This year's Taste of London festival is bringing food-lovers something new. In addition to trying and buying from top restaurants and food and drink producers, wine tasting, and live demonstrations from world renowned chefs visitors can explore al fresco dining in the Secret Garden. We met up with Michelin-star chef and MasterChef judge Michel Roux Jr to find out more about this gastronomic oasis and to quiz him on other food-related subjects!
So tell us about the Taste of London festival...
"It's an annual event and I've been involved since the very beginning - this is the eighth year. It's a great event because you've got so many visitors who are quite obviously foodies and love their food and wine which is a chef's utopia! It's a great chance to meet your customers."
Are there any other food festivals you recommend?
"No – you can't really get much better than a perfect English summer in the park with wonderful food and a glass of wine."
What does the Secret Garden section involve?
"The Secret Garden I believe is going to be something really special. It's where you get to meet the chefs, there are question and answers, there's a menu designed by and cooked by five well known chefs, it's served on proper crockery - we've got proper service and wine glasses as opposed to disposable plates. It's the ultimate dining out experience."
And there's an Alice in Wonderland theme?
"Yes. I haven't been privy to the actual design but I've seen little snippets and I must say it does look very much like Alice in Wonderland with this secret garden you walk into and food suddenly appears from nowhere and a grand opulence of flowers and an English garden which is wonderful."
Are you ever tempted to do a Heston-style food extravaganza?
"I'm more of a traditionalist. I certainly do embrace new technology and new ways of approaching cooking and new styles but I'm still very much a traditionalist when it comes to my food."
Do you think the royal wedding is an opportunity to showcase English cuisine?
"Yes, most definitely. And I think it's about time England did stand proud because there are some fantastic British chefs and British cuisine is something now not to be scorned at. It should be held up in praise. People now can come to England for the food which wasn't the case a few years ago."
Will it have an impact on what people want to order in restaurants?
"I think it will. We don't know what the menu is as yet - I have an inkling – but it will most definitely have a very, very British theme to it - and so it should. Once the menu is released it will have a huge influence on what we go out and buy."
What's your inkling?
"I'd rather not say - I might end up in trouble! There has to be a very British feel to the menu and by that I mean British produce-led."
What keeps you creative?
"Seasonality is always an inspiration. Right now we're waiting for the first of the English asparagus and then it rolls on from there. Every month has a new produce and comes alive. That's what inspires me."
As a chef is it frustrating when people are on diets?
"I think it's the way we live. If it's for health reasons and we're health conscious I think that's fantastic but if it's just to go on a crash diet that's bad. The most important thing is a healthy balanced diet. If you do a healthy balanced diet and a certain amount of physical exercise if your doctor permits it, that's the best way yo go. So what if you have a couple of extra pounds? As a man I prefer a woman with a couple of extra pounds!
"I suppose it's the pressures of glossy magazines that tell us we should be slim and go on these horrendous diets. There's one lady I met recently who's on a liquid diet of fruit juice, water and teas for five days – it just can't be good for you."
If you're feeling blue, what's your ultimate comfort food?
"Gosh, I like traditional food so in the winter it would be a stew or a braised dish. In the summer months maybe something like a grilled lobster with garlic butter. Rather extravagant but absolutely delicious."
So you're more of a savoury man than a sweet tooth then?
"Yes but saying that I do have a soft spot for chocolate but not for cheap confectionary. I absolutely hate cheap confectionary - it's just a sugar rush - so good, proper dark chocolate."
Taste of London runs from 16-19 June in Regent's Park, London. Tickets are available now. For extra information just hit play on the video below!