Mat Kemp is one of the three Directors at Turner & George alongside Richard and James, but as some of you will know, they are the same trio behind London food festival Meatopia. Here we catch Mat at the T&G HQ kitchen table to talk through what's going to be big at Meatopia 2017.
So Mat, in just under a few weeks now, Meatopia will be returning to Tobacco Dock in London, for it's fifth year in a row. What were your expectations at the start of all of this? And did you ever imagine it would get so big?
Not really no, it was going to be a one off. Well, not necessarily a one off, but it actually began as a promotion for Turner & George. Who knew that it was going to be so successful?
Why do you think it is so popular?
I think it's popular because all the food is really good. It’s not just food traders. We’re the only festival that invites the chefs, tastes their food and curates the entire menu, making sure it’s a spread of meat and different cooking styles. We began Meatopia because we loved the concept, rather than it being a business idea. It makes us feel good; we’ve stuck to our values and our ethics and that why it’s so popular, because people can feel that we love it.
What is exciting about the line-up this year?
Well we’ve got fish at Meatopia for a start! We’ve got Nathan Outlaw from Cornwall doing grilled mackerel and Mitch Tonks from Devon doing crab with pigs trotters, so that’s a first. We’ve also got a few really interesting internationals; Nathan Green is flying in from Rhoda in Hong Kong, Estanislao Carenzo coming from Elephant Crocodile Monkey in Barcelona, Ash Heeger is coming all the way from Cape Town, and we’re lucky enough to have Angie Mar from The Beatrice in New York back again. We’ve also got Mark His here for the first time so that’s, and Ottolenghi is bravely cooking a vegetarian dish on Saturday. What can I say, it’s all exciting! We’ve got people from all over the world and have tasted some really amazing dishes.
Do you have a favourite chef?Or who do you think is going to shine on that weekend? (controversial!)
Favourite chef? I shouldn’t be showing favouritism in this game, although obviously it’s Richard H. Turner.
How mad does it get behind the scenes? You've got a lot of chefs, butchers and musicians to coral, how do you keep them all happy?
It does get a bit lively, but only in a good way. Our team production team are excellent though, so these days all we get to see is the top part of the swan… and Beer is very useful. You can pacify musicians with food and beer, and chefs with beer and music. And food...
Does the vibe change throughout the weekend? If so, how?
Friday night is younger and more immediate, with people finishing work and wanting to get out and at it. It’s a really good vibe, more night-timey. Saturday is different, people are queueing at 11am, and it’s steady pace throughout the day with a massive ‘hands in the air’ ending . It’s a real mix of young and old. Sunday is more relaxed, a ‘take-it-easy’ day with more families and couples.
Can you explain a bit more about what goes on in the 'Cutting Room'?
We call them ‘rock-n-roll demos’. For us, a huge part of Meatopia is the education. We’re the only show that stand by responsibly sourced meat – ethically, and naturally reared and sustainable fuel. There’s no gas, charcoal or induction at Meatopia, just fire and smoke. We want to try and teach people about eating better quality meat less often, encouraging them to try parts of the animal and styles of cooking that they haven’t before, all cooked in the oldest way known to man – over fire.
What alcoholic shenanigans can we expect from Melissa Cole and 'Craftopia'?
There’s plenty of brewers coming down, with demos on the hour on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll see beers from: Adnams, Beavertown, Big Hug, Hackney Brewery, Fourpure, Fullersmith and Turner, Gypsy Hill, Harry Brompton’s Ice Teas, Lagunitas, London Brewing Co., Longflint, Neptune, New Zealand Beer Collective, Porterhouse, Sierra Nevada and Stone and Wood. Quite a list!
There is quite an eclectic line up for the music, who are you looking forward to watching/hearing most?
We always spend a long time curating the music with Continental Drifts. We’ve got Bez headlining on Friday night with a DJ set, and Acid House legend Terry Farley headlining Saturday, with Meatopia veteran Tom Findlay of Groove Armada playing out Sunday night. Tom Findlay is always f**kin brilliant, and I saw Terry Farley in Ibiza recently and he was excellent, but I’m also really looking forward to Bill Brewster. He’s a bit of a DJ’s DJ, and he’s on just before Terry Farley on Saturday. And who wouldn’t be interested to see Bez?
You recently took Meatopia to Dublin, running the event within the gates of the Guinness Brewery, how did that go down?
Really well. The Irish loved it and Guinness were great hosts. It was an amazing thing having an event in such a auspicious place, right in the middle of one of the oldest breweries in the world . It was only small, much smaller than London Meatopia, and it focused on really good beef – a 7 year old Galloway, finished on Guinness barley and aged in salt and Irish seaweed lined drying room for 45 days – cooked 6 ways by six great chefs.
And are you standing firm to your commitments in the manifesto? There will never ever be gas at Meatopia? (there's a joke in here, somewhere)
No, never any gas, or induction, or microwave, or boil in a bag.
Finally, where do you see Meatopia in five years’ time?
We can’t get much bigger at Tobacco Dock; there’s more of the Dock, like a roof space that we could feasibly use, but it’s quite challenging to get people there. In an ideal world, we’d probably break out of London and go other place in Britain and maybe even the world, but it’s just hard to say. Watch this space.