Lichfield Food Festival success

Mon, 03/09/2012 - 01:00

John Torode book signingThousands of people flock to the first ever Lichfield Food Festival on 1 and 2 September 2012.

The Chairman of Lichfield District Council, Councillor Ken Humphreys, cut the ribbon, on Saturday 1 September, formally launching Lichfield Food Festival. 

From seven local master chefs and celebrity chefs John Torode and Antony Worall Thompson cooking up a storm in the Lichfield Garrick, to a special Farmers' Market, through to the Best of British Brewing Festival and much more, foodies from across the region were spoilt for choice over the weekend.

Reflecting on gastronomic two days, Adrian Jackson, Artistic and Executive Director of the Lichfield Garrick, said: "As it was our first food festival, we hoped it would be popular, and we weren't disappointed.

"Around 6,000 people came to the Lichfield Garrick, watching seven free cookery demonstrations in the Food Theatre, visiting 19 food stalls in the Food Studio, and sampling wine in the Vineyard in the Sky wine bar.

"We had some amazing comments from festival goers and we're delighted it was such a hit."

Lichfield City was crowded with people visiting the various food festival venues and local shops and restaurants over the festival weekend.

Restaurants on the World Food Trail, which offered £10 set menus, were packed with diners. Many festival-goers also followed the Ale and Wine Trail, sampling wine and ale for £3 a glass at venues across the city and jotting down their thoughts about the tipples on special tasting note cards.

Tippers in Lichfield's Britannia Business Park hosted two free cookery demonstrations, featuring celebrity chef Nick Nairn, on Saturday 2 September.

The 100-strong audience in both two shows saw the Great British Menu chef expertly prepare three courses on the Falcon induction range cooker. There was handmade spaghetti with crab, chilli, garlic, lemon and parsley for the starter. Nick prepared tarragon chicken with morels and chestnut mushrooms served with sautéed potatoes and runner beans for the main, and for desert he finished off with a raspberry soufflé.

Amy Tipper said: "The demonstrations were great. Nick was so engaging, involving the audience, even getting children to turn the handle of the pasta machine. He made beautiful but accessible food. I even went home and tried a soufflé that night, which I'd never have dared try before - and it rose!"

On Saturday Antony Worall Thompson took to the stage in the Lichfield Garrick, preparing a range of chicken dishes, including Asian wings and stuffed chicken breast. He then answered questions from the audience and signed copies of his cookbook, Slow Cooking, in the theatre's Green Room Bar.

Lichfield Arts' Best of British Brewing Festival in the Guildhall's Guildroom was packed with people over the weekend that tasted and bought Real Ale, while enjoying the musical entertainment.

On Sunday, Lichfield's Market Square was heaving with people who came to Lichfield City Council's special Farmers' Market. 48 stalls offered a variety of wares, including a hog roast, cheese and olives, cupcakes, Caribbean sauces and cakes, Asian curry, chocolate decorated fruit and more. There was also a selection of art and craft stalls that proved popular.

Sunday saw the judging of the Jubilee Cake Competition in the Guildhall. Entries into the contest included chocolate, vanilla, lemon, rum and spiced cakes. The jubilee theme was represented with extravagant icing and cake shapes, including bunting, Union flags, Jubilee hats and crowns.

The cakes were tasted and judged by baker Helen Westwood of Lichfield's Sugar Surgeons and her assistant baker.

In the under 12s round, 11-year-old Alice Laingham won with her crown on a cushion shaped cake. Five-year-old Beauanna Neale came in second place and Sophie Langham came in third.

In the 12 to 16s category, 14-year-old Erin Connelly won. Jessica Brown (age 15) came in second place and Fiona Lewis (age 14) came in third.

Councillor Ken Humphreys, Chairman of Lichfield District Council, was on hand to announce the winner of the under 12s round and award Alice her prize. He also presented the winner, and second and third place certificates.

Lichfield City Mayor, Councillor Janet Eagland, announced the winner and runners up in the 12 to 16s category. She awarded Erin her prize and presented the winner, and second and third place certificates.

Both winners in the junior rounds won a family ticket to see Alice in Wonderland at the Lichfield Garrick and £20 vouchers to spend in The Kitchen Shop in Lichfield.

The Chairman finally revealed the finalists in the adult category, which included Amy-Jo Neale, Clare Wilson and Nicola Cooper. They each won two free tickets to see John Torode's cookery show that same night.

Councillor Ken Humphreys said: "I was delighted to join Councillor Eagland in presenting the prizes. I was astonished by the level of baking, especially in the under 12s round. I'd like to thank all the bakers for entering the competition, who, on top of preparing such beautiful cakes, also donated more than £30 to the We Love Lichfield Fund."

The festival culminated in a cookery show by John Torode who prepared two dishes of beef, including a sirloin steak gazpacho with a horseradish and sour cream sauce and a rib eye steak served with a mixed mushroom and mustard sauce.

During his show, the master chef tasted and judged the three adult finalists' cakes of the Jubilee Cake Competition, choosing Amy-Jo Neale's sponge cake in the shape of a royal orb on a cushion as the overall winner.

A gasp went up across the auditorium when John cut into the cake to reveal a perfect Union Flag made out of layers of red, white and blue sponge cake. 

All three finalists were awarded certificates signed by John Torode. Amy-Jo was presented with a signed copy of the celebrity chef's cookbook, Beef, £20 Kitchen Shop vouchers, a one-to-one kitchen skills session with Simon Smith, and two bottles of Worth Brothers champagne.

After the judging, John took questions from the audience and then signed books and posed for photos with fans in the Green Room Bar.

Adrian Jackson added: "The cookery demonstrations were fantastic over the weekend, with John Torode ending the festival on such a high with his witty and passionate display of cooking.

"It was a pleasure to be involved in the festival and great to see so many people enjoying all the different elements of it. Having had such good feedback, we're already planning next year's event.

"I'd like to thank all the organisers of the festival, especially chef Simon Smith who was a massive help over the two days. Many thanks also to all the local food producers, chefs, restaurants and bars that took part, making the event such a success."

Lichfield Food Festival was organised by the Lichfield Garrick, Lichfield District Council, local chef Simon Smith, Lichfield City Council and Lichfield Arts. It was supported by Tippers, Vanilla Chef, and Packington Free Range.