DON’T be alarmed if an astroturf garden, patio set and Mediterranean sun terrace pop up in your local supermarket car park.

It’s just part of an elaborate new campaign to inspire us to take our eating habits into the great outdoors.

A roadshow has been winging its way around the county to spread the gospel of alfresco dining.

It is the brainchild of Brian George, trained chef, self-styled grill-king and managing director of Brand Belief, who created the Gastro Alfresco campaign. Most recently he brought his demonstrations to Tesco in Basildon, Colchester and Rayleigh.

His shows include cooking demonstrations, inspirational recipe tips and information on the lifestyle benefits of switching off the television and taking your meals into the garden.

Brian explains: “Eating outside has become more than a burnt sausage in a ketchup-covered bap. Over the years there has been a big swing towards a Mediterranean lifestyle.”

Brian began his career owning a country pub in the West Country, where his cooking earned him a place in the Good Food Guide and the moniker, King of the Grill, among his contemporaries.

In 1996 he founded and launched national barbecue week, which runs every year at the end of May and beginning of June. This year marked its 17th event and it has been listed in the top five national awareness campaigns.

But barbecues are just a small part of what Brian is hoping to achieve with his alfresco dining campaign.

“They used to be a focal point, but they are not anymore,” Brian insists.

“People used to only go into their garden to water plants or have a barbecue, but that has all changed. We want to spread the message and increase the buzz about alfresco dining, not just with barbecues, but lots of different foods.”

Moving away from hotdogs, charred chicken drumsticks and burgers in buns, the campaign suggests numerous recipes ideal for outdoor dining.

Brian adds: “Pizzas, for example, are an absolutely natural alfresco food. People don’t realise, but a pizza cooked on a barbecue or chiminea is perfect.

“It’s commonplace in Italy, but we can’t find a pizza brand to sponsor that message over here, which is frustrating.

“This campaign is about changing the way people think about food and their dining space.”

The campaign, now in its 17th year, has proved a hit with big-name brands, with Schloer, Boursin, San Miguel, Brancott Est-ate wine and Starbucks all signing up as official sponsors. It remains on the road until the end of August and expects to reach more than 75,000 people.

An accompanying website offers recipes for salt-bath sardines, chicken ciabatta, Corsican cote de boeuf and honey-drenched grilled nectarines.

Shoppers can stop and sample foods and drinks and watch cooking demos.

But what of the notoriously fickle British weather ruining garden party plans, as we all know it can?

Brian insists people’s investments in garden shelters, canopies and gazebos has put paid to the in or out dilemma.

“We have had fantastic weather this year, but we are in Britain, so it could turn grey and rubbish just like that,” he says. “But sunshine or rain is not as much of an influence as it used to be.”

Dining outside on a nice day, or beneath the shelter of a gazebo, may well be pleasant. But Brian believes there are lifestyle benefits to going alfresco too.

“Eating outside is taking over from Sunday lunch as a way to get the family together for a meal,” he suggests. “But it also a healthy way of dining.

“The kind of food that fits the style is healthy, fresh and usually includes vegetables. But it is also the antithesis of fast food.

“You will eat at a more leisurely pace, which is better for your digestive system.”

For more information and recipes visit www.gastro-alfresco.