Top chefs are going head to head in an Apprentice-style competition that will see (kitchen) knives out and a fight to the finish – all watched by a hungry crowd.
Michelin Star-winning Terry Laybourne and king of Sage Gateshead’s kitchen Stuart Bowman will be leading rival teams of aspiring chefs in a four-course battle to launch this year’s EAT! festival.
It will take place at the Sage where diners will watch the live action from the kitchen on big screens in the concourse before taking a seat to taste - and judge - the culinary creations. The event is the latest idea from Simon Preston, director of the EAT! NewcastleGateshead food festival, who every year likes to serve up a programme with a difference.
This time he threw down the gourmet gauntlet to Laybourne and Bowman and they accepted his challenge to lead two teams of three local students into competition.
On August 23, Bowman’s domain, the Sage kitchen, will be divided in two as the apprentice chefs from Gateshead College and Newcastle College get to work on their different menus, each for 100 people, while watching them get hot under the collar via a live web link will be the ticket-holding diners.
Cafe 21’s Laybourne isn’t giving much away about his menu but it will feature seasonal ingredients including lamb and crab and will, he says, showcase skill and technique.
“I don’t know what the opposition is cooking but ours will be better!”
He added: “I’ll have the students two days beforehand to prepare and to try to bring them together as a team. It will be a big test of my abilities in terms of building a team and as a communicator.
“I think that’s a bigger issue than the skills-set of the students.”
So will he feel pressure?
“Not for me; maybe for them. I’m a bit of an old hand.”
He has after all taken part in several EAT! events including Pearly Diner which involved catering for four nights for 30 people who could order absolutely anything they wanted - not that he’d want to do that again.
He sees the festival, which runs this year from August 24 to September 8, as providing something for everyone whereas most food festivals around are “pretty much exclusive, high-end sort of things”.
While he thinks his students might find it stressful having the cameras there, he says it’s all going to be fun as well as great experience for them. And he’s all-out to win.
His rival Bowman, meanwhile, said: “Terry is probably the most famous chef in the North East and he probably thinks he’s going to win but I don’t like losing.”
The head chef already has some Gateshead College students working as apprentices in his kitchen where, he says, the atmosphere will be calm even when Laybourne intrudes on his home turf.
Bowman has also had plenty experience with large-scale catering with the Liberal Democrat conference and weddings in the Sage concourse. Cured salmon will be on his menu and whichever menu each diner receives – and they will only find out when they take their seat – it promises to be something special.