Obsession 2016: Nigel Haworth’s festival highlights

Obsession 2016: Nigel Haworth’s festival highlights

by Great British Chefs 11 February 2016

The man who started Obsession fifteen years ago shares his favourite parts of this year's event and what his plans are for 2017.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

After sixteen nights of show-stopping culinary excellence, Obsession comes to a close once again and service at Northcote returns to normal. This year the festival saw award-winning chefs come from as far as Taiwan, Japan and Mexico to showcase their cuisine, as well as putting home-grown talent in the spotlight. For Nigel Haworth, it was one of the most successful Obsessions to date.

‘This year’s Obsession was absolutely amazing,’ he says. ‘It keeps developing and improving every time we host it, but it was the diversity that really stood out this time. All the participating chefs left learning something new – different techniques from Peru, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and Poland were showcased, which was really interesting to see. It was a privilege to work with so many different enthusiastic chefs that were so charitable about passing on knowledge.’

The chefs change every year at Obsession, and Nigel and Lisa Allen usually close the festival with their own bespoke menus. But the event itself is constantly evolving, too. ‘This year we introduced chef demonstrations, which everyone absolutely loved, so we’re keeping them for next year,’ says Nigel. ‘There was also a much larger focus on wine matching – it’s such a special thing that Craig does, so it was great to make it more prominent.’

In particular, it was the diversity that really impressed Nigel. ‘Wojciech Modest-Amaro from Poland was a definite highlight – he was very, very interesting in his approach to food,’ he says. ‘He brought a team of five over with him and the menu was pretty amazing. I’d heard of him before but culturally you don’t know what to expect; from a culinary point of view Poland’s an emerging country and it’s so big with lots of resources.

‘I loved having Diego Hernandez over from Mexico as well – his food was so colourful,’ he continues. ‘One of the best flavours of the festival was his mole sauce with suckling pig; he put all sorts of charred flavours in a big pot and they merged together to create this great taste. It’s one of the wonders of Mexican food.’

As always, however, it was Nigel’s own team that really made Obsession special. ‘The general camaraderie between all the teams at Northcote was the big highlight this year,’ he says. ‘The kitchen staff, wine team and front of house all worked together effortlessly. It’s a huge undertaking to do sixteen nights with over 100 covers for each, but they absolutely excelled.’

Despite working flat-out for sixteen days, Nigel doesn’t have much time to rest. As well as returning to normal service, arrangements for next year’s Obsession are already being confirmed. ‘We’ve already got eight or nine chefs provisionally lined up for next year’s event and letters will be going out next week. I always try and get some globally-renowned and exciting chefs in and try and represent all cultures – I want Indian and Chinese food to both be represented next year, and for the festival to be more diverse than ever.’