By Alwynne Gwilt.
How many mince pies are too many mince pies?
That was the question on my mind as I headed to the recent launch of the Mince Pie Project; which sounded like the tastiest school assignment ever (only with chefs used instead of children).
The Project has been founded by a young entrepreneur named Peter Butler. It will see 35 of the UK's top chefs - including Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche and Raymond Blanc of Brasserie Blanc - compete to see who can make the most for their mince pies through The Mince Pie Project website. You will be able to bid on how much you’d pay for 50 mince pies from your favourite chef. The highest bidder will have the pies delivered to their home just in time for Christmas, and all money raised will go to Action Against Hunger and the Jamie Oliver Foundation.
Butler - who managed to put the project together in an amazing six weeks through a lot of cold-calling to chefs - said he has been impressed with how willing the top chefs have been to get on board and how friendly they have all been, at least to him.
"When I started the Mince Pie Project, I had no idea just how competitive top chefs really are. They are doing everything in their power to ensure that theirs get noticed," said Butler.
At the launch event - held in Divertimenti on Brompton Road - top chefs like Phil Howard from The Square and Claude Bosi from Hibiscus got our taste buds tingling with their take on the mince pie. Crowds of 20- and 30-somethings gathered in the room filled with gorgeous kitchen utensils and the aroma of baked goodness to give them a first go.
So, what did I think?
By far my favourite was the fig and orange offering from Claude Bosi. It was rich, with a crispy outer pastry and a crumbly interior. And - key for me - it was not too sweet.
I was also impressed with the effort by young chef Tony Philips who is one of the new apprentices for Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant. But, I only managed to get through three and a half before I felt decidedly ill. That is definitely my limit!
Bidding for the mince pies begins on December 9th and runs until the 16th of December - so if you are keen to get some top-end mince pies on the Christmas table to impress your guests, and help raise money for some fantastic charities, then you'd best hurry over to the website where you can get competitive.
Chefs who have kindly agreed to donate their batch of 50 mince pies to the auction are:
Alan Stewart - Manson
Alexis Gauthier - Gauthier Soho
Anna Hansen - The Modern Pantry
Antonin Bonnet - The Greenhouse
Angela Hartnett - Murano
Ashley Palmer Watts - Dinner by Heston
Ben Spalding - Roganic
Bruce Poole - Chez Bruce
Bruno Loubet - Bistrot Bruno Loubet
Bryn Williams - Odettes
Claude Bosi - Hibiscus
Fergus Henderson - St John Restaurant
Greg Wallace - Wallace & Co
Henry Harris - Racine
Jeremy Lee - Blue Print Cafe
Jocelyn Herland & Angelo Ercolano - Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
Luigi Vespero - Galvin Bistro De Luxe
Marcus Eaves - Pied a Terre
Marcus Wareing - The Gilbert Scott
Martin Nisbet - Angelus
Michel Roux Jr - Le Gavroche
Olivier Limousin - L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
Phil Howard - The Square Restaurant
Skye Gyngell - Petersham Nurseries
Tony Phillips - Fifteen Apprentice
Tristan Welch - Launceston Place
William Drabble - Seven Park Place