Plus, 5 things not to be missed at this year's festival (10-28 May)

Gearing up for it’s fourth outing, it's hard to imagine that Leeds Indie Food 2018 (10-28 May) nearly didn't happen. With the original founders deciding to step back for something of a fallow year, it fell to the ILikePress team to decide whether independent eating was high enough on the agenda to keep things moving forward.

After some soul-searching, the answer seemed obvious; as more and more Leeds independents find themselves on the brink of closure, there's no better time to champion the hard work that goes on to feed our city.

As independents, we have the power to move quickly on creative ideas

Seeking a more community-based theme, luring back a few old favourites (including the excellent Greedy Pig), as well as celebrating some new faces, the 2018 festival is certainly not shy of addressing some major issues facing the food industry: sustainability, waste, cancellations and, of course, avocados.

So over slices of Dough Boys pizza and cold cans of Northern Monk IPA, some of the best and brightest from the Leeds food scene came together at the LIF launch party to discuss all this and more. Here’s some of what we learned...

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Leeds Indie Food 2018 launch - Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen

We’re lagging behind at sustainability

Andrew Critchett of Sustainable Food Cities (an initiative by Feed Leeds, Leeds Council, Leeds Beckett, Leeds University) was up first, imploring everyone to get stuck into the food waste and sustainability movement, stressing that Leeds is lagging behind the likes of Manchester and Bristol in terms of it’s current efforts.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. North Star Coffee Roasters (represented tonight by their passionate leader Holly Bowman) are leading the charge on recyclable coffee cups and composting waste matter at Meanwood Valley Farm. Rob Greenland of social enterprise Zero Waste makes an excellent point: "As independents, we have the power to move quickly on creative ideas and minimise waste without answering to anyone.” Something to consider next time you splurge on that lavishly pre-packed sarnie.

North Star Coffee
North Star are leading the charge in recycled coffee chaff (dried skin)

We need to rethink use-by dates

It’s second nature to turn our noses up at an out-of-date item, but how dangerous is it really? Helen and Caleb of The Real Junk Food Project (who will be running a pay-as-you-feel supermarket for the entirety of the festival) made some enlightening comments about how much of what we throw away is perfectly edible.

Luckily, some of our waste falls into hands like theirs which work tirelessly to repurpose it and feed the community. But there is still plenty to do. If you’re feeling guilty about your bulging bin bags, consider this: when you want to know if your milk is off, do you look at the date or do you give it a sniff? This principle can be applied to so many foodstuffs and can save you serious money. 

Even better, get down to one of their fine dining experiences as past of the festival – you’ll be amazed at what can be done with a bag of wonky spuds.

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The Real Junk Food Project repurpose waste food

Ethical eating is a journey, not a stick to be beaten with...

As part of a spirited and lively second-half debate, the issue of ethical eating was chewed over by Liz Cottam of fine-dining eatery Home, Jo Myers of The Greedy Pig/The Swine That Dines, and Ben Davy, development chef at Belgrave, Headrow House and Waterlane Boathouse. 

The main takeaway was this: when it comes to eating ethically, every little helps. Whether you’re a militant vegan, a home-grower, or somebody just experimenting with a meat-free Monday, it’s all good work, so well bloody done.

Liz Cottam said: “Our menu showcases things that taste great, and the best tasting things travel the least. Sustainability is so important, but so is a creative process and a sense of fun and theatricality with dining, an escape. We need to be excited by what we are delivering."

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Liz Cottom of Home: "The best tasting things travel the least'

Last-minute cancellations are killing our favourite restaurants

Humble reader, if you’ve been known to place a booking at a restaurant and then fail to show up without warning... stop it. Not only is it rude and annoying, but you’re costing our restaurants serious money. Both Liz of Home and Jo of The Greedy Pig spoke eloquently about the wasted food, prep time, staffing issues and difficultly refilling last-minute slots - things that make it hard for a small restaurant to stay profitable during tough times. If you want to keep your favourite places open, treat them with respect.

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Tables cancelled last minute are hard to fill

Avocados may disappear from your brunch menus

We need to talk about Avocados. A staple of the Instagram diet, the amount of water consumed to produce a decent crop (280 litres per avocado on average), plus the air miles it logs on transport, not to mention how many get chucked during the quest for a ‘perfect’ look, your pal 'Avo' is actually a pretty heinous little bugger. 

In a brave move, North Star Coffee Roasters have decided to (shock) take avocado toast off their menu completely. Owner Holly Bowman said “It sold amazingly, looked and tasted great, but when we focus so hard on the ethics of our coffee sourcing, it just felt too hypocritical to have a food offering that didn’t match up.”

Cicchetti Poached Egg With Avocado On Sourdough
Egg and avo on sourdough - a thing of the past?

5 of the best events from LIF 2018:

Temple X Northern Bloc - 10-28 May - Temple Coffee & Donuts

Temple are known for their wicked doughnuts – all hot and fresh and sprinkled with sugar – and Northern Bloc are Leeds’ answer to the best ice cream this side of Italy. Together, they’ve been working on a special Leeds Indie Food collaborative treat, which will be available throughout the festival.

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Temple Coffee & donuts

Prashad Inspired Specials at Bundobust - 10-28 May - Bundobust

Taking inspiration from his family’s restaurant, Prashad, Bundobust’s Mayur Patel will be paying homage to his mother Kaushy and sister-in-law Minal’s classic recipes. On the specials board throughout Leeds Indie Food, there will be Coconut Pethis, Hara Bara Kebab Sandwiches and Faloodas made with Northern Bloc ice cream.

Bundobust Exterior

School Diner at Chapel Allerton Primary School - 11 May (3.15pm) - Chapel Allerton Primary School - Free

North Leeds favourite School Diner returns once again with street food, entertainment and fun for all the family – plus, it’s dog-friendly! This three-day mini-festival will be popping up at Chapel Allerton Primary School to get Leeds Indie Food off with a bang, with firm favourites including the Pizza Bus, other street food trucks, games and workshops.

Chapel Allerton Primary School School Diner
School Diner at Chapel Allerton Primary School

Vegan Mexican Street Feast - 18 May (6.30pm) - Open Source Arts - £27

Local quesadilla maestros The Dilla Deli have joined forces with creative community art space Open Source Arts to bring a pop-up vegan street feast extravaganza to Leeds – Mexican style! enjoy a welcome cocktail and enjoy a work-in-progress show from local artists in this homely urban warehouse setting. The evening will continue with a fully vegan Mexican fiesta banquet menu, consisting of classic and modern Mexican street food served family style. The bar will serve a range of vegan-friendly beers, wines and soft drinks. Children are welcome.

Dilla Deli Leeds
The Dilla Deli

Leeds Feast Presents: Pizza and Prosecco Festival - 19-20 May (11am - midnight) - Free

For one day only, you’ll find the North’s finest pizza traders at Water Lane Boathouse for a celebration of all things pizza…and prosecco! The line-up of traders includes an exclusive appearance from Manchester’s award-winning Honest Crust, Tyneside’s Scream for Pizza, Leeds’ very own Frizza and many more. Expect a wide range of specially imported prosecco and sparkling wine by the glass, curated by Latitude Wine.

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Water Lane Boathouse

Leeds Indie Food Festival takes place in various locations from the 10-28 May.