TORONTO –A food and music festival conceived by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in the United Kingdom is coming to Canada this August.
The Big Feastival Canada will showcase music on one stage, Canadian chefs cooking live on another, and family entertainment elsewhere.
The inaugural event is slated to take place at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, northeast of Barrie, Ont., from Aug. 18 to 20.
In the U.K., the Big Feastival is hosted annually at the Cotswolds family farm of Blur bassist Alex James, who has turned his hand to making award-winning artisanal cheeses.
The Canadian event will also focus on gourmet street food, pop-up restaurants and cook-offs.
“If you want a festival to work you’ve got to be doing something special and what Big Feastival is brilliant at is food and kids’ stuff. We’ve got 10 kids between us, Jamie and I,” James said in an interview in Toronto on Wednesday ahead of an event to launch the Big Feastival Canada.
As the food ambassador, Canadian TV personality and restaurateur Chuck Hughes, who has two sons aged three and six months, says about 15 chefs have signed on so far to take part.
“A lot of the chefs that are coming are mostly all my friends and people that everyone knows,” Hughes said. “It’s all guys who are kind of in the same spot as I am right now. They have young children, they love food, they love the outdoors. This combines it all together.”
Attending are chefs Rob Gentile of Buca and King Street Food Company in Toronto; Vancouver restaurateur Vikram Vij; Matt Demille, who hails from Ontario’s Prince Edward County; Derek Dammann of Montreal’s Maison Publique; Michael Hunter of Toronto’s Antler Kitchen and Bar; Victor Barry of Toronto’s Piano Piano; and Danny Smiles, chef at Hughes’s Le Bremner in Montreal.
Oliver launched the concept of the festival in 2011 in London. In 2012, the show moved to the rural Cotswolds to merge with a similar festival held by James. The U.K. concept was purchased by IMG, the international events company that once owned Toronto Fashion Week and now owns Taste of Toronto festival. The company intends to roll out the Big Feastival concept in other locations, with Canada the first stop.
Though Oliver is not involved in the Canadian version of the festival, the farm-to-table concept and eating healthily is a big part of his brand. So, too, is his push to curb the obesity epidemic among children, including reducing the consumption of food and drinks containing added sugar.
In keeping with the ethos of the U.K. event, Hughes and James said there will be no fast-food choices or sugary, prepackaged fare.
“We’re going to provide food that’s mostly healthy in terms of sustainable and, as much as possible, ethical ingredients, really making everything from scratch, and I think that’s the beauty of this event in terms of the quality of food for the kids, for the parents,” Hughes said.
James has found the U.K. event a great way to engage with kids.
“We grew a load of wheat so that kids could pick it, winnow it and then grind it and make a flatbread within 15 minutes. Not many people have done that,” he said.
In the spring, a garden will be planted at the Burl’s Creek location so that children will be able to harvest fresh produce in August.
“Through half a dozen years of doing it at home, we’ve sort of perfected the recipe and I think it will work really well here because there’s clearly a really strong community of chefs and foodies and restaurateurs who all sort of know each other,” James said.
“It’s sort of like the music scene in London in the early ’90s. They all know each other and hang out together and I think they’re all up for a weekend away and having a bit of fun.”
Weezer and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals are the musical headliners. Also taking to the musical stage will be the Strumbellas, Basia Bulat, Choir!Choir!Choir!, De La Soul, Dwayne Gretzky, Magic!, Keane frontman Tom Chaplin and Wintersleep.
Fred Penner, PAW Patrol and Splash’N Boots will keep the kids entertained.
But youngsters won’t be turned away if they want to rock to Weezer with their parents.
“The kids love it. They love staying up late,” James said. “With Fatboy Slim (at his farm) there were all the kids on the mom’s and dad’s shoulders jumping up and down to ‘Rockabilly Skank.’ It’s great fun.”