A Very Stinky CheeseFest
Brighton + Food August 12, 2017
When CheeseFest first popped up on my Facebook a few months ago, it took about a second for me to click “Attending.” I bought two £5 tickets, one for me and one for Katy. This should be a first red flag: any time you need to pay to get into somewhere where you ALSO need to pay for everything else, it’s probably some kind of shady money grab.
But still, despite this and the fact that they never provided an actual list of vendors (we looked everywhere), we were excited. Finally, the day was here, and we headed down to Victoria Gardens (with Katy’s bestie, Richard) here in Brighton for some cheesy goodness.
Or so we thought.
This post was supposed to be really fun with lots of droolworthy pictures of cheese, but the truth is that the event was so bad that I actually only snapped a pic of my raclette to prove that I actually had some cheese after over an hour of waiting! This was one of many problems with the event, which I will go into now:
CheeseFest was way oversold
As soon as the event hit the Internet it was popular. They sold out most of their staggered entry slots for the Saturday. Then they added the Sunday. They also sold tickets at the door.
Victoria Gardens is not a very big park. It’s not much more than a glorified traffic meridian. Even with the staggered entry, there were queues to get into the little fenced-off area. Inside was packed. And there were about a dozen food vendors, a bar and an ice cream truck.
The wait in the queues was an hour long
We looked around at the stalls and were quite underwhelmed by the offerings of cheese toasties (I can make that at home!) and pizza. We did like the look of halloumi fries (Katy and I had the amazing ones at Camden Market before) and raclette, plus we needed drinks. A quick look showed that the queues for each of these vendors stretched from their respective kiosks to the other end of the space.
Strategically, we decided that I would wait in the halloumi line and Richard would get raclette, while Katy went to the shorter bar queue for drinks.
20 minutes into waiting in line and I had barely moved. Katy brought back drinks. We drank them, then waited another 40 minutes to get to the front of the queue. When we did, I noticed the halloumi was being dredged through flour, which meant no fried cheese for little coeliac me! Obviously that’s not CheeseFest’s fault, but it’s so unnecessary. The aforementioned halloumi fries at Camden Market were gluten free and came with a lovely topping. This came with some random sweet chili sauce. Katy and Richard said it wasn’t worth it.
We went back to where Richard was still waiting for raclette and those two downed their halloumi fries because they were starving at this point. I went and sat in the grass to read through CheeseFest tweets while they waited an additional 15 minutes for raclette. That’s over an hour and 15 minutes until we all had food!
Luckily the raclette was good and very filling.
A lot of the food sold out
While we were in the queues people began complaining about certain things being sold out. Again, this sort of thing does happen, but I distinctly remember someone asking if having a later staggered entry time would mean missing out on cheese, and CheeseFest’s Facebook page explicitly told them there would be enough to last all day.
The stand selling big slices of cheesecake were down to their last 5 when we arrived. I saw cheesecake pops at another kiosk, but I also saw a few people swiftly dump theirs in the bin after a quick taste. Perhaps cheesecake isn’t really the best thing to be eating on a hot summer day.
The things they promised were missing
Their marketing video boasted cheese such as cheese wheels, mozzarella sticks, fondue, nachos, baked camembert, and quiche… none of which were available. They also said there would be entertainment. There was a DJ but nothing they played seemed particularly entertaining. I overheard a few people saying they really missed the opportunity to play really cheesy music!
There was only one stall selling cheese
The event was marketed as selling cheese food items, so I mainly expected hot food vendors, but I was REALLY surprised that there was only one actual cheese vendor. They were one of the stands that sold out while we were there. It just seems bizarre that CheeseFest wouldn’t include more cheesemongers. We have excellent cheese offerings in Brighton, such as La Cave au Fromage. It would have been nice if they were on board… Although maybe they knew this event would not be successful and dodged a bullet!
CheeseFest’s response has been lacking
Of course, in this modern age of social media, the most important thing when something goes wrong is to look at how an organization deals with the fall out. Unfortunately, CheeseFest hasn’t been doing a great job. Firstly, they had the audacity to say that they didn’t anticipate how much cheese would be needed at CheeseFest. I mean, come on guys, it’s CHEESEFEST.
Then they really shot themselves in the foot by deleting the Facebook posts of disappointed customers. Not cool, CheeseFest. Not cool.
While we were there, we saw countless people leave upset. At one point there was a queue JUST to complain. And on our way out a man was arguing with one of the organizers about how crap it was. He turned to those of us leaving for support and we agreed wholeheartedly – in front of a group of people waiting in the queue to get in!
Cheesefest is planned as an ongoing event. Obviously there’s the extra Sunday in Brighton. Then it will be touring various places in the UK. Hopefully by the time they do, they will have a better grasp on how to run an event.
We will have to wait to see if that happens, but until then, CheeseFest will definitely be remembered as a stinker (and not one of the extremely smelly cheeses my girlfriend adores, either!).
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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