A culinary challenge to eat a dish from each of the 204 countries taking part in the Games before the closing ceremony of the Paralympics on 9 Sept.

When Jack Hemingway and Sarah Kemp failed to get the tickets they wanted for the London Olympics, they decided to get involved another way. Setting themselves a challenge to eat a dish from each of the 204 countries taking part in the games before the closing ceremony of the Paralympics on 9th September, they launched a blog – Eat The Olympics – to chart their highs and lows as they went about their feat.

Currently 84 dishes down, they are building on the success of their blog by launching an Eat the Olympics Supper Club (running from 28th to 11th August) through which they will host six events, each covering a different continent during the course of the games. We caught up with Sarah to find out more.

The idea for Eat the Olympics came about… in the middle of winter when we were both a bit glum after failing to get the Olympics tickets we wanted. We both love cooking and spend a lot of our time in the kitchen and decided to challenge ourselves by cooking a dish from every country taking part in the Olympics. Jack designed the blog the next day and we got cracking in the kitchen.

So far… we have completed 120 recipes now. We have another 84 to go.

Our favourite dish… has been a Ghurka Egg Curry from Nepal. It’s definitely going to be a permanent fixture on our recipe list when we resume normal life.

We have found most of our recipes online… We have also been sent some cook books that we have taken recipes from.

I have loved the learning aspect of the challenge… We took a trip to Morocco in May to learn about the cuisine over there and I flew to Brazil to experience Brazilian cuisine in June. When we started the challenge we never imagined that we would be able to explore the countries fist hand so that has been an incredible bonus. It has also given us both the travelling bug and, as a result, we’re keen to explore more of the world.

We haven’t enjoyed… the week nights slaving away in the kitchen when we’re tired after work. At times the challenge has felt like a weight on our shoulders, especially during that sunny spell when we just wanted to be outside

Our backgrounds are mixed… I have worked in food PR for three year and have written a food blog – foodforthink.com - for the same amount of time. Jack has no foodie background as such, but was taught how to cook very well from a young age. For him, family life revolved around the oven, hobs and the kitchen table.

Our marking process for each dish is… quite subversive really. We judge dishes mostly on taste, but it has to look good too. Jack is a designer and has a very critical eye so if it doesn't look up to scratch, he will not award it a ‘Gold’. I’m a little fairer on appearance but critical on taste.

A good example of a disagreement was… when we cooked an Albanian lamb dish for a big group of people. The lamb was baked in yoghurt and it resembled a kind of yoghurt based toad in the hole. It was a little odd but myself and the rest of the group found it delicious. Jack couldn't get past the way it looked and for that reason alone he wanted to disqualify it.

So far, we have disqualified… a banana and peanut butter biscuit from Vanuatu and a sweet potato cake from Cameroon. We are unsure whether the recipes were wrong, or we just didn’t like the way the dishes were supposed to be. The banana and peanut biscuits were totally inedible and the sweet potato cake was very odd – strange lumpy texture and unbelievably sweet from all of the added sugar. Won’t be doing them again…

The idea for the Supper Club arose… after we bought our first flat in Queen’s Park, west London, in May. We are waiting for permission to knock a wall down and, as there is no furniture to move out the way and we will be decorating when the supper club has finished anyway, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. We are drafting in help from some very crafty fingered friends so it will be a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

The Olympic event I am most looking forward to is… the gymnastics. Jack is looking forward to the 100m men’s final. We probably won’t be cooking when watching – we’ll be glued to the TV screen for once!

The Olympians I would most like to have at my dream dinner party would be… Tom Daley, Daley Thompson, Denise Lewis, Seb Coe, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy, Steven Redgrave and, most of all, Roger Banister – simply because he was such a ground-breaking athlete at a time where athletics was not seen to be a full time occupation.

The amount of worldwide recognition we have received for Eat the Olympics… has been fantastic and it would be a shame to let that go when the games are over. We will no doubt come up with another food-related idea to get our teeth into. One day, I’d love to open a café or deli, so you could say this is good groundwork for that!

Follow Jack and Sarah, share recipes and join in the fun at Eattheolympics.com or on Twitter @eattheolympics.

Tickets to the Eat the Olympics Supper Club cost £30 each. To find out more about the event and buy tickets, click here eattheolympics.com/supperclub.

Bookings are available for the following dates:

West Indies - Saturday 28th July 7pm
Asia - Sunday 29th July 2pm
Middle East - Friday 3rd August 7pm
South America - Saturday 4th August 7pm
Central Africa - Friday 10th August 7pm
Europe - Saturday 11th August 7pm

Interview by Emily Jenkinson

25 July 2012