A Teessider is heading home to create a menu of Cambodian cuisine to tantalise taste buds at this year’s Festival of Thrift.
Andrew Humphrey, pictured below, who lives in London but is originally from Redcar, is one of the team of amateur chefs that will be crafting delicious fare for visitors at the festival’s unique dining experience, Bistro du Van, when it makes a return appearance at the Kirkleatham-based event on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September.
Having volunteered his cooking creativity and skills after experiencing a Moroccan lunch in a Bistro du Van at the 2013 festival, Andrew is now one of the event’s most loyal amateur cooks and a Bistro du Van regular.
Explaining what prompted him to get involved he said: “I loved the lunch but also loved the idea. It’s an ingenious way to bring home cooking to the public.”
He admitted that he did hesitate slightly before signing up: “I doubted my ability to devise a menu, to cook the food, to serve the food, to make it tasty, to be a good ambassador for the festival. I think I hesitated about pretty much everything!
“It’s the classic ‘Imposter Syndrome’ we are all supposed to suffer from these days. But I know I can cook my friends a nice dinner, and I kept coming back to that.”
Andrew’s menus have always been based on his own tastes and travels in Asia and his aim has always been to make food based on cuisines people may not have tried before in Redcar.
“I grew up in Redcar in an era when there was really not much of an eating-out culture in the town, and not much cultural diversity. It is way better now.
“So far my menus have been Korean, Malaysian and this year is Cambodian. It’s important to say I don’t have roots in any of these countries, so there is a definite “fusion” element to my menu. It’s not exactly what your Cambodian auntie would cook, but I think she would approve.”
Aside from a minor culinary incident in the Bistro du Van field kitchen involving shaking a jar of dressing without its lid on, Andrew has experienced many memorable highlights of his time volunteering his cooking skills.
“I love meeting the diners, and try to add a bit of theatre if I can. With my Malaysian lunch I had a go at making ‘teh tarik ‘with their dessert. It’s a milky tea that you give a good froth by pouring it back and forth between two jugs.
“A bit like when my Nana in Redcar used to lift the teapot high when pouring the tea to ‘get the air into it’. At markets in Malaysia people do all kinds of spectacular moves when making their teh tarik, but I kept the choreography simple.”
Andrew’s menu for this year is a Cambodian lunch with two classic Khmer dishes.
“Last summer I did a day at a cooking school in Phnom Penh, and I will be recreating the dishes that the French-Cambodian chef taught me. It’s true – I will be displaying my laminated certificate in my van!
“Cambodians don’t really do desserts but there still will be a sweet treat for my customers too, and it’s something people may not expect.”
When he’s not being creative with his cooking, Andrew is the UK’s top seller of Tupperware products, so he is well-versed in ways to live sustainably and is able to easily echo the festival’s focus as the UK’s celebration of sustainability.
“Tupperware products are permanent and infinitely reusable products to replace single-use and disposable plastics and I bring that sensibility to my kitchen. Being part of the Festival of Thrift encourages me that way too.”
Updates on his preparations for the Festival of Thrift are also available on his Facebook Page www.facebook.com/youruncleho
The festival organisers are currently on the lookout for some more camper vans to borrow for the Bistro du Van event.
The event’s food guru who oversees all of the Festival of Thrift’s distinctive food offering, Simon Preston explained: “The vans will simply be used for diners to sit in and eat lunch and will be parked in a semi-circle and not moved during the weekend.
“We won’t cook in the vans nor damage or mark them in any way. They’ll be insured by us, taken care of and returned with thanks. We’ll also be offering each van donor lunch for two, free of charge, in their van.
“We’d really like vans that are distinctive – vintage campers are perfect, or jazzed up caravans, or converted utility vehicles – but all offers will be considered.”
Any offers of vans should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Humphrey’s interview with the Festival of Thrift features as part of the ‘Our Voice’ series of views and opinions from friends of the festival on the Festival’s website at https://www.festivalofthrift.co.uk/our-voice/
The volunteer chefs are part of the Festival’s trusty and friendly and growing band of volunteers. The event offers plenty of other opportunities to get involved over the weekend. To find out more visit https://www.festivalofthrift.co.uk/volunteer/