I’m quite lucky where I live really; a direct train to London in under half an hour, the M25 only ten minutes away, the leisure centre and gym at the bottom of my road and a handful of top golf courses to take my pick from. But the travel and sport benefits are not where it ends, Woking, my hometown, plays host to a number of culinary events and activities throughout the year; 13th – 15th September being the first ever Woking Food and Drink Festival.
Jubilee Square, in Woking’s town centre, was adorned with rich smells of barbecued meats, spices and cheeses and 40 hot food and produce stalls – all supplied by local and regional producers. A Saturday shopping trip led me outside and into the centre of a foodie delight.
The town had put on a three-day event worthy of a Michelin star itself! With celebrity chefs, foie gras and hay cooking demonstrations, children’s cookery workshops, tasting sessions and a live band – there was something for everyone.
In front of an inspired crowd on the Saturday, MasterChef 2013 winner Natalie Coleman took to the helm to host a live cookery demonstration. Described by Natalie as ‘something simple you can cook on the weekend with your family; a rustic dish with a balance of flavours’ her creation of Moroccan Lamb and Pearled Couscous proved a worthy show.
On the Sunday, roles were reversed as Great British Bake Off 2011 winner, Jo Wheatley put on the judges cap. Woking’s finest Joe Bloggs were invited to bake a homemade sponge cake to be scrutinised, tasted and praised by the successful Hackney girl, Jo. Winning the bake-off was Claudia Nocci with a family recipe coffee and meringue sponge cake. She won a place on Jo Wheatley’s cookery class plus a signed copy of Jo’s first book, A Passion for Baking.
As I think of that weekend and rub my tummy in contentment, I can’t help but appreciate that events like this are more than great for the industry – chefs giving something back to the everyday people that support them through their journeys and successes. A festival to inspire the foodies amongst us, putting a bit of culture and excitement in to our bog-standard towns and helping those small but mighty businesses and producers climb a little higher in the world of food and drink.
‘Til the next foodie festival!
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