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Popcorn has found its cool. Everyone from top chefs to fashionistas are digging in.
Popcorn has grown up. Once the preserve of kids’ parties and cinema trips, the humble corn kernel has in the past year popped up at London Fashion Week – models were given bags to nibble on backstage – the Olympics, and in hip bars and restaurants from Shoreditch to Dubai.
Admittedly, popcorn may not be a new culinary concept – El Bulli’s Ferran Adrià was using it as a base for his dishes as far back as 2005 – but it has taken a surprising amount of time to catch on, especially given its versatility. ‘Everyone does crisps with drinks, but popcorn is a great base for chefs to work with: fresher, healthier and a much cheaper way of serving snacks to large groups of people,’ says Chris Lester, executive chef at Caprice Holdings. At the Rivington Grill, you’ll find British flavours: roast beef with a horseradish cream and ‘Eton mess’ (covered with strawberry powder, with a whipped cream dip).
Popcorn even has its own boutique...in Notting Hill, no less. POP (tel: 020 7127 4621) aims to surprise customers with an array of eccentric, naturally seasoned flavours, including Yorkshire rhubarb and custard, mulled wine, and English toffee and sea salt.
However, the kernel’s biggest coup is a hijack of the aperitif line-up in the official hospitality suite at the London Games last year. Who ever saw a bag of Wotsits paired with vintage Champagne?
If the snack’s newfound status is still in doubt, it needs no further endorsement than the double act of Waitrose and gastro-wizard Heston Blumenthal. The chef’s new range of popcorn is flying off the shelves and into middle-class homes as we speak.
This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events, spring 2013.