Named as one of the six Cities of Circus by Circus250, Newcastle Under-Lyme will bustle with celebrations throughout the month of April, to honour the title. To get the party started, the city play host to Lexicon, the brand new show from NoFit State.
So with the circus in town, I sat down with Tour Cook, Alex Whittall, to chat all things food and to find out how she fuels the travelling circus whilst on the road.
“It is a combination of thinking ahead and planning. Even now, although we are here in Stoke till May, I am already looking ahead as to where I’m going to get my food from when we move to Brighton,” she said.
“I’ve started to contact food suppliers in Brighton who can bring me fresh food supplies because I try not to use supermarkets, although I need to occasionally. Foods that I need in bulk like courgettes and cucumbers for example, are reasonably priced and I need to be really careful with the budget.
“It is not a big budget and I need to make abundance with not very much, and that requires a lot of creative energy.”
Alex, said: “Today for example, I went to Sainsbury’s because we’d ran out of coffee and oil, and I know I can get it at a competitive price there. When I am super organised, I will get the wholesalers to bring it in, but it is not always going to work out for me that way.
“All in all, I have found that it is all about finding out what and who the local suppliers are. I have already been into the town and sourced a deal with the local butchers and started to get meat from them. I am waiting to hear back from a local bakery as well, because we want to use local businesses as much as we can.
“I mean, it takes a bit more work, but it is really nice to be able to make it more interactive with the places we visit rather than just passing by.”
At the moment, whilst the show is setting up, Alex is a one-woman band and prepares two meals a day for a team of up to 50 people.
“We will be having about 150 youth circus performers join us in a couple of weeks as well, so I have got a couple of extra chefs coming then, but now for 40/50 people it is just me and that is why I am tired.
“Everyone is really busy at the moment, so I can’t ask them for too much help. We are all doing six day weeks, where a typical day starts at 9.30am and most people are still working away in the tent for hours and don’t often leave until after 10pm. Some of the performers are even starting to do evening sessions as well, so as you can imagine it is a very demanding time at this stage.”
Before the tour began, Alex requested nutritional information from the crew and performers to know what she needed, to be mindful of when preparing and designing her meal plans. But most importantly, Alex considers the ethics behind her sources and the happiness that her meals bring.
“I am a healing cook and that means I work with food as a form of medicine. I put as much nutrition into every meal as I possibly can and work to make people healthy. It is all about food consciousness. My ethos and my own personal company ethos, is very similar to the ethos of No Fit State.
“My company ethos is earth-friendly, so unlike your average caterer, I won’t buy products from companies that massacre the earth. I buy from local suppliers as much as I can because where I source the food from is a really important aspect for me. Although the budget doesn’t permit all the food to be organic, by preference I’d love to have everything from an organic source, but I just can’t do that.
“However, I won’t compromise on milk. The milk is always organic no matter where we travel to and our eggs have to be free-range. In Stoke, I’ve found a local supplier who provides fresh fruit and vegetables – they are not organic but it’s always fresh.
“I also cook seasonally. So today, we had garlic jacket potato, with loads of fresh salad, served up with a batch of local oatcakes. I did this to make everyone happy and to make sure they’ve got a really balanced diet. That is what makes food medicine for me.
“I would say about a third of the company are now vegetarian – they love fresh food, they love salads and most of the people who work here love a colourful, fresh diet. So, one of my principal aims is to keep it fresh, clean, healthy and exciting.”
Not only is Alex a seasoned chef and nutritionist, but she also qualified as a complimentary therapist when she was 27.
“I trained in massage and reflexology and I mainly use it through my healing and therapy techniques. I suppose the link with that on some level is the earth and food and making sure that we look after ourselves.”
Tickets for Lexicon are still available. For more dates and information head to http://nofitstate.org/.