Article

The show must go on

Categories: News and previews

Luke Mackay reflects on a year of hosting the Demo Kitchen—and gives us a sneak preview of what’s to come

I’ve been ‘stalking’ myself on Facebook to try and work out when my first cookery demonstration was at Borough Market. The farthest back I can find is a picture by my then very new wife, captioned “Very proud of hubby doing his stuff at Borough Market”, dated 1st June 2012.

This is notable because it’s the last time my now not-very-new wife was nice to me on social media and because I know that for my first ever demo it was snowing, so unlikely to be this one in June. I’m pretty sure the first one was the long cold winter of 2011, which means that I’m coming up on eight years now of doing cookery demonstrations at Borough Market.

For the last year I have had the incredible honour of ‘hosting’ the Demo Kitchen in Borough’s Market Hall. Between the months of March and December, we have a demonstration every Thursday and Friday with the most remarkable roster of chefs and food writers who dazzle the audience with eclectic recipes using the Market’s wonderful produce. We’ll be starting this season off on 21st March with the fantastic Ed Smith, author of The Borough Market Cookbook—which has been a great success and something that we are all hugely proud of.

Beast from the east
We kicked off this time last year, in the icy grip of ‘the beast from the east’ a full 28 degrees colder than it is today, I note! Someone told me that it was minus eight when Lisa Fearn and I took to the stage in an array of hats, coats and mittens. I stood next to the open oven for as long as I possibly could and I think that we both suffered from severe brain freeze! If anything, the following day with Beca Lyne-Pirkis was even colder. That they both turned out stunning dishes for an appreciative and sizeable crown says everything about the professionalism of our chefs and the hardiness of our wonderful visitors.

There are of course too many chefs to name check individually, but I can truthfully say that I loved every demo that we did last year. More than anything, for me, as a chef, it is the opportunity to learn. I came away each week with knowledge of an unfamiliar ingredient or a little tip that I had never heard before. We have regular audience members who ask questions and take notes and one who has told me that the Demo Kitchen has inspired him to cook for the first time! Often the best demos are those where we are joined on stage by one of our passionate traders: from butchery techniques to olive oil production to why walnut honey tastes of walnuts, we’re lucky to have at our disposal the owners, the artisans, the experts who really make the Market sing.

I’m always entirely humbled by our chefs—every one, despite their own roaring success (and we have some incredibly successful chefs!), is aware of how special it is to do a demo in the Market and they spend hours writing their menus, prepping, shopping and researching in order to put on the best possible show. It doesn’t matter how many books they’ve sold or how much live TV they’ve done, they are always nervous and pumped, in the best possible way. Like me they know that at that particular time, in this particular place, it’s the best job in the world.

Flour flying hither and yon
We told a thousand stories last year and cooked hundreds of dishes. We heard from chefs who want to change the world—through sustainability or eradicating wastage or by creating women-only kitchens as refuge. We’ve had myriad varieties of fresh pasta, 00 flour flying hither and yon. We’ve had pies and paella, Welsh cakes and grouse and we’ve plucked, filleted, seared and poached every conceivable ingredient from every wonderful Borough Market stall, and I can’t wait to get started again. If it’s anywhere near as exciting, rewarding and fun as last year, then it’s going to be an absolute blast.