This year’s FEAST Festival in Taunton takes place on 29 – 31 August and is already gearing up to be an unmissable event. FOODLOVER met with the organizers to find out more…
“It’s a brilliant buzz” says Liam Finnegan, Head Chef of The Castle at Taunton; “It’s a feast, a gathering and an opportunity to enjoy some of the best food Somerset has to offer”.
Liam is the mastermind behind FEAST Festival: A three-day celebration of West Country food and hospitality. From the farmers who rear organic livestock to the microbreweries that are putting the South West on the map; his foodie-focused event aims to share everything unique about this vibrant part of the world.
We met with Liam on a sunny morning in May, while he and his hard-working team were in the progress of planning what promised to be the best Feast Festival yet. We sat in one of the chic booths of Brazz Restaurant while the top chef explained how he conceived of the idea and brought us up to speed on what to expect from this year’s festivities…
“I just felt that we could do something really food-focused that would bring the spotlight onto Somerset and the talented producers in this county” he continued, “One thing we know we can do well is good food and good hospitality, so hosting a feast seemed like a no brainer”.
One of the major lures of Feast has to be the chef’s dinners that finish off each day’s festivities. The event has attracted some big names in the past, with top chefs including Rick Stein, The Tanner Brothers and Jude Kereama participating in the evening feasts. This year is no exception, with big names like Michael Caines MBE, Josh Eggleton, and Dominic Chapman already lined up to take part in one of three exciting evenings of feasting.
But despite the undeniable glitz and glamour of proceedings, it’s clear that Liam and his team are genuine about their desire to use the festival to highlight Somerset and West Country produce. Feast owes much of its success to the team of passionate local foodies who support its running. This year, Somerset Larder and Arthur David both lend their support as sponsors of the festival and a myriad of local suppliers and producers will be on hand to make the event a hit with all the family; with daily workshops, cooking demos and an abundance of foodie stalls.
“We’re not trying to be ‘different’” Liam politely explains, “I see Feast as more of a social event. We want to get as many people involved as possible. That’s why this year – our third year – we’ll be scaling back to two formal feasts and one fun social event that is open to as many people as possible.”
The evening of Thursday 29th will kick off FEAST 2019 with a relaxed, striped back affair. The Castle Hotel will open its doors to festival guests with a series of interactive eating stations, with a foodie spread offering everything from burgers to sushi. Ticket prices are designed to be affordable and will include 5 tokens to exchange at food stations of your choice. It’s guaranteed to be a lot of fun and an excuse to let your hair down and enjoy some delicious food.
Meanwhile, Friday and Saturday night are both set to be a glitzy affair; with a Joseph Perrier Champagne reception starting the evening off in style, followed by four-courses, wine tasting and some of the best food the West Country has to offer. Paddy Magill, from Vine Wines, will be on hand to perfectly pair wines with each course and in Great British Menu style, each chef will take on their own individual course. Guests will all be seated together ‘feast style’ on eight tables of ten, and there will be plenty of opportunity to mingle and meet likeminded people. What’s more, big projection screens will keep guests up-to-date on kitchen activity, so you can watch on as each course is made should you wish.
Throughout the years, The Castle has attracted a number of remarkable chefs. Richard Guest, Gary Rhodes and Phil Vickery have all graced its kitchens and solidified its place as a top foodie destination.
Now, Liam Finnegan is bringing his own flare to the restaurant and his commitment to quality is abundantly clear.
“In a way, it’s flattering to follow in the footsteps of those big names” he smiles, “But ultimately you just do what you have to do. I don’t feel any pressure because I’m quite confident that as a team we’re strong enough to succeed. We know what we do is good and we can guarantee guests will leave Feast having eaten some incredible food.”
But despite his quiet confidence, Liam stresses that the real take away from FEAST should be the celebration of the local area. “We are not in the centre or the spotlight of the event. We’re just the venue. It’s the people themselves that make Feast what it is. The Castle is certainly iconic and I hope it can provide a good backdrop for the occasion, but overall the festival is a collaboration that needs to be experienced”.
If FEAST has sparked your interest you can find out more at feasttaunton.co.uk