Foodies from around the country were in heaven as Bolton celebrated its seventh Food and Drink Festival.
Thousands of people visited the festival over four days (Aug 24-27) and sampled culinary delights from more than 80 stalls; watched celebrity and local chefs in a series of demonstrations; and enjoyed entertainment from various street artists.
Two Michelin starred Michael Caines launched the festival on Friday with a Ready Steady Cook off between local chefs Mike Harrison and Tom Bridge.
He followed this with a free demo in the Market Place Shopping Centre where he cooked scallops with caramelised cauliflower puree and cumin, then Goosnargh chicken breast with baby vegetables in white wine sauce.
Michael said: “The people of Bolton are very friendly and the town centre is extremely accommodating of the food festival. It’s impressive that the festival has such a community feel to it and it has grown each year.
“The wealth of talent among the producers and chefs is great and it’s testament to the festival that organisers have been able to attract so many well know chefs: the Hairy Bikers and Gino last year and this year with the addition of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and Jean-Christophe Novelli. Each year the festival has grown and I would be happy to be a part of it next year as well.”
Stars of The Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, were a hit on Saturday as they entertained a packed marquee with their baking tips.
Paul Hollywood said: “Bolton is an amazing place and festivals like these are very important to the town. I was also very impressed by Bolton Market. Local ingredients are always the best and the quality of the fish, fruit and veg was amazing. The market is a rival or if not better than the famous Borough market in London. I’d definitely come back to Bolton.”
Mary Berry said: “It was lovely when I arrived and I saw the huge great queue of people waiting to enter the demo. Everyone was smiling and they had lots of questions for us. People are back baking. People have always baked in the North and this is proof that they are baking again.”
French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli made his first appearance at the festival this year. He said: “I had hoped to come to Bolton in previous years, but wasn’t able to make it, so I’m really delighted to be here this year. I’ve had an amazing experience and hope I have inspired people with the same passion that I have for food and cooking.”
And festival favourite James Martin brought the weekend to a close on Monday. He said: “It gets bigger and better every year. You've only got to walk round and see the range of produce on offer to understand why it's so popular. Everyone gets behind it - the local producers, the visitors and the community. It's my fourth time here so I've really seen it grow.”
As well as the celebrity chefs, the weekend saw a host of free demonstrations in Bolton Market, on Ashburner Street and in the Market Place Shopping Centre, including Andrew Nutter, Anjali Pathak, Chris Yates and Aazam Ahmad.
Chef Andrew Nutter who was a big hit in the Market Place demonstration kitchen said: “What a great event, the place was rocking and the crowd just went wild. With a hectic schedule this is the first time I have been available to do the cookery demonstrations in Bolton and it was a great experience that I would definitely do again.”
Chris Yates, who was getting married on Sunday – the day after his demo, said: “It’s really nice to be part of the festival in my home town. My first involvement was last year and I really enjoyed it. I had a big event during the weekend this year but I wanted to take part in the festival again. My businesses are local and I want to support local events like this.”
Market Place Shopping Centre manager, Rod Neasham, said: “We've had a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend at the Cookery Theatre in the Market Place Shopping Centre. Shoppers have had a really unique opportunity to see demonstrations from some of the best regional and celebrity chefs around.”
Free shows by performers including the Ski Band and Dinner Ladies also entertained the crowds.
A big hit this year was the addition of the Gourmet Kitchen – an al fresco dining area serving high quality street food from Harvey Nichols, The Hungry Gecko, Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, Jerk Junction and Macaroon by Alison Seagrave.
Steve Heseltine and his wife Jeanette were visiting from Lincolnshire for the fourth year in a row.
Steve said: “We wouldn’t miss it for the world and there’s so much more this year. We really like the new gourmet food area. It’s a great addition.”
Pat Wilson, from Sunderland, said: “I was here visiting relatives three years ago when I first came across the food and drink festival by chance. Now I come every year. I just love it – looking at the stalls and the choice they have. I’m really looking forward to visiting my favourite Asian food stall later.”
Organisers are still calculating visitor figures but early indications suggest they are set to top last year’s 94,000 over the four days.
Happy with the turnout was Aarti Ormsby from the Chaat Cart. She said: “The festival is really well organised and everyone’s been very friendly and open to try new flavours and foods. We hope to come back next year.”
After serving authentic Italian food to the people of Bolton for 26 years this is Franca’s first year at the food festival. ‘Mama’ Iaverdino said: "It's been fantastic. We've been really busy all weekend. We've had lots of different people tasting our food. Jean-Christophe Novelli tasted my pizza yesterday and said it reminded him of his grandmother's kitchen. He said the smell attracted him but the taste was even better. Another great compliment came from a ten year old boy who chose to spend his £2 pocket money on our bruschetta and salsa. Fantastic!
The Leader of Bolton Council Councillor Cliff Morris said: “The festival goes from strength to strength. We're confident of record visitor numbers this year. Traders tell us it's been a bumper year and the friendliness of the Bolton visitors makes a real difference.”
To keep up to date with the latest festival news, log on to the website, visit Facebook and search for Bolton Food and Drink Festival or search for #Boltonfoodfest on Twitter.
Bolton Food and Drink Festival is organised by Bolton Council and sponsored by Bolton College and Bluemantle.