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We interviewed celebrity Spanish chef and Tapas Revolution restaurant owner Omar Allibhoy ahead of the first Foodies Festival in Mote Park, Maidstone


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The UK’s leading touring food, drink and music festival, Foodies Festival, is coming to Maidstone for a weekend of tasty treats.

The three-day festival, which takes place in Mote Park, is making its Kent debut this year, bringing celebrity chefs, live bands and street food stalls to the county.

Omar Allibhoy will be at Kent's first ever Foodies Festival. Picture: Foodies Festival
Omar Allibhoy will be at Kent's first ever Foodies Festival. Picture: Foodies Festival

Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy is one of the experts showcasing his skills in a live cooking demonstration at this year’s festival, and told me all about his passion for cooking in front of a crowd.

“I love teaching and showcasing Spanish food,” says the chef. “It’s exciting, it’s the buzz. There's something about cooking in front of an audience that gives you a buzz and an energy.

“It’s the interaction that you get from the audience, from the braver ones who put their hands up or just quickly ask you a question while you’re cooking. It feels like a cookery course.”

Omar, who was born in Madrid and moved to the UK in 2008, has spent years introducing traditional Spanish food to British restaurants.

“You still find a lot of people that are completely unfamiliar with what tapas or Spanish food is all about,” explains Omar. “Particularly with tapas and paella, everybody has heard about them, but they really don't know much about how to deliver that at home with friends, family and so on, so I just try to bring it forward in the best way possible.”

Street food, world cuisine, sweet treats and delicious drinks are all served at the festival. Picture: Foodies Festival
Street food, world cuisine, sweet treats and delicious drinks are all served at the festival. Picture: Foodies Festival

Omar has managed to do this with his much-loved restaurant chain, Tapas Revolution, which he first opened in 2010.

There are now nine Tapas Revolution restaurants around the country, including Bluewater, near Dartford. But will fans find any of their favourite dishes from the menu at Foodies Festival?

“I have to say, I haven't yet planned what I'm doing - but I may bring some of the classics from Tapas Revolution!” laughs Omar. “Just to show people how we do them so they can see that, even though we’ve grown into a nine-restaurant group, we still do things fresh using fantastic produce. And also to showcase a paella that we’re very famous for too!”

Omar opened his first Tapas Revolution restaurant in 2010 and now has nine restaurants across the country. Picture: Ebury Press
Omar opened his first Tapas Revolution restaurant in 2010 and now has nine restaurants across the country. Picture: Ebury Press

Foodies Festival might prove the perfect opportunity for Omar, and many other chefs and food producers on the bill, to boost their profiles at a crucial time, as the restaurant owner expressed his concerns about the future of the hospitality industry.

“For us in the restaurants, we’ve been hoping for a very long time,” says the businessman. “We've been hoping that the pandemic would come to an end and it would all get better, and now it seems, unfortunately, things got a lot harder. Before it was Brexit and the staff, now it's the cost of the produce and the energy bills, and customers are tightening their budgets.

“It’s not looking great for our industry, but we can only wait and see in the months to come.”

Foodies Festival now pulls in huge crowds across the country with 12 events throughout the summer. Picture: Foodies Festival
Foodies Festival now pulls in huge crowds across the country with 12 events throughout the summer. Picture: Foodies Festival

However, Omar is feeling hopeful, particularly about what Foodies Festival has to offer not just him and his fellow chefs, but also the crowds of visitors keen to enjoy a day of delicious food and drink.

“It's an event that I really look forward to,” says Omar excitedly. “They have three stages, one that they dedicate to pastry and baking, one is all about wine and liquors, and the other is all about street foods, which is the one I’m doing a show on.

“You have the funfair, plenty of stalls that sell food - and by plenty, I mean dozens of them! - bars, small exhibitors trying to sell the artisans products. And then you have the live bands that are super entertaining. Everybody that has been enjoying the Foodies Festival throughout the day ends in front of the stage enjoying the live music and having a few drinks. That's why I like doing it every year.”

Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe from boyband Blue will be performing alongside Scouting For Girls, Liberty X and East 17. Picture: Foodies Festival
Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe from boyband Blue will be performing alongside Scouting For Girls, Liberty X and East 17. Picture: Foodies Festival

This year, Kent’s Foodies Festival features live music from Scouting For Girls, Blue, Liberty X and East 17. The artists will be joined by chefs such as MasterChef’s Tony Rodd, Dhruv Baker, Sandy Tang and Thomas Frake, as well as Patrick Hill and Alex Yates.

The festival began in Edinburgh in 2006 and now, 16 years later, travels across the country and hosts 12 huge food and drink events each summer.

“It's a privilege that I get to do Foodies Festival and showcase my cooking and spread the word of great Spanish food.”

With world cuisine on every corner, exciting live entertainment and the stamp of approval from Omar, Foodies Festival is sure to make a bang at its Kent debut.

Foodies Festival is at Mote Park, Maidstone, from Friday, June 24 to Sunday, June 26. Book tickets online here.

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