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Charity event sees chefs challenge food writers to spend a day in the kitchen – can they stand the heat?


Held annually, Too Many Critics is a charity event which sees restaurant critics and food writers put on chefs whites and spend a day in the kitchen to get a taste of life on the other side of the pass.

More used to pens than pans, the critics are tasked with preparing an exclusive dinner to be judged by some of the finest local chefs and restaurateurs. Tickets sell like hot cakes, and last year the event raised over £24,000 for Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organisation tackling the causes and effects of hunger.

It’s a fun event, one of the highlights of Manchester’s foodie calendar. But it’s a daunting task for the critics. And I speak from experience.

Photo: Carl Sukonik

Last year, the event took place at 20 Stories in Spinningfields. The critics and food writers – including me – were tasked with recreating one of chef Aiden Byrne‘s signature dishes. It was hard work. Really hard.

I realised at the end of my long day in the kitchen that I hadn’t sat down in over ten hours. As soon as I ran my hands under hot water, I realised how many tiny cuts and burns I had. I left with a newfound appreciation for exactly how hard chefs work. It made me very grateful that I’m usually on the other side of the pass.

I won the event in 2018, beating writers from publications including Manchester Confidential, Manchester WireManchester Evening News and Taste of Manchester. But now the time has come to put ourselves through the process once again.

In association with Northern Restaurant and Bar, Too Many Critics will be returning to Manchester on Monday 18th March. This year’s event will be held at Dishoom on Bridge Street, which opened to rave reviews in December.

Once again, restaurant critics and food writers will don chef whites and work alongside Dishoom’s kitchen team to prepare an exclusive dinner to be judged by some of the North’s top chefs and restaurateurs.

Dishoom’s chefs have tasked the critics to be as creative as possible when devising their recipes, with the team on hand to make sure they deliver it on the night.

This is Dishoom’s first event with Too Many Critics, and will see critics paired into teams of two. Each critic is working with the kitchen on recipe development in the run-up to the event and on the night each team will have two chefs working alongside them, with executive chef Naved Nasir overseeing the action.

“We’re so excited for this event,” says Naved.

“For us, food is a way of bringing people together and breaking down social barriers. So knowing that we can contribute to Action Against Hunger’s amazing work in this area is simply awesome.

“Plus, we know it’s going to be a great night. We’re going to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with the critics in the lead up, tasting and testing their dishes until they’re totally happy. Can’t wait!”

This year, guests will be welcomed with a selection of beer cocktails, created by the critics using local breweries, and a Champagne Tattinger reception. The critics will then be put through their paces in the kitchen, each creating their own dish.

This year looks to be the toughest year yet for the journalists entering the kitchen – including Mark ‘Gordo’ Garner (Manchester Confidential), Emily Heward (Manchester Evening News), Neil Sowerby (Taste of Manchester) and Ruth Allan (Manchester Wire).

Joining the brigade will be our own video star Matty White (I Love MCR, XS Radio and Fodder), and… Louise Rhind-Tutt. Yes, me. Glutton for punishment much? In addition, two critics are joining the line-up from London: Bill Knott (FT, The Oldie and Restaurant magazine) and Joe Warwick (author of Where Chefs Eat).

To raise even more money on the night to help Action Against Hunger provide malnourished children with healthier futures in nearly 50 countries worldwide, guests will have the opportunity to bid on a host of exclusive and money-can’t-buy experiences and items in live and silent auctions.

“Too Many Critics is always one of the best nights of the year,” says Caroline Dyer of Action Against Hunger.

“Everyone, from critics to foodies, chefs and industry professionals, come together to help raise vital funds for Action Against Hunger in one big fun evening. We’re really looking forward to this year’s event at Dishoom and can’t wait to see which team of critics create the best dish.

“We’d love to top last year’s total of £24,000, and we’re really confident we can do it!”

Too Many Critics 2019 takes place on Monday 18th March at Dishoom Manchester.


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