uploaded : Saturday 19th Jun 2010 at 12:28
by : Carol Gould
Image: Chef Gary Rhodes and a member of the public
My enduring memory of the ‘Taste of London’ festival in Regent’s Park in June 2010 will, sadly, be a supremely humiliating grilling by uniformed British Airways staff at their stand.
Understand this: I had a press badge and, until breast cancer brought my flying life to a halt, I was also a frequent flyer on BA. In fact, I have refused to fly any airline but BA whenever possible in my many international film and media-related work over the past two decades.
The embarrassing and degrading episode unfolded when I thought I would rest my aching legs in the BA tent -- they were, after all, the sponsors of the festival and I rather assumed Press would be welcome considering the appalling image BA has right now. In fact, since Willie Walsh took over there seems to have been an endless stream of bad PR episodes that have attracted worldwide attention. Remember the controversy over the Heathrow caterers? The ground staff employee who was ordered to remove a cross from around her neck? The more recent, protracted financial woes and union troubles? Unending union troubles, I have to say, discourage me from flying BA, but after the treatment I received at the BA stand I am going to try every which way to redeem my many Executive Club miles with an alternative airline.
So -- after trying to find a doughnut and coffee on the site without success I found the press tent; it was pretty and welcoming but no coffee. I bought £10 of ‘crowns’ ( this is the currency of Taste of London) and visited several stands. Feeling tired and thirsty I went to BA. The staff refused me entry and made sure to loudly declare that I was only a ‘blue’ Executive Club member. (Gold and Platinum members were only allowed in.) As I had flown dozens of times on BA and thought I possessed a gold or platinum card, I was stunned to be rejected as some sort of poor cousin. I HATE putting myself about but felt it necessary to point out that I have been a panellist on Dimbleby, on Jenni Murray’s Woman’s Hour and was a published book author and regular commentator on Press TV and Sky News. This had no effect and the smart-ass young man on the door shouted ‘If you’ve flown so much why don’t you know your Executive Club number off the top of your head?’ I quipped that I am of an age and that just remembering my own telephone number is often a chore but he just glowered at me. The uniformed BA staff took no pity on me and one of them imperiously told me that I ought to have known that my ‘points’ disappear if I do not fly. I explained that I had had breast cancer twice this past three years and that my flying days had temporarily come to a halt, but I might as well have said ‘I like playing checkers’ for all the sympathy she offered.
I decided to withdraw as I was beginning to feel faint, and found succour with the fabulous Barbadian stand. Complimentary food and drink flowed and it was all out of this world. The comfortable easy chairs and big table led to a jolly atmosphere and I was able to talk at length with the Barbadian staff and guests about the tamarind trees I am trying to grow in my London home. As far as the whole festival goes I thought the West Indian displays were beautiful to the eye and the exhibitors gracious. Their generosity was unbridled. On other stands most food had to be bought and the idea of spending my book of twenty Crowns on two wee sample-size pieces of lamb and salmon seemed a waste. I managed to tour the entire festival over one day and at the end used my Crowns to buy ice cream and one snack. The Welsh yoghurt stand, Village dairy of Llaeth Y Llan, was giving away little pots of superb bio and as I was on heavy medication it was a welcome tonic. The Vienna stand was also outstanding with stunning mini-Sacher Tortes to buy and a goody bag filled with beautiful literature about Wien that I have placed on my bookshelf -- not the usual travel brochures.
Knowing that 67% of the American oyster population is being annihilated by the leak from the 20th April BP oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico I felt a distinct twinge watching crowds descend on the plentiful oyster bar....
The interesting thing is that at the end of the day a second BA tent on the other side of the site let me in ( the guard was not a BA employee) and I was able to go into reporter mode: a group of people sitting by me had a long moan about the aspects of the Taste of London festival that they found wanting: they lamented the insufficient places to sit around the site, the high cost of food, the overabundance of Thai and Oriental stalls and not enough British foods and the bolshi bouncers who were throwing people out at 5. In my view the Sunday event should have gone on until at least 7PM.
When all is said and done my overwhelming memory of the day was the total lack of hospitality from British Airways ( we Americans are supposed to refer to ‘BP’ as ‘BP’ and not as ‘British Petroleum’ so I hope I am correct in assuming BA stands for British Airways) and the even more preposterous query from the Organisers’ Office as to why I would want to go into the BA tent. I explained that I am the author of the Random House/BBC -published book, ‘Spitfire Girls’ about women pilots and feel a kinship with the airline and pilot fraternity/sorority. But in retrospect why should I have to explain why I want to go anywhere at my age? I am provided with a chauffeur by Sky News, the BBC and Press TV and am always thrilled and flattered to be given ‘VIP’ treatment. No such treatment by BA. Shame on them. With my cancer I do not know how many more ’Tastes of London’ I will visit and I cherish every day God gives me. But for sure BA wrecked my day.
News release June 19, 2010 from Taste of London Regent's Park:
Heston Blumenthal joined the crème de la crème of the cooking elite at the UK's most popular restaurant festival, Taste of London, giving his own take on the traditional British BBQ.
The multi Michelin starred chef and Channel 4 favourite brought an element of the unexpected to the open air event as he delivered his smoke filled presentation to a captive audience.
If you require any further information or have any questions, please contact the Taste of London team here at House PR on firstname.lastname@example.org
Taste of London to add more flavour to the Capital this Summer
About Taste of London - 17 to 20 June 2010
Taste of London, in partnership with British Airways, will serve up dishes from 40 of the capital’s most acclaimed restaurants allowing visitors the chance to sample quality cuisine from around the world. Joined by 150 speciality food and drink producers and numerous celebrity chefs, Taste of London is the foodie event of the season.
Small plate dining will be the order of the day as restaurants create special menus including signature dishes to showcase top culinary talent as well as seasonal and premium ingredients. Taste of London favourites such as Le Gavroche, Theo Randall, Odette's, Yauatcha and The Grill at The Dorchester will serve up dishes alongside a crop of newcomers including Fitzrovia Sicilian restaurant, Mennula, Atul Kochhar's Colony Bar & Grill and Anna Hansen's The Modern Pantry.
Taste of London's plethora of food and drink producers will also encourage guests to think of their own larders with 150 concessions set to inspire - including chocolatier and all-round cocoa magician Paul A. Young, venerable butchers Allens of Mayfair, top tipples from Rekorderlig cider and Nyetimber’s best of British fizz to name just a few.
The Taste Theatre, in partnership with AEG, is where London's culinary greats invite audiences to share their secrets within an intimate and interactive forum. Chefs include Bentley's Richard Corrigan, The Ivy's Gary Lee, Giorgio Locatelli and chefs from Bocca di Lupo and J Sheekey.
For a full line-up of chefs demonstrating in the Taste Theatre, visit
Taste of Malaysia
Malaysia Kitchen 2010 is a year-long programme celebrating Malaysian cuisine in London and the UK. London alone enjoys over 40 Malaysian restaurants - all of which serve an eclectic array of regional, traditional and contemporary cuisine.
To mark this year long programme, MATRADE (Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation) will be hosting Taste of Malaysia at Taste of London, inviting visitors to explore the tastes and flavours of three of London’s top Malaysian restaurants: Awana, Satay House and Tukdin Flavours of Malaysia.
There will be live cooking demonstrations, a teh tarik (tea) lounge, fresh fruit cocktail bar and live performances, providing a truly authentic taste of one of Asia’s most diverse countries.
Cuisine D’Amour with Peugeot RCZ
Join Peugeot in celebrating its 200th year anniversary at the fabulous Cuisine D’Amour, where top chefs and industry experts plan to seduce the crowds and stimulate the senses with a series of live cooking demonstrations. Visitors will also be invited to get up close and personal with Peugeot’s latest tasty motoring dish, the RCZ.
Prepare to be entertained by top gastronomes at the Taste Kitchen, sponsored by Waitrose, with demonstrations on how to prepare original and exciting dishes using top quality ingredients.
Following a phenomenally successful launch at Taste of Christmas 2009, wine tasting will return to Taste Wine at Taste of London 2010.Wine lovers will be invited to sample a wide range of old and New World wines in small groups, with experts on hand to share their knowledge and passion.
Laurent-Perrier Champagne Masterclass
A luxurious and exclusive experience not to be missed - limited edition tickets are available to attend a prestigious Laurent-Perrier Champagne Masterclass in association with Daylesford Organic, where food and drink presenter Nigel Barden will guide guests through a range of fine quality champagnes paired with some delicious tastings from Daylesford Organic.
Standard (entry only) £22.00
Child (entry only) £12.00
Premium (entry + £20 of Crowns) £37.00
VIP (fast track entry + VIP area, glass of LP champagne & £20 of Crowns) £55.00
Laurent-Perrier Masterclass (VIP benefits & entry to one LP Masterclass) £75.00
Visit www.tastefestivals.com/london or call 0871 230 7132
Crowns are the official Taste of London currency used to purchase food and drink consumed at the event
Restaurants at Taste London 2010
Almeida ∙ Asia de Cuba ∙ Benares ∙ Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill ∙ Busaba Eathai ∙ Club Gascon ∙ Colony Bar & Grill ∙ Dinings ∙ Fino ∙ Gaucho ∙ L’Anima ∙ Launceston Place ∙ Le Gavroche ∙ Le Pont de la Tour ∙ Maze ∙ Mennula ∙ Min Jiang ∙ Odette’s ∙ Refettorio ∙ Restaurant Sauterelle ∙ Rhodes Twenty Four ∙ Sake No Hana • Salt Yard ∙ Tamarind ∙ The Cinnamon Club ∙ The Grill at The Dorchester ∙ Theo Randall ∙The Modern Pantry ∙ Tom’s Kitchen ∙ Trinity • Trishna • Yauatcha ∙ York & Albany
Taste of Malaysia
Awana • Satay House ∙ Tukdin Flavours of Malaysia
Chefs at Taste of London 2010
Alfred Prasad, Tamarind ∙ Anna Hansen, The Modern Pantry ∙ Antony Worrall Thompson ∙ Atul Kochhar, Benares & Colony Bar & Grill ∙ Ben Tish, Salt Yard ∙ Cass Titcombe, Canteen ∙ Francesco Mazzei, L'Anima ∙ Gary Lee, The Ivy ∙ Gary Rhodes, Rhodes Twenty Four ∙ Giorgio Locatelli, Refettorio ∙ Jacob Kennedy, Bocca di Lupo ∙ Jun Tanaka, Pearl ∙ Lawrence Keogh, Roast ∙ Lee Bennett, Le Pont de la Tour ∙ Michel Roux Sr. ∙ Nic Watt, Roka ∙ Richard Corrigan, Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill ∙ Silvena Rowe, Baltic ∙ Theo Randall, Theo Randall ∙ Tim Hughes and Richard Kirkwood, J Sheekey ∙ Tom Aikens, Tom’s Kitchen ∙ Tristan Welch, Launceston Place ∙ Vivek Singh, The Cinnamon Club ∙
British Airways ∙ Waitrose ∙ Peugeot ∙ AEG Electrolux ∙ Laurent-Perrier ∙ Malaysia Kitchen for the World ∙