IN the village of Chinnor you will find a café serving beautiful homemade cakes and tempting lunch time snacks. And behind the counter you will find celebrity cook, Lotte Duncan. With a published cookbook under her belt, numerous appearances on television and a judge for the Observer Food Awards you would think she would have enough on her plate. But Lotte is also patron of the increasingly popular Thame Food Festival, which is getting even bigger this year.

As I was chatting to Lotte in her homely café, Lotte's Kitchen in Chinnor, and jotting down what she had achieved. After a long list, she then said 'So at that point I was 21'. I had to do a double take as I looked at my list. She had already worked at two restaurants in Thame, completed a cordon bleu course, travelled to Switzerland and cooked for the likes of David Bowie, gone to LA to run a diner and worked at a restaurant in Oxford. She then had her daughter, Daisy.

And since then the TV cook has continued to excel in the food world- including opening her café two years ago.

She said: "Everything here is hand made. We don't buy in sandwich filling- we buy in the chicken and make it up.

"That is really important to get across to people. "All our cakes are handmade. People often say where do you get your cakes?

"It works very well for us. That is because everyone who comes in gets a hello or smile- they never get ignored."

Her business partner is also her neighbour, Sue Tiplady, who has a degree in hotel catering management. Beforehand the premises was a greengrocer and they turned it around in six weeks.

Lotte said: "On the day it opened we hadn't even got table numbers. I didn't know how to work the till or the coffee machine or credit card machine.

"I could hear Sue's voice getting higher and higher. I had my daughter Daisy on the deli fridge.

"We didn't know what we were doing.

"People were queuing at 10am, as if we would never be open again. "At the end of the day we all sat down and realised we would have to do it all again the next day."

They no longer have a deli fridge, but do sell local produce and also giftware.

But her café is just a small part of her empire. She started on TV about 15 years ago on BBC's Ready Steady Cook as one of the chefs. In 2005, Lotte starred in ITV1’s Dial a Mum and has presented two of her own series on Carlton called Simply Puddings and Feast Days and Holidays.

She now does a huge amount with the Food Network channel.

Lotte said: "That brings up a lot of other things too. I was at the BBC Good Food Show last month and asked to host a stage. I was asked to interview all the chefs every 15 minutes.

"The thing is about all the chefs- they are friends- Mary Berry, James Martin, Paul Hollywood.

"I know them all from programmes.

"I hadn't worked with Gregg Wallace before- he was with John Torode. He was lovely.

"I interviewed the winner of the Bake Off, John Whaite, and Natalie Coleman who just won Masterchef.

"I was really nervous- there were 41 interviews over five days.

"Natalie came running up to me and said I have always watched you on TV. And that made me feel at ease.

"We had a laugh. They were all lovely and all nice people."

She also ran a cookery demonstration school for eight years, doing demos at the beautiful homes in the The National Gardens Scheme booklet.

Lotte then extended her cottage kitchen and did demos at home from 2006 to 2010. She is also a Cuisinart ambassador, which is a brand of cookwear, and a judge for Observer Food awards.

She released her book, Lotte's Country Kitchen in 2010. Lotte describes her style as English country cooking.

And she is also a patron for Thame Food Festival, which is now in its sixth year. 20,000 people went to the one day event last year.

Lotte said: "It is huge. Last year we shut off half of Thame. We started off with half a dozen stalls around the town centre. This year we are shutting off the whole of Thame."

And celebrity chef Raymond Blanc is ambassador for the event. His hotel, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons sponsors the event. She said: "Raymond Blanc is fantastic for us. He is a great pull on the day. They really have been amazing and continue to be."

Other sponsors this year include McCormick, Schwartz, Waitrose, Aga, South Oxfordshire District Council and The Thatch.

Two double decker buses will transfer visitors to and from Thame Show Ground where they can park.

This year there are two food demonstration stages with demos from Mike North, Beverley Glock, Laurie Gear from The Artichoke, Nigel Rumsey from Rumsey's Handmade Chocolate Masters, Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi from Bray, Anita Thakker, Shaun Dickens from The Boathouse in Henley, David Mooney and Adam Simmonds from Danesfield House.

Lotte and Raymond will also be doing demos. Ken Bruce and Jim 'Jams' Davies will be compering. And of course there are hundreds of stalls of British produce from the surrounding area and beyond.

Lotte said: "We do taste everything. We taste the samples. It is important we don't just take anything.

"Also it is important to say the chefs do not get paid- they support food producers and local food.

"Customers are more discerning. People who come to Thame Food Festival are very food orientated. They know what they want and are prepared to pay for quality produce."

Thame Food Festival is on September 28 from 9am to 5pm. Entry is free. For more details go to

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