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So… how was the Blaggers’ Banquet?

And so the banquet has come and gone. A flurry of activity followed by a burst of food and drink, leaving us all feeling fragile and happy, and keen to do it again.

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As you know, I was not a diner, but a worker bee. And as a result of this, and the fact that my lovely digital SLR camera was stolen recently, I have no photos, but we did have a volunteer blogger photograper on the night (Mark of Food by Mark) and so I can share some of his.

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The lead up to the banquet was frenzied, but supported by the wonderful Sig of Scandilicious managing the kitchen (read her fantastic build up post here) and a crack team of enthusiasts managing the other aspects – Kavey on ticketing, Susie & Ailbhe on the Goodie Bags, Denise on the wines, Mathilde on the auction and Linda on the organisational aspects behind delivery and ingredients – we could only succeed. Not to undermine the work anyone did on the day, it was a superb team effort, but these guys were keeping this going and driving it in the weeks leading up to the event. More on everyone else in my next post about the night itself.

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I had always been confident that we could do this. I knew that it would be very hard work and at times frantic, but with a good team that were ready to pitch in, I didn’t see how we could fail. Most of us are passionate cooks, but cooking for large numbers is a whole different matter, so we needed to be organised. I don’t want anyone in the trade to think I am being cocky, I’ve worked in kitchens and front of house while in University, I know it’s not easy, but, still… I knew we could do it.

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Shortly after we had our first meeting, it was clear that large meetings were going to make this impossible to deliver. If we had more time, we could have done it in this more sociable way, but we didn’t. So I formed a team that would manage all the aspects involved  and we met when we could and liaised online.

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I don’t really talk about personal stuff here, it’s about the food but sometimes life intervenes in unexpected ways. Less than a week after that first meeting, I got a call from my mother, my Grandmother had taken ill suddenly and I knew I had to go home. The trouble was, I was in Lisbon and it was looking increasingly like I was going to miss my flight. I loved Portugal, particularly the Portugese people, but their chronoptimism is worse than mine, and I was delivered to the station, with what looked like ample time to spare, but which quickly transpired as none. The staff at the airport were unphased when I arrived frazzled at the desk. “Relax! You have loads of time.” I had 3 minutes. Maybe I should move there!

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So, back to London and then to Ireland. Things were frantic and I was trying to do too much ending in the theft of my lovely digital SLR camera after I left it behind.  Bye bye camera, and bye bye lots of pictures of the Douro. Not a good week.

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Home I went, battling Aer Arann who were confused about my flight details, and First Capital Connect, who didn’t want to run any trains ending in an expensive taxi journey to Luton. Home for a few days and back again. Lots to do: the market, real work and then the banquet.

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Finally the day of the Blaggers’ Banquet arrived. I was up and ready to go when I got a call. Things were bad at home and my Grandmother had received the last rites (a Catholic tradition for the dying). I really wasn’t sure what to do, I felt very upset and wanted to be at home, but getting home is not that easy, especially at short notice. My sister told me to wait by the phone and they would call me with an update.

With a heavy heart, knowing what was going on at home, I carried on and went to Hawksmoor. I knew that I should be at home but I couldn’t get home fast enough for it to make a difference, so I comforted myself with the fact that the banquet had only positive outcomes, raising money for a fantastic charity. The next update, very  soon after, sadly, was a very sad one, she had passed away.

So, I am just back from a sad trip to Ireland for her funeral and I am feeling very tired.  I’ll be back soon, when I have a little more energy, and I’ll regale you with banquet tales and behind the scenes gossip.

For now you can read all about it on the following blogs/sites:

So what happened at the Blaggers’ Banquet? – Matching Food & Wine with Fiona Beckett

Scandilicious: Preparing for the BlaggersBanquet and musings on

Scandilicious: Preparing in every part of the BlaggersBanquet

eat mynels: Monkfish and Beet Tartare at the BlaggersBanquet

Kavey Eats: Blaggers Banquet: The Big Night

Blaggers Banquet… the review!! | Wahaca

The Princess and the Recipe: Blaggers Banquet – prep talk

cowfish » The BlaggersBanquet – The Day Itself

Quinta Lagoalva and the Blaggers Banquet « The Winesleuth

Can be bribed with food: Volunteering at The BlaggersBanquet

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All photography by Mark N – http://www.foodbymark.com

36 Comments

  1. gastrogeek says

    Am so sorry to hear about your gran, my condolences…Am also totally gutted to have missed the big night! Sounds like you, Mathilde, Ms Marmitelover, Danny, Dan, Lizzy, Neil, Sig, Kavey and co. held it together really well though! What a fantastic result, massive well done X

  2. Niamh I am SO sorry to hear about your loss. The banquet looked amazing though and from everything I’ve heard and seen (in the photos) it looked like it a massive success. Congratulations to everyone involved and again, sorry for your loss :(

  3. So sorry to hear the sad news! A fantastic BB nevertheless and so glad to be a part of it! Massive well done to all!!

  4. ginandcrumpets says

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother. It took a lot of grit and determination to carry on with the Banquet in the circumstances and the night was a fantastic success – a tribute to your efforts. I am very sorry for your loss.

  5. So, so sorry to hear about your grandmother, Niamh. It makes what you’ve achieved with the Banquet all the more astounding. I bet she would have been very proud of you, on all counts.

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  7. Niamh, I’m really sorry for your loss.
    My thoughts are with your family and you.
    It was incredibly strong of you to still get through the event and make such a success of it!

    Bring on the next one!

  8. I am sorry to hear of your gran’s death. Well done for pushing on and getting the banquet off the ground. It looks like everyone put a huge amount of effort in to make it a great event.

  9. Niamh I’m sorry to hear about your loss. My Pop in Australia died about 3 weeks ago and I know how awful and helpless you feel being impossibly far away from home. My best wishes to you and your family.

    You pulled off the banquet admirably and it was such a pleasure to be part of it. Well done to you under incredibly trying circumstances.

  10. Niamh – you did fantastically well under the circumstances. So sorry to hear this sad news. Hope you’re getting some well-deserved rest.

  11. Sad news Niamh. I am astonished , I had no idea, you held it together so well. My thoughts are with you.

  12. So sorry to hear about your grandmother, sounds like you’ve had a tough couple of weeks :(

    The banquet looked like a huge success, well done!

  13. Your blog postings are good and worth reading because of the palpable energy you put into your activities and because of the “personal stuff” you share.

    Very sorry about the loss of your dear grandmother.

  14. Oh Niamh, I’m so sorry for your loss. From what I read online, it sounded like you made organising Blagger’s Banquet so easy but I imagine it must’ve been the opposite with what was going on in Ireland. Take care.

  15. Really sorry to hear the sad news..
    I think the event was great and you were brilliant organising it!! Really happy for being part of the team.

  16. Niamh, I am very sorry for your loss. You did amazing things on that night, it wan’t just a fab event, it will make a real difference.

    I’m sure your family are deeply proud of you.

  17. So sorry to hear about your gran Niamh, it’s a terrible thing to have to deal with, the passing of a relative. Well done for holding it together and pulling off such an incredible event. There’s not many people who could have done it, more so under such trying personal circumstances. You should be very proud of what you achieved.

  18. So very sorry to hear that you had to battle through that sadness. But also so very proud to know you (even if only through Twitter!) and to feel just a little bit of the success that the banquet was. Bravo you.

  19. You should be really proud of yourself, you were unflappable given the circumstances. Well done to everyone for pulling it off! I hope to get a blog post up when my farking laptop decides to behave itself.

  20. Niamh sorry to hear about your gran – I am sure she would have been very proud if she had got to see what you achieved on Sunday night.

  21. Susan Smillie says

    Just wanted to add my thoughts to everyone else’s support here Niamh. Had no clue what you were going through, which only goes to show the strength you found, keeping it together personally and professionally, pulling off a triumph of an evening for a very worthwhile cause indeed. Well done, woman, for creating something so positive at a time of much sadness. Thoughts with you and your family and absolutely right, as others have said, you did your gran proud. Suse x

  22. niamh, very sorry to hear about your grandmother. everyone has been raving about the Banquet- how amazing that you kept a brave face and delivered- so beautifully and efficiently. a little prayer for your Gran, so sorry. x

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