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Jamie Oliver’s CEO CookOff

There may have been a month’s lull in activity on this blog, but it certainly does not reflect quiet at this end! I am full of pride to report that this week Fruit Magpie attended the first ever UK CEO CookOff, a huge fundraising event hosted by Jamie Oliver, as one of the official suppliers to the event.

A little background…

The CEO CookOff was started by Ronni Kahn’s OzHarvest in Australia in 2012 and has been hugely successful in rescuing and redistributing food that would otherwise waste. The UK arm of the charity, UKHarvest, was launched at the end of 2016 with similar aims. For this event it teamed with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to raise funds to tackle hunger, food waste, and food education.

The event took place in Old Billingsgate Market, London on 21st March. Sixty business leaders were invited to partner with thirty of the UK’s top chefs to cook a feast for “everyday heroes” i.e. ordinary people working in schools, hospitals or other public service. However the CEOs were not there just for fun, they had serious fundraising targets to meet, each was required to stump up £1,500 to enter and to work towards a target of £10,000.

How did the Magpie get involved?

Shortly after the Urban Food Awards last September I was astonished to receive an email from one of the organisers introducing me to a lovely woman from Jamie Oliver’s team. In her message she explained the concept of the CEO CookOff and that the intention was to work with food producers with an anti food waste ethos. Well, I could truthfully say that this concept is central to what I do with Fruit Magpie, although I still couldn’t quite believe that this would be enough to turn me into one of the suppliers to the event. When all went quiet for a few weeks I turned my attention to the Christmas rush and tried not to daydream too much about starry fundraising events.

Come the end of January things though started to step up. More details came through and were requested. I sent samples and waited nervously for the verdict. When it came I had to read it over several times: the email was titled “Jamie loves them”. Well, what can I say?!

The damson fruit cheese was selected to be part of a canape partnered with whey cheese from Kupros Dairy, micro-leaves from Growing Underground and beer bread crostini made using Toast Ale.

The Big Day

I was invited by Jamie’s team to to have a stall at the event, to serve samples and chat to the guests about what I do. I was delighted of course, and keen too to meet the other six stall-holders, also working to produce sustainable food.

Mary and I arrived early to set up; our small panic over a lost cab driver was swiftly replaced by a far larger panic when the fruit cheese refused to stick to the delicious bread they had provided, but by the time Jamie came over to speak to us we’d got our samples in order and I was happy with the way the stall was looking. And what a lovely chat with the Big Man we had, on fruit cheese production, medlars, and freezers behind the sofa. And his verdict on the fruit cheese? “Delicious”. Wow!

And a little Jamie tip for you, from our chat: use the damson cheese as the “secret ingredient” in a gravy to really boost the flavour.

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