V fest was pretty bonkers. If you have the patience I will try and tell you why.
After endless trialling of our beloved chicken laksa, a failed delivery and many crossed wires meant we did, in fact, serve gyoza in the end, and with the volume that awaited us, we were thankful for the divine intervention.
serving 250 servings for lunch and then dinner, in the space of two and a half hours at a time, we were excited but slightly weak at the knees before we arrived. After hauling our freezer into a ford transit and out the other end and setting up camp on site on Friday, we were even weaker.
Fortified by free biscuits from the production tent and some top notch luardos sustenance, we were ripe and ready to take on the world when the time came to open on Saturday.
(ten down, 990 to go)
As the burly security men threw open the gate, The V.i.p.s were queuing up, and with free spray tans, makeovers, blow dries and manicures to choose from, they hardly knew where to run first. (our beady eyes always on the prize, we secured our free treats in exchange for gyoza well in advance. Five gyoza for two pairs of guess sunnies = not a bad deal). Saturday lunch flew by in a hot heap of steaming dumplings and salad (and a visit from danny dyer -Total excitement and human traffic misquoting) as did dinner, and with the summer sun setting and a good day’s toil behind us, it was truly a wonderful evening.
It was so lovely for us to be with all the eat street traders – luardos, pizza pilgrims, red herring smokehouse, the bowler, Bhangra burgers and Anna Mae – and as the new, fledgling van with only two months behind us we felt in generous and experienced hands even if things went a little awry. Endless borrowing of saucepans, tea towels, fairy liquid, chalk pens and even willing and able humans kept us all flowing smoothly in spite of the searing heat and never ending row of hungry faces peering up at the hatch, meal ticket in hand, belly rumbling, speech more often than not slurring just that little bit.
On Saturday night we all piled in to the ford transit and slept like worn out kids. Just as we were nodding off, a strange man, clenching his jaw and dripping in sweat, burst open the doors and found us tucked up under our white double duvet. ‘you’re not production’ he observed, and left us to kip.
Sunday held new and unknown challenges, so thank god we did. At ten to twelve, minutes before kick off, we were happily munching a last minute salad and chilling out before the mad lunch rush. Calm and confident, we strolled back to the van and popped up the hatch, knowing we had it nailed and could keep the queues moving – Until our non-stick pans decided, for the first time ever, to become strangely, ridiculously sticky and completely unforgiving. and while gyoza are one of the most delicate and beautiful foods to work with, just like any great diva, when things don’t go to plan they simply refuse to cooperate. With forty people in line for their lunch, and dumplings coming out sans bottom, Ben astutely reached for the griddle scraper and gave it his all, man-and-his-tool versus state-of-the-art-cast-aluminium. ‘hurry the * up!’ i thought; ‘is it working? Is it working?’ We all cried, dripping in sweat and diving deep for some inner calm as we hurled dozens of sad, bottomless gyoza into a hot steaming bin. ‘just keep smiling, these things happen’ was our golden mantra. Silence from ben, a furrowed brow and more elbow action. And then, a small distant voice, ‘oh, wow, I think I might have cut myself’.
Mopping my unsympathetic brow, I looked up. My oh my. Sweating away in its little blue catering glove, ben’s right hand was streaming with blood. Frightening off the customers, He was quickly banished to the first aid tent (racing madly across the middle of the v.i.p. field in his striped rainbow apron) while Selina and I stepped up to the griddle. Selina has never done anything like this before but is one of those strong, intuitive cooks you are mighty thankful to have around, and I have manned the griddle many a time but only with a little queue when I can happily natter away and let the bottoms crisp up perfectly in their own sweet non-stick time. with the queue growing by the minute, and the searing heat sending salty drops right off the end of our noses, we managed to get the food out, and those who tasted it were as delighted as we were. Agonising Minutes later Ben reappeared, bandaged up and totally away with the clouds. Muttering panicked gibberish and mopping my sweating bosom, I told him to prep the salads, which he did very well – but at a glacial pace. A little cabbage here, a little dressing there, it took him ten minutes to complete one. ‘drink coca cola!’ was all i could suggest. Luckily, the crowd was patient, the food was wolfed down and when the hatch closed at three pm it felt like time for bed.
But as we are good little chefs and learn from experience, we were so worried by dinner with a one-armed ben and how we would get it out that we planned it meticulously and served a whopping one hundred portions within forty minutes. Over the moon at our diligence and glowing bikram complexions, we joined the rest of the eat street traders at the wrap party where we all went on to get ridiculously drunk in a giant abandoned tent, hot, hungry and relieved to be whole fields away from griddles and blue gloves for just one night. And since what happens in the field stays in the field, we can’t tell you how baba Gupta lost his shoes, but then again we can’t quite remember anyway.