The ninth Christchurch Food & Wine Festival kicked off on Friday 9 May, and with seven days still to go, it has been a resounding success so far.
The first day of the event saw crowds pack into the specially erected marquee in Saxon Square to watch the final of the Junior Cooks Competition.
Three finalists selected from local schools cooked up delicious meals in the Rangemaster kitchen, however it was 15-year-old Ayden Lee from Highcliffe School who really caught the Judges eye. His serving of pork medallions wrapped in pancetta, sautéed potatoes, bean and carrot parcels, served in rich Madeira sauce tantalised the Judges, winning him a £70 restaurant voucher. He was also awarded with a frying pan worth £95 for making it through to the final.
He told ICM: “I am absolutely amazed that I won. I’m gobsmacked – I really can’t believe it! I felt very nervous and under pressure whilst I was cooking my dish so it was great having all my friends here in the crowd to support me. It really helped to egg me on.”
Also being judged were children from local Primary Schools who designed mock meals on 3D plates. Katie French from The Priory School scooped first place for her healthy creation depicting chicken legs with a jacket potato and side salad. For her efforts, she was awarded a £50 Argos voucher which she said she plans to spend on “a new game for my Nintendo DS.”
Cooking up a storm
Following the competitions, Friday also saw the opening of the festival’s cookery theatre. First to take to the stage was Celebrity Chef and Festival Patron Lesley Waters with the first of her cookery demonstrations.
Centred around practical family cooking, Lesley prepared a mouth-watering selection of dishes in front of the crowd, guiding the audience through each stage step by step. Tasty dishes served up included skillet asparagus with poached egg and chillied spring onions, herbed seared lamb with aubergine and courgette butter, and gooseberry and almond cake with elderflower cream.
Speaking to ICM, Lesley said: “I really do think the demonstrations have been well received so far. What the crowd particularly like are the tips and simple things like learning how to poach an egg. They also like to hear the funny stories that have happened so I like to include those as well.”
Lesley was also quick to praise ICM Chairman Dr Alistair Somerville Ford, who is the festival’s main sponsor. She said: “I’d like to thank you for your sponsorship. Every year I come, the festival gets bigger and better, and I think it’s just so important for the community for it to continue like this.”
European culinary delights
For food and drink lovers, the weekend’s International Food Market was officially opened on Saturday morning at 10.30am.Wave 105 DJ, Steve Power, and special guest chefs, Lesley Waters and Brian Turner, as well as the Mayor of Christchurch, Cllr Josephine Spencer, took to the balcony of the Mayor’s Parlour and addressed the crowds below.
Following the grand opening, visitors were treated to a traditional and colourful performance by the Kapahaka group of Maori dancers who wowed the crowds with their chants and dances. As Christchurch is twinned with the New Zealand town of the same name, the display was the perfect start to the day and added some traditional Kiwi flavour to the proceedings.
Stretching the entire length of Christchurch High Street, the International Food Market featured a colourful array of stalls hosted by local businesses and culinary experts from across Europe. A tempting array of food and drink was on offer, from BBQ-ed bratwurst and fresh fish through to colourful fruit and vegetables and locally brewed beers and ciders.
Over 50,000 visitors are estimated to have flocked to Christchurch over the two days and with the sun beating down and temperatures hitting the mid-twenties, revellers had plenty to be cheerful about.
ICM took some time to chat to families, couples and friends who had made their way to Christchurch especially for the festivities. Local couple, Jim and Joyce Monteitch, were particularly enjoying the day. They said: “The people and the weather have really made today – it’s very crowded but people are still relaxed and friendly. We’re particularly enjoying the freebies and have been around trying everything. There’s always a great selection of stalls and things people can buy of all descriptions.”
With another seven days still on the festival programme, it isn’t too late to join in with the festivities. Simply click here to visit the official food festival site and discover what’s on offer.
You can also read an in-depth feature on the festival by visiting ICM’s Social & Economic pages, or by clicking here.
By Natasha Piscitelli