What started as Kerridge, a few of his Michelin-starred chef ‘mates’ and some of his favourite bands, oh and 18,000 members of the public, is now in its third year and has grown from one, to four and now eight Pub in the Park events around the country.
For the first time this year, from May 31 to June 2, Pub in the Park is being held at Roundhay Park in Leeds, with a little encouragement from Kerridge’s Yorkshire ‘mates’ Andrew Pern (Star Inn, Harome) and James Mackenzie (Pipe and Glass, South Dalton)
It may have grown rapidly but this isn’t some big corporate money-making machine.
Kerridge plans to attend many of the events himself (he will definitely be at the Leeds event, he stresses). And he is determined that despite the expansion of the idea which started as a festival virtually in his back garden, the ethos behind the original Pub in the Park is maintained.
“It’s about great food at affordable prices (all dishes are £5), fantastic music and being with friends and family. It is about being inclusive, giving people access to chefs and their food that they might not have been able to before. I will be there with the team from the Hand and Flowers and it is brilliant for them to get out of the kitchen. It is like one big family. All the chefs know each other and we support each other.”
Kerridge has talked openly about his battle with his weight and his decision to change his lifestyle and eating and drinking habits which saw him lose 12 stone and led to a handful of healthy eating books.
He has a three-year-old son, Acey, to artist wife Beth. And although he admits that juggling family and his expanding culinary empire (he opened his first London restaurant last year) is difficult, he wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s hard to keep a smile from the West Countryman’s face when talking about his favourite subject – his little boy.
“He loves being in the kitchen, but he’s a bit like his dad and doesn’t have much of an attention span and soon wants to be on to the next thing. I wasn’t great at school, especially listening and being talked at. I was much better at doing and I think Acey is going to be the same.”
Both father and son will be at Pub in the Park. So, too, will some of our top chefs.
Andrew Pern and James Mackenzie both had ‘pop-up pubs’ at Kerridge’s first event in Marlow, and Pern did all four last year and plans to do another four this year including Roundhay and for the first time Chiswick in central London.
“Andrew (Pern) really led the way when it came to the creation of the gastropub, he was ahead of his time and the rest of us have followed,” says the ever modest Kerridge.
“We have been friends for many years and he has been a great supporter of the Pub in the Park and it is great to have him and his family on board.”
Pern opened the Star Inn at Harome 23 years ago and it went on to become one of the first pubs to achieve Michelin star status.
He has since opened the Star Inn the City, in York, which is sadly closed until March for food after a fire before Christmas, Mr P’s Curious Tavern, also in York, and most recently Star in the Harbour in his home town of Whitby.
“I’m from Yorkshire and all seven of my kids were born here and being involved in Pub in the Park is a chance to shout about Yorkshire while having a really great time,” says Pern.
“Tom is a good friend of mine, he spent his 40th birthday at the Star here at Harome and we get on really well. He is doing a great job promoting the British pub with all the television he does and that lets the rest of us get on with running our businesses.
“Pub in the Park has a brilliant family feel to it. There is great food, great beer and great music, what’s not to like?”
Mackenzie too takes his children along and is thrilled the event will be coming to God’s own County.
“We may have mentioned it a few times to Tom that it would be good to have an event in Yorkshire,” says Mackenzie, who was awarded East Yorkshire’s first Michelin star in 2010.
“I have been friends with Tom for a long time and when he said a few years ago that he was planning on getting a few mates together to hold a food and music festival where we could just have a good time, of course I jumped at the chance.”
Cooking at Pub in the Park is very different from the Michelin-starred food that Mackenzie serves at the Pipe and Glass.
“We made a venison hot dog with Yorkshire rhubarb relish and they were queuing round the block for them. We sold more than 2,000. It was full on but a lot of fun.”
New comer to the Pub in the Park phenomenon is Britain’s youngest recipient of a Michelin star, Tommy Banks, who will be rustling up some of his favourite dishes for the visitors to Roundhay.
“I am really looking forward to it,” says the chef, who last year co-hosted BBC 2’s Family Cooking Showdown.
“It will be very different from what we do every day but it will give people a small taste of what we are about,” says Banks who has the one Michelin-starred Black Swan at Oldstead and last year opened Roots, in York, hailed by restaurant critic Giles Coren as one of the best places he has eaten.
Kerridge too is a big fan of the young chef who celebrates his 30th birthday during Pub in the Park. “The things he is doing at such a young age are astonishing. He is the future and he can go all the way. His is the type of food that I want to eat.”
I caught up with Kerridge during a whistlestop visit to Roundhay Park and it is clear that he is excited about coming to Leeds and showcasing what Yorkshire has to offer.
“Across the UK there are so many talented chefs doing great things and Yorkshire is up there with the best of them. Andrew (Pern) really led the way when it came to amazing pub food and he took it to new heights, as has James (Mackenzie),” says Kerridge who will also be joined by Angela Hartnett from Cafe Murano and Michael Wignall from the Angel at Hetton.
But Pub in the Park isn’t just about the chefs – local producers are showcased in an artisan market – and, of course, there’s the music.
“We had Mel C last year and the Rifles which are one of my favourites bands,” he says with clear excitement. “This year we’ve Tom Odell and Will Young, Basement Jaxx and The Christians, The Rifles again and lots more. It’s going to be lush. But the main thing is that everyone has fun no matter what their age.”
For more information and tickets visit www.pubintheparkuk.com/roundhay