The NEC in Birmingham is one huge place. Various events can be held in this ginormous venue at the same time – one of the most popular happens to be the BBC Good Food Show. Our last trip to this event was back in 2008, how time flies!
This trip was a little more special than the last. We had media passes to cover the event for this website. Last time, we were exactly the same as the paying public waiting patiently at the ribbon for a well known chef to come and cut it.
Winter 2018’s celebrity chef arrived in the form of 2 Michelin Starred Tom Kerridge flanked by Chris Bavin of ‘Eat Well for Less’ fame. Both men got a great reception from the waiting crowd. Tom declared that we should all ‘eat, drink and be merry’ before handling the oversized scissors and declaring the show open.
The free show guide catalogues can be found at the entrance to the halls. Do yourself a favour – grab one! Not only are these a useful guide of what’s on and how to get around but the book also contains free recipes.
10am is an acceptable time to get stuck into the booze,right? Well, that’s what everyone ended up doing (that’s my excuse and i’m sticking to it). Amongst the superb gin and beer stands were a selection offering tastes of rum. Coconut caramel rum is not something that we have tried before but it really is a standout drink.
Dotted around the show are small theatres showcasing live demonstrations. We headed over to The Seasonal Kitchen where Chris Bavin was heading a taste test of flavoured oils by Cole & Mason. This demo wasn’t going to break any audience attendance records.
Chris did his best to get the crowd whipped up into a frenzy but the demonstration was virtually over before it had begun. Two audience participants had the opportunity to taste and guess which oil was being presented to them – it helps shroud the mystery a little more if you remove the label first.
Poor Chris was having a tough time with this crowd, asking if we were staying to watch the following demonstration one lady replied “don’t know yet”. With that reply having effectively ended his time on stage, Chris retired to the backstage area. We had to laugh.
Fair play though to Bavin and the other food producers who mixed freely with audience members chatting about everyone’s favourite subject. Food. Tom Kerridge could barely get away quick enough after cutting the ribbon, although he did have a live demonstration in The Big Kitchen at 11am.
The Big Kitchen was where we watched Gordon Ramsay conduct a masterclass back in 2008, our last trip to The Good Food Show. This was the pre-USA version of Ramsay who made us all laugh with anecdotes, foul language and slapstick antics with Mark Sargeant.
A ticket to watch a demonstration in The Big Kitchen will set you back between £28-30 with the weekends being more in the region of £30 – This of course includes your entry to the show itself.
So what about the exhibits? For me, it was a little bit samey. Many stalls were peddling the same items with gin and sausages amongst the worst offenders. Visitors armed with boxes on wheels were the order of the day as many looked to secure a bargain or some early Christmas shopping.
Getting to the actual event isn’t too bad. The NEC is ideally situated just off the M42 or a quick train ride to Birmingham International from the city centre – an underpass from the airport links the NEC with clear directions. The only drawback of driving is the astronomical £16 parking charge.
Has the show changed much since 2008? To be honest, no. There’s the same spread of stalls plus a few more theatres to enjoy the live demonstrations in but doing a full day can be a mission unless you bring some serious funds.To give you an idea, a sausage cob with just a single sausage was being sold at £5.
The food offered could also have more variety. Many stalls were selling pork rolls, sausage cobs and burgers. A small street food area outside had a few vans that no one was heading to. A better range of actual food or a ‘street food village’ would have improved things so much more.
As the big names arrive over the remaining days of the show, there’s much to look forward to. To see the likes of Tom Kerridge, Michel Roux Jr, Mary Berry and James Martin cook live before you is a real treat. Overall, it’s a decent way to spend a few hours while in Birmingham.
Show Dates: 29th November – 2nd December 2018
Nearest Train Station: Birmingham International