Pop-up restaurants, a feasting tent, a vintage tea marquee, a kitchen market, a real ale and cider farm, children’s cookery events and a chilli-eating challenge – there’s something for everyone at the Foodies Festival, coming to Kenwood House this weekend, and one person in particular is very much looking forward to it – MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 finalist Adam Handling.

“This will be my first ever food festival,“ says the 25-year-old Scot who is head chef at Caxton Grill in St James’s Park, where he leads a team of 22.

“I’m a bit nervous – but then I get nervous before a dinner service at the restaurant.“

Adam is going to be demonstrating a chicken and lobster dish – “it’s quite unusual to put those two together, but I think it’s a lovely combination“ – as well as a chocolate orange dessert, and will be answering questions about his career, his experience on MasterChef, and his recent win of the British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year award 2014.

Adam began his cooking life as a child in his mother Philippa’s kitchen, helping her to bake ‘all things sweet’, and turned professional at the age of 15 ‘to prove her wrong’.

“The rule for my four sisters, two brothers and me was that we had to go to university,“ says Adam, who was born in Dundee, but travelled around with his army father, “but I didn’t want to do that, so my mum said to me that I could get an apprenticeship as a mechanic or a chef or in any trade I wanted, but it had to be with a high-end establishment – or I couldn’t leave school. I sent my stuff off and my dad took me to my interviews and I was offered the very first chef apprenticeship ever at Gleneagles Hotel.“

After Gleneagles, Adam moved to London to work for six months, then to a restaurant in Newcastle where he worked his way up to sous chef, and then became the youngest ever head chef within the Fairmont Group at Fairmont St Andrews, achieving two AA rosettes for the restaurant and winning numerous awards including Scottish Young Chef of the Year 2011.

Adam was at St Andrews for three years before taking nine months out to travel the world.

“I was going crazy,“ he says, “I was beginning not to enjoy cooking any more so I went off travelling. I spent a lot of time in Asia and came back the mellowest person ever!“

A new attitude wasn’t all that Adam brought back with him – every dish he creates for Caxton Grill has an Asian influence, mostly Japanese.

“I use ingredients like ponzu or uzu or different types of soy sauce to enhance the dishes and make them a little bit more exciting,“ Adam explains. “The Japanese ethos of food is incredible and the flavours are amazing.“

Adam started work at the Caxton Grill a few weeks after his return to the UK in 2012, and in February of the following year found himself on MasterChef, after his ‘missus’ entered him for it, making it through to the final where he lost out to Steven Edwards.

“It’s kind of put me up on a pedestal, which means that if I fall off or do something wrong, loads more people are going to talk about it,“ he laughs, “but it was a great experience.“

  • Adam Handling appears at the Foodies Festival is at Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Hampstead, on Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31 at 2.30pm. Details: foodiesfestival.com