Exactly 10 days ago, at about this time of the day, we were packing up our little stall into my car after an exhausting yet satisfying Taste of London Winter show. And despite my reservations the prospect of bringing our sauces to so many of London’s foodies, not just chilli-heads, was way too delicious. I’ve got to admit, from the moment I signed up, I wasn’t looking forward to the stress of this AT ALL. This wasn’t some local chilli festival with a few hundred chilli-heads who would lick sauce off the floor to try something new (no offence – I’m one of them too). This was going to be TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND foodies expecting to be wowed by an array of exciting and top-notch food businesses, some of which had definitely spent 5 figures on doing so. For once, I was right about something. The stress in the lead-up only built with time. And in this case, having never been on the business-side of a proper event, you have no idea what is and what isn’t important. The only solution? You have to somehow try and cover all bases without spending a bloody fortune. For example, lighting: REALLY important it turns out. I tried to cut costs and do it my own way by purchasing a couple of clip-on desk lamps from Argos – well that was £30 down the drain. Unfortunately we had the short straw in terms of our location against the show’s main lights, so I had to invest in renting some proper spot lights from the on-site contractor.
I can’t thank enough my family and friends who kindly helped out and got stuck in. Also it was awesome to see so many friends come and visit. My mate Jon who is, well, let’s say not the most adventurous eater in the world, did a sterling job of selling on the first day. It still cracks me up thinking of how intricately he could describe the flavours and textures without having tasted a single one of them. My Aunt Jude came all the way from Dorset to join me for the Saturday and was amazing at smartening up our stall and coming up with some brilliant selling angles, especially since everyone was looking straight to her for questions or purchases because she obviously knew more than her assistant (me!). My bro and his fiancee, Tim and Mary, got stuck in too on the Saturday afternoon which was awesome on the busiest day and, just like the last event, my sister Jo was a complete star on the last day. Most of all, my wonderful, long-suffering (and pregnant) girlfriend Erika, who is just the most beautiful, patient, inspiring and supportive person I know, was there pretty much throughout.
Ironically, for a food festival, it was damn difficult to go grab something to eat. Bizarrely there were very few street food / casual places around. The best I managed to get was a couple of the tiniest sliders I’ve ever seen for £7 each – delicious, but an utter rip-off if you ask me. We managed to keep it real with a couple of runs to the local Maccy D’s and thankfully got an endless supply of sausage samples from the stall next door. We did have a moment of genius when starving during a busy period when we wrapped a couple of sausages with tortilla wraps from our sampling supplies and a good dollop of Hot Tom ketchup – boy did that hit the spot. The usual pattern followed of observing how much Londoners can’t get enough of the burn. As always our Screaming Pepper was top-seller. Funny to think that we just knocked up that recipe as a one-off for our first chilli festival and I was scared to let people try it, worried about it literally blowing heads off. In fact we had 2 people take on our Screaming Pepper challenge (downing the sample pot heehee…) and they both took it no problem and commented how nice it tasted – Darth Naga eat your heart out – these guys were hard core and received a well-earnt free bottle of sauce.
Overall probably the best thing about the event was the festive atmosphere and the smiles on people’s faces as they came to check us out. I think I’ve said it before but meeting such enthusiastic people and seeing their reactions to our sauces is utterly infectious, almost addictive. Would we do the show again? Well I had the call from the organisers yesterday and I’ll say the same thing now as I said then – no idea at the moment. We’ve got a long way to go next year and so many directions we could go in. And one thing at a time: we’ve got Christmas to burn up first.
Cheers and see you at the next one, James @ Sidekick