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Vivek Singh at Taste of London

Vivek Singh spoke to Felicity Spector about his experience at Taste of London and how this has changed over 10 years.

Vivek Singh has been at Taste of London from the very start - back when it was a far smaller gathering on the riverside at Somerset House. Last year, he took a break to regroup: now he's back to showcase all three of his London restaurants - from the high-end Cinnamon Club to the buzzy, informal Cinnamon Soho. And it's a chance, he says, to tell a different story.

Since all those years ago, the Taste experience has changed beyond all recognition. "Back then, I would finish lunch service and take a couple of chefs and a porter with me, and that was it. I hadn't realised the amount of work others would be putting in!"

Keen to compete with the beautifully laid out stalls from places like Le Gavroche, he upped his game. "I take between 13 and 15 people with me now. We spend months of prep on the stand and how it will look, as well as our menu."

Choosing the dishes is quite a challenge, as well as a chance to feature a different restaurant each time. "We try to make something different each year, and we hope that at least one of them will win one of the 'Best in Taste' awards - the last time we went, we won the silver with our braised lamb brain, which was a suprise! When I was writing the recipe for it, the team all said - are you sure? But I knew if there's one festival where that could be our iconic dish, it was Taste, and sure enough, we won."

This year his icon dish will a smoked saddle of Romney Marsh lamb with a Rajasthani sauce, along with a spiced cod curry, a Guinea fowl breast and a milk and rose panna cotta: while his staff will have their prep work down to a fine art. "It goes rather like clockwork - I take a team from whichever restaurant we're showcasing, from the kitchen and front of house - anyone who's shown an interest in taking part. When we didn't go along last year they were asking why we weren't at Taste - and I realised it's a great reason to be there, it's a brilliant opportunity for them to get out of their place of work and do something different, as well as interacting with the guests."

Vivek is clearly a fan of that chance to mingle with customers. "I really enjoy the interaction with the public, on the stand or when I do the cooking demonstrations on stage. It's a wonderful atmosphere in the park, meeting your customers, your friends, those you don't yet know. it really brings something to the table, the kind of face to face interaction which simply isn't possible in the restaurant."

There's also an added bonus: mixing with fellow chefs in a way that just isn't possible after the long hours of service. "We love it. Everyone tries everyone else's dishes: the amount of food barter that goes on is unimaginable! I get to interact with forty or fifty top chefs: there really is great camaraderie. It's not to be missed."

Felicity Spector has worked in national television journalism for nearly thirty years, but has now combined her day job with an increasing interest in food writing in her spare time.

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Vivek Singh at Taste of London

 
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