The Chester Food Drink & Lifestyle Festival, sponsored by Taste Cheshire, took place over Easter at Chester Racecourse for the 18th year and this year saw more people cooking and being involved in cooking than ever before.
The event was hit by bad weather on the opening morning and incessant rain on the final day, Monday and whilst crowd numbers were down from 26,500 in 2017 to 21,000 over the 3 days this year, all those who attended had a wonderful time, with all the various classes and demonstrations full for every session. Festival Organiser Briony Wilson was pleased with the response;
“This year we had Adult cooking classes running all day with the Demonstration chefs of Harlech Foods and people loved those sessions with every session full. They learnt how to make burgers, and a variety of Asian dishes and create their own special flavours. They also got to eat what they cooked afterwards – a big bonus for all.
Brian Mellor of Harthill Cookery School taught just as many people how to master the Weber BBQ and his sessions were also oversubscribed with people raving about the BBQ flavours they created, that they also consumed after cooking and of course the Children didn’t miss out with over 900 children taking part in the Academy of Culinary Arts Kids cooking classes teaching young children how to prepare foods and of course taste them as well. Academy Principal Chef for the North West, James Holden said that in their 11th year of providing these classes they had now taught over 10,000 children at this event how to cook, something of which they are rightfully proud.”
The Festival also ran free cooking demonstration seminars with the highlights being BBC’s Chris Bavin, ITVS’ Paul Rankin and Channel 4’s Jun Tanaka taking centre stage to packed audiences. These were supported by local chefs who also played to packed crowds in the Auditorium.
Over 150 food and drink Exhibitors took part with them all doing brisk business on the packed out and record Sunday with over 9,000 people coming through the doors on the only day the rain stayed away. The event featured foods from right across the planet.
Little Somboon Kitchen provided the tastes and smells of Korea, Perfect Samosa the authentic flavours of India, Contrast Catering specialised in Japanese foods and Mukkaase foods had the subtle flavours of Africa, all in the Restaurant Garden but this was only scratching the surface of what has become the biggest event of its kind anywhere in the UK at Easter.
Festival Organiser, Briony Wilson added “We have been astounded at the cosmopolitan selection of foods on offer this year. We always limit the number of similar foods to ensure that everyone gets a chance to show their products and this year we have seen so many different countries represented it has barely been necessary to turn anyone away. One of my personal favourites is Ank Marvin they provided a World spectacular meats, featuring, Bison, Blesbok, Crocodile, Eland, Goat, Impala, Kangaroo, Kudu, Mouflon, Oryx, Ostrich, Reindeer, Springbok, Venison Wagyu (Kobi) Beef, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar, Wildebeest & Zebra. You can have them in a Burgers or as Sausages and if your brave enough, try things you couldn’t imagine. Its foodie heaven at Easter in Chester”
The Festival, which will be staging its 19th event at Easter next year has now contributed in excess of £30 million of economic benefit to the city of Chester as Managing Director, Stephen Wundke explains. “Some 20 years ago, when we approached the hoteliers of Chester with this idea we asked them when they would like a major event and they said Easter was always a disaster with everyone going away. So, we agreed to stage the Food Festival at that time. We are delighted to say that all hotels are now full over Easter and shops and restaurants in the city do a booming trade because of this event. This is something of which we are very proud. We also had over 1250 people staying on the racecourse in an event we created some years ago called Camperfest with people coming from far and wide with Campervans, Motor Homes, caravans and tents. It was certainly a challenge for them this year with conditions but it is rare you get to camp in the middle of a city, let alone one as attractive as Chester and these people keep coming back to enjoy three memorable days of food, drink and fun.”
The event wrapped up on the Wednesday after Easter with the Taste Cheshire Food and Drink Awards where over 40,000 votes were cast by customers who voted for their best Restaurant, pub, deli, sandwich bar, etc. These awards having been running simultaneously with the Food Festival and are the industry bench mark across Cheshire. The event took place at The Pavilion at Chester Racecourse with over 350 of the industry attending on one of the few nights the sector gets together to let their hair down and crown the champions.