I remember my first ever stage demonstration. It was at the Surrey County Show which is local to me, about 6 years ago.
I thought it would be a good way to let the people of Surrey know about my bread making courses in the area, but I must admit I hadn’t taken the time to really think it through properly. I don’t mean the demonstration itself, I’d done them before and it was well planned out, it was more about the fact that I’d be up on stage in front of a ton of people. That was the part I hadn’t thought about, and when it was time to go on, I just did not want to get up there!
I can’t remember what I made, it was certainly bread, but what I do remember is getting heckled by two men in the middle of the audience who had clearly enjoyed too many pints of Hogs Back Ale. I got through it and fortunately, as I was about to learn, things like heckling tend to go down quite well with the audience…
Since then, live demos on stages all over the country have become my favourite part of what I do. I have been to food festivals all over meeting tons of people, both in the audience and backstage, demonstrating on trestle tables in the rain, huge stages like Countryfile Live last week and even this time last year on a super cool and super intimate vintage bus (not moving).
I love being up there. I love chatting with all of you in the audience and I love it when there’s time for tasters (see Foodies Festivals!) and questions at the end. However long my slot is, for me it’s always too short, I could chat all day.
There have been a few mistakes over the years, there’s bound to be right? Like the time I forgot my dusting flour and had to send the compare out to get some from a nearby creperie while I accidentally knocked my microphone pack with a doughy knuckle turning the volume up way too loud! I did my best to keep the audience entertained while holding the microphone at arms length from my face until she returned with the flour and fixed my mic.
Or the time I accidentally put a demo dough into what I thought was a fridge ahead of a demonstration, only to pull it out on stage for shaping to find it was frozen solid.
But all these things are fixable and the magic part is that all of these things go down quite well. There’s something special about being up there, having so much fun, and really interacting with the audience that I’ve worked hard on for so long. And there’s something about making a mistake and being honest about it that brings us closer together.
I realise in this post it sounds like every time I demonstrate there’s some kind of disaster, but there really isn’t. Those experiences came from the olden days of Bake with Jack. The days when I’d wake up at 1:30am three days in a row to bake bread ready for a show. The days when I would unload my gazebo and trestle tables from the Bake-with-Jack-mobile to set up my stall so I could sell all the bread that I’d made. I used to man my stall all day long and chat to all of you about the courses I was hosting locally. I used to sneakily make bread dough at my stall and stash it under the table to be ready and puffed up for the “here’s one I made earlier” moment later when I popped out to go on stage. Most of the time, I never even had time to have lunch, so I think it is fair to say I was a little tired and probably not at the top of my game.
I used to pack all my gear back up each day, back into the car and head home in the evening ready to do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. There was even a time in 2017 when I Vlogged the whole thing (and yes, you can still find them buried deep somewhere on the Bake with Jack YouTube channel).
Looking back, I guess this is part of what it took to make Bake with Jack what it is now, although at the time that was never the reason why I did things that way. I intended to do the thing that I liked at the time. I intended to work hard and do something I thought was right, to enable me to move forward. I intended to have fun and I did, and still do, although things go a little differently now.
From wet trestle tables of the olden days to the huge Le Creuset cookery theatre at Countryfile Live last week I love a good food show demonstration, and I’ve met a lot of you along the way. Some of you may even remember the days we used to chat at my stall, that might even be where we met! I have a lot to thank you for and I’m glad I hit the stage at that first show six years ago, despite what the butterflies in my tummy were saying.
There are still a few more shows left for this year, if you’d like to come along to see me in action (and not making mistakes) you can find the dates here.