Keen home cooks can cultivate their culinary skills and run their own restaurant at this year’s Festival of Thrift.

The festival organisers have a limited number of places left for budding chefs to design and set a menu for the ever-popular Bistro Du Van pop-up restaurants at the event, which takes place on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 September at Kirkleatham near Redcar.

There are six campervans as part of Bistro Du Van and each is adopted by a local cook to be their own dining space for 2-6 customers at a time, from 11-4pm over the Festival weekend.

Working with the Festival’s food guru Simon Preston, the Bistro du Van participants design a menu and then prepare it in a communal kitchen with support from a professional Maitre d’ who books in and serves the diners.

Someone who has already signed up is Andrew Humphrey who also cooked as part of Bistro Du Van at last year’s Festival.

“When the Festival of Thrift was first launched in Darlington I went as a punter and I ate a Moroccan meal at the Bistro du Van with my family,” he explained. “I also collaborated with my sister and brother on a Thai food stall at the Redcar Rocks festival a few years ago, so when I saw through social media that the Festival of Thrift needed cooks last year, I thought it would be fun!.”

Andrew, who is originally from Redcar and now lives in London, has already planned the theme for his food for this year’s Festival: “Last year I did a Korean menu and this year I am doing Malaysian.  I choose cuisines that I love through my friends from those countries, and from travel there, but where I know there is no specific restaurant or nearby.

“It’s a wonderful cuisine from a real rainbow nation with different influences.  It’s also easy to explain, being the product of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures in Malaysia. I did a trial run at a friend’s cafe in Cambridge last month, as a charity fundraiser, and the food went down well. I have started a Facebook page* posting teasers about the food and silly bits and bobs.”

Andrew doesn’t have any plans to work in food or catering, he simply loves cooking but he adds that there are many reasons for people to give Bistro Di Van a go: “Food trucks and pop-ups are very hot right now, and this is a chance to do it – maybe you have a thought about testing the water, or maybe like me you are just an amateur who has the nerve and cheek to think people will like your food.

“With our Korean camper van last year my helper Anna and I brought a sort of kitsch travelling vibe that went along with the camper van aesthetic. We had fun with it, had both North and South Korean flags on our van, but we took it seriously and gave people a great meal and I think ours was the best attended van.

“In general, I think it is important to have a go, to do things out of your comfort zone, which is exactly what I am doing launching Korean, and now Malaysian, food on Festival folks.”

Andrew visits his home town on a regular basis and is a big supporter of the Festival of Thrift: “I love it. I like the ethos, the style, everything about it and especially that it is in Redcar. I haven’t lived there for over 30 years, but I am always from there and since the Festival moved there I will always support it for what it brings to the town.”

Simon Preston, Bistro du Van organiser at the Festival of Thrift said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who loves to cook and has a sense of adventure. Being part of Bistro du Van is great fun, really rewarding and doesn’t cost a penny, we pay for all the ingredients. Plus I’m there to help and guide our have-a-go heroes every step of the way to ensure they stay cool and calm in the kitchen.”

To find out more about taking part in Bistro Du Van contact Simon Preston at simon@graceonline.co.uk

*Details of Andrew’s plans for his Bistro Du Van are at www.facebook.com/youruncleho

Further details about the Festival of Thrift are available at www.festivalofthrift.co.uk

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