Chances are you won’t have heard of Terry Edwards and George Craig. By this time next year, chances are you won’t be able to avoid them. The pair are on a mission to put a little Northern soul back into Britain’s food scene and while they haven’t been offered a television deal (yet) it must surely only be a matter of time. Think Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty, only with flatter vowels.
Terry is the chef of the partnership and cites the likes of Marco Pierre White and Keith Floyd among his early influences growing up in Liverpool. George, from Helmsley in North Yorkshire, isn’t professionally trained, but he loves food. He also has an eye for design and as a member of the indie band One Night Only and a former model for Burberry he also adds a large dollop of cool.
They met in York in what Terry describes as one of the city’s “sticky-floored music venues” back in 2009. He was enjoying a week off from working for Paul Heathcote and was helping out a friend’s band. George was back home in Yorkshire taking a break from recording a second album. Less than a year later both were living in London and the seeds of their new foodie vision was beginning to form.
“My mum is an amazing cook and I’ve always loved food, but you don’t develop fine culinary tastes being in a band,” says George. “From leaving school I had pretty much spent my life on tour eating junk food. Meals were just fuel, they weren’t really anything more than that.
“But something changed when I met Terry and we were both living in London. At that time the capital’s street food scene was just really starting to take off, so for the first time you could go out and sample some really interesting food for free. It was a bit of an eye-opener and gradually the pair of us began cooking for friends.
“At the time I was running a club night in Camden and for the Christmas party Terry made these wicked Jack Daniels mince pies and a great spiced mulled cider. People went crazy for them. It was a great night, but it was the reaction to the food that was especially mind-blowing as people kept coming up to me and asking where they could sample more of our food. We realised then that we wanted to start doing pop-up events.”
While London is now awash with similar ventures, Terry and George, who will host their first event in Leeds next month, believe they have something a little different to offer. Mostly it’s their tongue firmly in their cheek.
Their Stag Party “venison”-themed menu was swiftly followed by the Hen Party pop-up where every dish featured chicken. Then there was their Northern Invasion which included their own take on fish and chips, toad in the hole and parkin, all washed down with a martini whose central ingredient was Yorkshire rhubarb.
“We have so much fun cooking together,” says George. “We’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other and I know that in many homes it’s not one person doing the cooking for everyone else. Everyone chips in and helps and the place becomes the place to hang out, listen to music over a glass of wine and catch up while peeling spuds or getting the chicken in the oven. We’ve always tried to capture that relaxed, fun approach in our pop-up events.”
Then there’s the music. Perhaps not surprisingly, given that George is the frontman of an indie band, the soundtrack to each night is almost as important as the food. At Northern Invasion, guests ate while the likes of Verve, the Human League and the Stone Roses played and at Vegucation, Marvin Gaye’s The Onion Song was an obvious choice.
“When we were having friends round in those early days, while we were cooking we’d give them charge of the iPod and get them to pick what songs they wanted to listen to,” says George. “Music is hugely important to what we do and we just want people to have fun.”
With the London pop-up scene now saturated, Terry and George are now bringing their formula north, staging three consecutive weekends of events at Lambert’s Yard in Leeds.
“It’s great for us both to be coming back north,” says George. “The food scene in Leeds is really thriving, but unlike London it hasn’t reached peak pop-up. There are some great restaurants doing some really interesting things and what we want to do is throw a giant party.”
The Leeds events will also mark the publication of the pair’s first, but probably not last, cookbook. Most of the recipes are those which they have previously prepared at pop-up events and every chapter is accompanied by a playlist of suitable songs. “Being in the band is great and I probably wouldn’t have met Terry without it,” says George, who adds that while One Night Only haven’t split, the band has come to a natural pause. “Ten years is a long time and I think all of us felt that it was the right time to have a go at doing other things. It’s not the end of One Night Only. I am sure that we will all play together again, but now this is what I really want to put all my time and energy into. At the moment I feel like more of a businessman than a musician.
“When I think back to the kind of food I was eating on the first tour with the band I can’t believe how much has changed. In the last few years, whenever we have been in the recording studio together I’ve been the designated chef. I love it. I’ll cook up a big stew or treat the lads to a beef Wellington.
“It’s not just about the food. We’ll all sit round the table together, switch off from work and relax. For me, the biggest buzz you get from cooking a meal for friends or family is seeing them enjoy themselves.
“I was only thinking the other day how funny life turns out. Six years ago I was playing Glastonbury and now look what I’m doing. If you’d have told me I’d have been launching a cookbook and running pop-up restaurants I don’t think I’d have believed you.”
So remember Terry and George, you’re likely to hear their names a lot more.
Terry and George will be at Lambert’s Yard, Leeds, on July 15&16, August 12, 13, 19&20. Tickets for their eight-course tasting menu cost £35 and can be bought at checkonpresents.co.uk
• Their new book, Terry & George Feeding Friends, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20.