Tens of thousands of foodies from across the country flocked to Bolton at the weekend for the town’s annual Food and Drink Festival.
Visitors to the festival, celebrating its seventh year, were treated to culinary delights from more than 80 stalls, watched celebrity and local chefs in a series of packed 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 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 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 added: “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 – a frequent visitor to the festival – 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.
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.
Organisers are still calculating visitor figures but early indications suggest they are set to top last year’s 94,000 over the four days.
Councillor Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, 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.”