An estimated 100,000 hungry visitors flocked to Woking town centre to meet some of the country’s top celebrity chefs and enjoy the edible delights on offer at the fourth annual Woking Food and Drink Festival.
Visitors were delighted to see famous faces, such as Antonio Carluccio, Tom and Henry Herbert, Rosemary Shrager, John Whaite and Jane Devonshire, enjoying the festival between their popular cookery demonstrations. Excited fans were treated to personal selfie and autograph opportunities, and surprised exhibitors were elated to receive complimentary feedback about their foods and products from this line up of illustrious experts.
Hosted in a tented village across the pedestrian areas in Jubilee Square, Commercial Way, Mercia Walk, Market Walk, Gloucester Walk and Gloucester Square, the award-winning event, organised by Woking Borough Council’s popular Celebrate Woking initiative, once again delivered a generous helping of food and activities for all ages to enjoy.
The tasty festival menu featured an assortment of over 80 high quality food and drink stalls, a variety of live culinary demonstrations, hands-on workshops for children, celebrity cookbook signings, English wine masterclasses, and all topped off with a healthy portion of live entertainment courtesy of Phoenix Cultural Centre CIC, Market Walk and WWF-UK The Living Planet Centre.
Praise from the celebrity chefs
Taking centre stage in Jubilee Square, the festival’s leading highlight was again the Tante Marie Culinary Academy Theatre. Over the three days, the theatre hosted 17 live demonstrations delivered by the exciting selection of celebrity chefs, local restaurant owners and the Academy’s senior instructors.
Impressed by the popularity of the festival and the fact that it is free to attend, the star chefs had a lot of positive things to say about the festival.
Kicking off the commendations was Chef Ambassador for The Clink Charity, Antonio Carluccio, who said: “It’s extraordinary to see so many people here in Woking interested in food. It’s a wonderful space with people smiling and eating.”
Hot on Antonio’s heels, Tom and Henry Herbert, TV chefs and authors aka ‘The Baker Brothers’, said: “We got here early and had a look around the stalls, and we’ve been blown away by how busy it is and by the great flavours. We started off looking for coffee and we’ve ended up with Champagne straight away, then cask-aged rum, and a gorgeous samosa. It’s a brilliant festival! It’s free so anyone can just come along and have a taste of Woking, and Woking is damn tasty!”
Again, arriving early at the festival on Sunday, Rosemary Shrager, TV chef and author, said: “What I love about these festivals is you can see all the wonderful food and drink on offer, meet the producers, and you are able to taste everything. Plus, I get to do cookery demos which are lots of fun!”
Demonstrating for the first time at a festival, Georgina Hayden, senior food developer for Jamie Oliver, food stylist and author, said: “The festival is incredible. It’s really impressive, and I’ve enjoyed the variety of food on offer. There’s some amazing stalls. And, for me, having all these people around creates an fantastic buzz. It’s lovely engaging with the crowd.”
Woking’s Great Bake Off
On the final day of the festival, Great British Bake Off fans also got a slice of the action when 33 amateur bakers demonstrated that they could rise to the challenge by taking part in the festival’s Bake Off competition, sponsored by Woking Shopping and judged by Tante Marie Culinary Academy’s Principal, Claire Alexander-Brown, and Woking TV’s latest presenters.
Both winners wowed the judges with their creative bakes. Amber, aged 9, picked up the title of Woking’s Best Junior Baker with her magical enchanted blossom and butterfly styled cake, and Hayley Summers picked up the gong for the adult category with her cleverly designed Woking food fest burger cake!
The winners were presented with their prizes by Great British Bake Off Winner 2012, John Whaite. Each winner bagged a free one-day cookery course at Tante Marie Culinary Academy, plus signed copies of John Whaite’s ‘Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients’ and Rosemary Shrager’s ‘Castle Cook’ recipe books.