It’s been a busy year for Paul Askew, Chef Patron of The Art School in Liverpool, so we sat down with him for a chat.

Find out what’s coming up for Christmas, some 2022 highlights and the plans at The Art School for Eurovision. 

You can find out more about The Art School and their upcoming Christmas menu on their website here and all about what's going on at Barnacle on their website here. 

Christmas is just around the corner, tell us what you have planned for The Art School.

It’s been a strange year all round but the build up to Christmas is always exciting and it's the time of year that we all look forward to, particularly at The Art School. We've got some fabulous food lined up, from amazing venison to salt aged duck and some really festive desserts too. And the restaurant looks especially fantastic during the festive season. 

It's going to be a busy Christmas and we've got some special events around Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but also we're looking to expand on our successes in The Art School Cellars with some live music and a light bites menu. So if you're popping over to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall for a show, come in for a little cheese platter, some nice scallops or some charcuterie.

It's going to be a very exciting month, I think people are in the mood to have a good time after all the trials and tribulations of this year and let's hope that we've got a bright 2023 to look forward to but at The Art School, we’re definitely gearing up for some great things to come.  

You also run Barnacle at Duke street Market, what are the plans for this venue this Christmas?

So at Barnacle, our sister restaurant at the mezzanine of Duke Street Market, we've just celebrated our 1st birthday! I can't believe how fast that year has flown by.  For the first birthday party we hosted a special tasting menu which also marks the launch of Christmas.

The team have done an amazing job - we got into the Michelin Guide after four months and we’re planning for 2023 now too, there’s lots more to come.

I'm really excited that it's our first proper Christmas because having opened on the 1st of December last year we sort of got a taste of what Christmas might be like at Barnacle. Now we've got our own following, I think the team will get a real taste of what Christmas on the mezzanine of Duke Street Market feels like.

We have special menus on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, with festive menus running right the way through celebrating all things Liverpool City Region. We actually have a 35 mile radius around the restaurant for our suppliers, as we do at The Art School, where we choose our produce from. One of the big highlights that's going on the menu at Barnacle is organic Turkey from the Rhug Estate in North Wales which I adore. You'll see more and more organic free range produce from our little radius coming more into play on the menus. It's all about celebrating the amazing farms, artisans and cultivators who surround the region and they help inform our ethos around sustainability and seasonality.

What else have you got coming up from The Art School you can tell us about?

One of the really exciting things coming up that we've been working on behind-the-scenes over the last few months is we've been selected to cook for the Turner Prize Award ceremony. It’s at St. George's Hall for 350 guests and we've got a live link up with The One Show on the BBC.

It’s basically the Oscars of the art world so for us it's an amazing honour, following on from cooking for the G7 delegation last December. Here we are sitting in the old fine art faculty of John Moores University and now we’re catering for iconic award ceremonies. I'm really chuffed about that and I think again it's a chance for us to show off Liverpool City Region produce, local chefs and local people delivering a world class service. It’s another big tick for Liverpool, another big event. The Turner Prize has a certain flair about it and it's a big tick for us. Myself and the team are really looking forward to it. It’s on Wednesday 7th December, only around the corner now, and we're going to make it a fantastic night.

What have been some of your highlights from 2022?

The highlights for 2022 for me was The Grand National. I think the city was so pleased to see the Grand National back, the famous atmosphere missing for the previous two years, it felt like we were all sort of literally chomping at the bit for want of a better expression. It was an incredibly strong turnout and people were up for a big party and some racing fun. It was our first time with The Art School at Aintree which went really well so we're back again planning for next year.

Then I think the biggest highlight for me was Taste Liverpool. Drink Bordeaux on the Jubilee Weekend in June. Those four days were incredible. From the Liverpool Town Hall wine tastings to us hosting the Bordeaux Bar ua Vin at Martins Bank Bulding and The Bombed Out Church chef demos, to every restaurant that took part with their own signature dish for the weekend. The feedback that we had both from the guests and from the Bordeaux delegation was absolutely off the scale so we're going to be looking forward to working with them again.

It was just such a great celebratory time obviously with the Jubilee but also Liverpool needed its food and drink festival back. We haven't had one for a couple of years so I think it was a great moment.

Then coming into autumn we had the amazing World Gymnastics Championships and we were very lucky to host the organising committee here at The Art School. They were all intrigued about the Georgian Quarter and the food culture, it was great to get the chance to talk to them.

And then of course there's the small matter of an announcement for this little thing called Eurovision, which we're looking forward to very much and is fantastic news for the city region.

On the subject of Eurovision, what have you got planned for The Art School and Barnacle during this time?

When the news came about Eurovision, one of the first things that came to mind for me was how we're going to look after all these amazing visitors coming from all over the world. For me it's important that we show off Liverpool as the amazing wonderful city and party central place that we all know it is.

You couldn't have asked for a better city to host, I just think we’re made for each other. For me it's about the food culture and also a nod to Ukraine to say so much thanks to them. What we're going to do at The Art School, and I'm hoping others will as well, is we're going to do a special Eurovision menu during the month of May and we're going to have some Ukrainian influenced dishes. 

We work with some forages in the Ukrainian forests getting wild mushrooms, little baby pine cones and lots of truffles as well. I'm really trying to work some of the produce and ideas from Eastern Europe into our menus which will be offered for three weeks of the Eurovision. Those menus will go live for us in January as we open our diary for May and really start encouraging visitors to the city to taste Liverpool ingredients but with a nod to Eastern Europe so I think it's going to be cool.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Looking at next year once Christmas is done, we’ll be looking forward to The Grand National then we'll be going straight from that to Eurovision in May which will be phenomenal for the city. Then from there we've got The Liverpool Biennial, then The 151st Open and so it goes on. We’ve got an amazing list of events for the city so I think, although things are tough at the moment, there's a lot to look forward to. We’ve just got to focus on how we get through this bit now and come out the other side and I do think 2023 is going to be a great year for hospitality in the city and I hope the UK, too.

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