Thousands poured into Bolton to savour the best of the town’s biggest ever Food and Drink Festival.
Cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs Michael Caines, Gino D’Acampo, James Martin and The Hairy Bikers and a pop-up Harvey Nichols restaurant were just some of the attractions enjoyed by crowds who had travelled from far and wide.
Jeanette and Steve Hessletine were visiting from Lincolnshire for the third year in a row. Steve said: “We like good food and people who promote local food and that’s what you get at Bolton’s festival. We can see how it’s grown over the years. There’s definitely even more people around this year.”
His wife, Jeanette, added: “We’re looking forward to next year already. We’ve even made a provisional booking for our bed and breakfast accommodation.”
Alan and Marilyn Brook from Barnsley added: “This is better than the Leeds food festival which has fewer chefs and less things to do. Bolton’s got free entertainment and the food market has got something for everyone. Leeds could learn a thing or two.”
Visitors also enjoyed browsing a speciality market featuring around 80 food and drink stalls located in Victoria Square and Deansgate.
The festival, now in its sixth year, was organised by Bolton Council and sponsored by Bolton College, Warburtons and property developer Bluemantle.
Although official figures are still being calculated, the total is expected to beat the 75,000 visitors from last year.
Council chiefs hailed the event a massive success and want to hear from the public on how to make the festival even better in years to come.
Leader of Bolton Council, Councillor Cliff Morris, said: “This festival puts Bolton on the map as far as food and drink is concerned. We are absolutely thrilled with the success of this year’s festival, which without doubt has been our biggest and best yet.
"While the visitor numbers are still being calculated, we know many of the stallholders reported selling out of stock and the demos all sold out. The free cookery shows at Bolton Market and Market Place all got great audiences.
“Our hope is now to continue building on the success and reputation of the festival year on year. And we want to know what the festival visitors thought, what they enjoyed and any suggestions they have for improvements.”
Visitors can fill in a questionnaire online via the link on the right.
Two Michelin starred Michael Caines launched the festival on Friday. He cooked vegetable and herb soup, curry roasted monkfish and honey roast duck.
He said: “It’s great to be headlining the sixth festival. A festival like this really gets the community engaged in food and drink.”
The Hairy Bikers were the main attraction on the second day. TV culinary duo Simon King and Dave Myers showed a packed audience how to cook piri piri chilli chicken, soft egg yolk ricotta ravioli and pan fried sea bream.
They said: "Bolton Food and Drink Festival is one of the friendliest and best festivals in the country –and we love coming here. The atmosphere at this festival is electric, the whole event is so well organised and the people of Bolton are fantastic."
Italian chef Gino D’Acampo entertained the crowds on the third day of the event, where he rustled up a number of dishes including linguine pasta with chicken and gorgonzola cheese sauce; tuna steak with spicy chilli dressing; and for dessert a baked alaska.
He said: “I love the Bolton Food and Drink Festival. This is my second year and it is the people of Bolton who have brought me back. I really like doing the demonstrations in the cookery theatre as it encourages people to sample different dishes, see how they are and try them at home.”
In the audience was former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett with her mum, Monica.
Roxanne said: “My mum lives locally, so when I visit we always put a date in the calendar for the food and drink festival.
“I think it’s wonderful and really brings the community together, even on a wet day! I’m a big romantic when it comes to food so I love coming to the festival, and I love watching Gino in action.”
The final day of the food festival saw James Martin demonstrating his culinary skills. He cooked a menu of dishes throughout the day including slow roast fillet of beef with butternut squash pickle and chocolate fondant with instant banana ice cream.
James said: “This year’s festival is bigger and better than ever. Seeing so many more producers and visitors is a real highlight for me.”
As well as the celebrity chefs, events for foodies were held in venues around the town. BBC Fusion chef Aazam Ahmad did a free demo in Bolton Market on Ashburner Street. Top chefs including Masterchef semi-finalist Stacie Stewart and Anjali Pathak put on shows in Market Place Shopping Centre.
Market Place Shopping Centre manager, Rod Neasham, said: “'We've had a fantastic weekend at the Cookery Theatre in Market Place. Shoppers have had a really unique opportunity to see demonstrations from some of the best regional experts and celebrity chefs up close and for free.
“Stacey Stewart was a great hit, full of northern charm, Boltonian Anjali Pathak won over shoppers with her modern twist on Indian cuisine and John Benson-Smith went down a storm, providing the audience with a huge array of every day recipes.
Shoppers visiting Market Place are now well equipped to whip up any one of the recipes seen over the bank holiday weekend; from Stacie's sharing steak platter to Anjali's herby paneer with warm green bean salad!”
The Garlic Farm, from the Isle of Wight and an artisan bread maker were among the stallholders at the speciality market. Other produce on offer included handmade chocolates, cupcakes, luxury jams and street food.
James-Dean Curtis, from The Garlic Farm, said: “It’s the first time we’ve come to Bolton and it’s been a really good festival. We’ve been really well received.”
Free shows by performers including jazz band Bourbon Street Roof Raisers and the Ski Band also entertained the crowds.