Visiting chef offers picnic perfection at Burghley Horse Trials

A much loved, non-equestrian tradition at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is the annual Tailgate Picnic competition, where enthusiastic diners are judged on their culinary creations by visiting celebrities. This year, the bar will be set high as they are to be scrutinised by Simon Rogan, the multi-award winning chef with three Michelin starred restaurants to his name.
Simon comments: “I’m hugely excited to be making my first visit to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials this year. I’ve been involved with horse racing at Ascot, Goodwood and our local track Cartmel for a number of years, but eventing is new to me. I’m in awe of the skills and bravery riders and their horses show, as they tackle those huge cross country fences.

“I’ll be looking forward to visiting Land Rover Burghley’s famous food walk and tasting some of the locally sourced and artisan produce on offer. And of course judging the best picnic will be great fun, I’ve heard that entrants take it very seriously, so I’m expecting to be wowed!”

Simon, who is well known for his love of the outdoors and use of foraged ingredients in his cooking, is ideally placed to advise on alfresco dining.

He says: “I have a house right on the beach in Sussex, it’s my ‘get away from it all’ house where I can escape from the pressures of work. As a family we love to go down onto the beach if the weather’s nice or even if it’s a bit moody, with a simple picnic and a few cans of pre-mixed gin and tonic (the best invention) looking out to sea.

“I was brought up in Southampton and my family still live there. I’ve many fond memories of visiting the beach in Bournemouth on a sunny summer’s day; before driving home through the New Forest, playing rounders or frisbee and then a final pub stop before getting back to the city.

“Having lived in the Lake District for eighteen years now, I am surrounded by stunning scenery every day. My favourite Cumbrian picnicking spots are on Coniston Lake, away from the crowds, or Wastwater, which has a special, desolate beauty.

“My ideal picnic guests would include my family and perhaps some of the most memorable individuals I’ve been lucky enough to meet through my restaurants. For example, tennis legend Roger Federer, Hollywood icon Brad Pitt and sporting stars Zara and Mike Tindall. Zara’s been sharing her equestrian knowledge with me and I’m a huge rugby fan, so getting to know Mike has been fantastic.

“My golden rules for a successful picnic are to keep it simple and don’t forget the corkscrew! Effort should be focussed on getting the preparation right, so that when you’re actually at your chosen picnic spot you can kick back and enjoy the experience with your friends and family.

“Keeping things cool is really important so it’s worth investing in a good cooler. I’d avoid foods like mayonnaise, which doesn’t travel well, and substitute with something like crème fraîche, which is more stable instead. Get creative with salads, they are simple and healthy and go for finger food, which is easy to eat without balancing a plate on your knees.

“It’s easy to transform something ordinary to extraordinary with a sprinkling of wild herbs, or fresh cold watercress. And finally always remember the wet wipes!”

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