Tom Kerridge's popular Pub in the Park festival is coming to Kent
PUBLISHED: 15:01 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:01 12 March 2018
TV chef Tom Kerridge is bringing his new food and drink festival Pub in the Park to Tunbridge Wells
When Tom Kerridge walks through the door of Sankey’s restaurant in Tunbridge Wells for our meeting, it’s hard not to beam as if at an old friend.
Despite the dramatic weight loss (he’s gone from 30 stone to 18 by cutting out carbs and alcohol), the celebrity chef remains one of the most recognisable faces on TV and is as likeable in person as he comes across on screen.
“Alright, mate?” he greets me in his lovely West Country burr, as he proceeds to tell me about his new venture, Pub in the Park, which launched last year in his home town of Marlow and is now coming to Kent this summer.
That first event sold all 18,000 tickets in 24 hours and the organisers are hoping for more of the same at Dunorlan Park, when the heady mix of great food, live music, shopping and chef demos is brought to the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells on 6-8 July.
The loyal ‘Marlowvians’ are being treated to another glorious festival feast in May, then it’s on to Bath (8-10 June) and Tunbridge Wells, which will see chefs from both events (including Tom’s own Michelin-starred pubs, The Hand & Flowers and The Coach) – plus a handpicked quartet of Kent’s finest.
And alongside such luminaries as “great mates” Steve Harris of Michelin-starred The Sportsman in Seasalter (where Tom has a holiday place) and Mark Sargeant (bringing Spanish delights from the transformed Wife of Bath) and the Tanner brothers (The Kentish Hare), I am delighted to see my friend Rob Taylor of The Compasses at Crundale.
He’s looking a little ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ sitting next to Tom, but says he leapt at the chance when he got the highly unexpected ‘call’ and that his customers are already very excited for him.
Tom explains: “This event is not all about showmen, it’s about great food. That’s what is separating Pub in the Park from other chef-led cookery festivals. This is a celebration of food that includes great music – and represents Kent, which Rob does brilliantly.”
The original idea came from talks with his business partner Chris Hughes. “It started off as tenth birthday celebration for the Hand & Flowers but it took so long to organise three years went by and we’d missed that landmark moment,” laughs Tom.
“But the more we thought about it and structured it, the better the idea got and it became a proper celebration of British food, not just the pub.”
He adds: “The first one was all people nearby who I knew really well and are great mates, so they’re coming with me plus wherever we go we’ll work with chefs I know and who are making great use of local produce.”
As well as Tom on stage, expect to see his friend Angela Hartnett (“she’ll just rock up and do something amazing”), Paul Ainsworth, Atul Kochnar (the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star) and other household names.
Each pub set-up will do three different dishes, which you can sample at £5 each. So you could set a budget of, say, £30 and wander around choosing six Michelin-star quality dishes for lunch.
And then of course there’s the music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Confirmed acts include Tom Odell, Toploader, Razorlight, Mel C and Scouting for Girls – rather different to Tom’s music of choice.
“At the moment I’m listening to Men of North Country signed to the Acid Jazz label. I like a lot of Indie/Mod stuff too. But I’m a big fan of all music.”
Both Tom and Rob have young sons (“by 8pm last year my little man Acey was out of it!” laughs Tom) and love that the festival has a proper family feel, with five hours each afternoon to wander around with younger members.
“The most important thing for us is that the people of Tunbridge Wells and Kent love it,” says Tom. “It would be deemed a success for me if Rob here came away telling me he and his customers had had a fantastic time.”
Pub in the Park
Where: Dunorlan Park, Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells TN2 3QN
When: 6-8 July 2018
Sessions (five hours each): Fri eve, Sat pm, Sat eve, Sun pm and Sun eve: timings tbc