A Lancashire hotel is hosting 21 chefs with 17 Michelin stars over 18 nights
January is typically considered a quiet month for the hotel and restaurant trade.
Many venues struggle to fill seats as guests look to save money, eat more healthily, cut down on alcohol, or avoid travelling in bad weather.
But Northcote - a luxury independent country house hotel in Lancashire, close to picturesque Whalley and the Forest of Bowland - is bucking the trend as guests flock there for one of Europe's premier gastronomic events.
21 chefs and thousands of guests
Since Obsession's creation by Nigel Haworth in 2001, award-winning guest chefs have travelled from all over the world to showcase their unique menus at Northcote.
This year, 21 chefs (with an impressive 17 Michelin stars between them) are taking over the kitchens during the 18 night event.
Overall, 124 dishes will be created by the Obsession chefs, to be enjoyed by the 1942 guests who have booked tickets.
To complement the food, 94 different wines will be served from 18 countries, along with 3800 glasses of champagne.
Truly global cuisine
Northcote is no stranger to fine dining and excellent wines.
The restaurant has held a Michelin star for over 20consecutive years, with inspired menus by Nigel Haworth and Lisa Goodwin-Allen utilising ingredients from Lancashire’s great larder.
Gary Usher's octopus cooked in its own juices (Photo: Obsession)
But Obsession takes the appetite for world class dining to another level, with chefs this year travelling from renowned restaurants in India, Russia, Japan, and Mexico, as well as several locations in the UK.
The diverse international line-up guarantees a wide-ranging variety of cuisines to entice guests.
Chefs sharing ideas
For organiser Nigel Haworth, the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas from around the globe is one of the most stimulating aspects of the event.
“Sharing ideas has got to be one of the most important and inspirational things we can do in cookery and we’re in a privileged position that the Obsession 18 chefs are open to sharing their ideas with us," says Haworth.
Crumpet with savoury hazelnut butter by chef Gary Usher (Photo: Obsession)
Top international chefs cooking at this year’s event include Hiroshi Nakamichi (who has three Michelin stars at Moliere in Japan), and Juan Amador, who holds two stars at Amador’s in Vienna.
Closer to home, chefs representing the UK include Michelin-starred Jason Atherton, Tom Kitchin and Lisa Goodwin-Allen.
“I’m especially looking forward to the South American influences, as well as the usual array of UK talent,” reveals Haworth.
“We have some great young English chefs cooking, such as Tommy Banks, Gary Usher, Nelly Robinson and my son, Kirk Haworth, who will bring a really youthful, new wave feel to proceedings.”
Dinner with Gary Usher
Having experienced dinner prepared by guest chef Gary Usher and his team, it is easy to see why customers are so eager to attend Obsession.
A chef, a restaurateur, an internet sensation and a crowdfunding superstar, Usher has created a special place for himself in the UK’s dining scene over recent years.
Usher honed his culinary skills with Angela Hartnett (York and Albany), Bruce Poole (Chez Bruce) and Andrew McLeish (Chapter One) before opening Sticky Walnut in the Chester suburb of Hoole in 2011, and his acclaimed restaurants across the North West now include Burnt Truffle, Hispi and Wreckfish.
Chef and restaurateur brings his own unique menu to Obsession this year (Photo: Obsession)
His Obsession menu was playful and flawlessly executed, from the perfect little crumpet with savoury hazelnut butter to hispi cabbage roasted in lamb fat, octopus cooked in its own juices, and deep-fried quail with plump Armagnac-soaked prunes.
A rich yet exceptionally light dark chocolate tart with crisp honeycomb pieces was simply delightful.
13,432 plates served (and washed up)
By all accounts, the chefs taking part in Obsession seem to enjoy the experience as much as the guests.
Since 2001, 139 chefs have taken part in the event, journeying from all continents except the Antarctic.
Northcote's kitchen is surprisingly calm during Obsession (Photo: Obsession)
Famous Obsession alumni include three Michelin star Japanese chef, Hideaki Matsuo, Simon Rogan, Angela Hartnett, Brett Graham, Tom Sellers, and Ken Hom OBE.
In total, 13,432 plates will be served (and washed up) during the 2018 event – though a tour of the kitchen revealed a quiet, calm and meticulously organised space.
Obsession 18 runs until 4 February 2018, with tickets from £140 - northcote.com