingredients with consumers and, according to Joe, “raises awareness of the whole industry and local produce. We’re not just selling food, we’re selling the whole concept of outdoor reared animals. We make sausages here ourselves. The integral part of the concept is we’re using natural ingredients to preserve sausages, rather than just using chemicals as you might find in a larger production unit.”

A number of leading chefs, including Rick Stein, Mitch Tonks and Cyrus Todiwala, have participated in Bristol Food Connections.

Further information

See the Bristol Food Connections website for a full listing of events throughout the food festival, including the routes of the city’s food and cider trails.

Learn more about Bristol, the first city in the United Kingdom to be the European Green Capital, via the Visit Bristol website.

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Source Food Hall and Cafe in Bristol.
Source Food Hall and Cafe in Bristol.

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