Newport Food Festival set to whet city's appetite
8:30am Saturday 5th October 2013 in News
THIS weekend we welcome the third annual Newport food festival to the city centre. LAURA LEA speaks to some of those involved and finds plenty to whet the appetite.
If you weren’t already aware, Newport Food Festival, run by Newport City Council, with support from Newport Unlimited and Redrow homes, is a one day bonanza of master classes, demonstrations, cook-off and stalls, taking place in the centre today.
Patron of this year’s festival is Newport’s very own Michelin-starred chef Hywel Jones. Hywel has been involved from the very first year in 2011 and his delighted to be patron.
He said: “It’s something I’m very proud of.
“It’s grown steadily. We had a good response and last year was great. This year will be even better.
“These things take time. I can remember doing the Abergavenny food festival 10 years ago and it was quite local and now it’s almost international.
“You’ve got to let it grow organically and build a solid foundation.”
The 42 year-old moved back to Newport where he lives with his family in the Gaer.
“Newport has got a lot to offer and this is a way of showcasing it.
Hywel and his team were already prepping for Friday’s 150-guest festival supper at the beginning of this week. The dinner was held on the upper level of Newport Market.
“It’s going to be pretty special; it will be a fantastic night.”
Twenty Coleg Gwent students helped serve at the supper last night, (FRI) two of which were able to help Hywel in the kitchen.
But Hywel will have no time for relaxing into his role of Patron today, as he plays a major part in the jam-packed schedule.
In the morning he will be leading a master class where he’ll be making a red-mullet starter. Later, to an auditorium full of people he’ll be demonstrating how to make orange and lemon cannelloni, a dessert he serves at the restaurant in Lucknam Park.
The festival’s events are for people of all ages, backgrounds and cooking abilities in Newport to enjoy and Hywel’s favourite role is as chief judge for the teen chef competition.
“For me, that’s the highlight.”
Hwyel has already handpicked the finalists from the semi finals which took place in the market a few weeks ago. Seven groups of youngsters went down to three groups of finalists who will now battle it out in the Riverfront this afternoon.
“It was really impressive. It gets better every year.
“They’re only kids but the food was incredible.”
So what will the judges be looking for?
“They’re going to be nervous but I want to see them enjoying it. The end result is about the taste.”
Teen Chef is also a personal favourite of Chris Jones, regeneration consultant, who has been working with Newport City Council to organise the festival since it began in 2011.
“At 13.50 on the Saturday afternoon, that’s the bit I love the most – when we announce the winning team. It’s quite emotional and a really nice moment.”
The teen chef winners are taken to Lucknam Park where they cook with Hywel Jones for their family.
Originally from Pontypool, Chris now lives in Goytre but is passionate about the future and potential for Newport.
“It’s about trying to give Newport the sense of place around food and culture, as well as trying to help with vitality and health.
“The food culture in Newport is quite multicultural and really diverse.
“In the first year we were going out finding people, but now people are finding us. We don’t want to be another Abergavenny. This is Newport. It’s urban, street and real.
“It’s about growing – people and skills. It’s about developing communities.”
The newly refurbished market is at the centre of the events today and ingredients for Friday’s festival supper, on the upper level, were sourced from the providers below.
Chris said: “We’re putting the spot light on the market.
“We are seriously trying to buy local, source local and invest local.”
This year there will be around 80 stall holders and Chris admits they’ve even had to turn people away.
“The key as we go forward, is how we can extend and develop it . But it has to be sustainable.
“We’ve got some great producers here, some urban artisans.”
Newport-based Elm Tree Foods are one of these ‘urban artisans’ and one of the many stall holders at the festival today. (SAT) Based in Goldcliff, this family business started three years ago and is a regular at the festival. Their premium pies, including the Boozy Beef and Butternut Scrunchie have earnt them an accolade of awards.
Steven Bridges, of Elm Tree Foods, said: “I think Newport needs to do as much as it can to change its image. It’s trying to rebrand itself. I’ve got nothing but good things to say on the food festival.
“It’s a way of demonstrating what’s on offer in Newport. It’s a chance for us to tell the people in Newport we are a local company who create local employment.
Elm Tree foods regularly travel around Wales with their pies and sell at Abergavenny’s food market every weekend.
“I think [Newport’s] a different kind of festival. It’s more appealing to families.”
The business is always keen to source sustainably, using free range welsh products including fruit and veg from Newport wholesalers, Harry Wheeler.
“The festival is a great platform for us to interact with local businesses. It’s part of our business to ensure we support other business around us.”
The festival welcomed between 7,500 – 10,000 people last year and by Wednesday of this week, almost all of the tickets were sold out.
This is a reflection of the commitment and passion from those like Hywel and Chris, who really believe in the festival.
Chris said: “We have got to respect our own sense of place.
“I’m passionate about it, which is definitely my driver. I think that food brings people together “It’s not going to solve all the problems of Newport, but it is something people can gather around. It’s really diverse and that needs to be celebrated.”
This was a sentiment echoed by Hywel: “I’m 100 per cent committed to the festival.
“Over the years I’ve cooked at lots of festivals, but never had the opportunity to do anything in Newport. It’s nice to come home.
“People ask me why I moved back to Newport, but I love it.”
Like its patron, this festival is proud of its origins and is already feasting on the taste of success. To get your slice of the action, head down to the city centre today.
For all the listings of today's FREE events, go to www.newportfoodfestival.co.uk
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