Baby how you've grown
PUBLISHED: 13:26 19 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:05 19 September 2013
The Food and Drink Festival began in 2004 on the newly completed pedestriansed area of Truro's Lemon Quay. It was run by volunteer local businesses with help from Taste of the West. But when they shut down shop in Cornwall in 2008, the volunteers turned to freelance food marketing specialists Ruth Huxley and Alex Harris for help.
“We told them this wasn’t going to happen without sponsorship; we took it on at our own risk and brought in the sponsorship in order to make it happen. In that first year we doubled the number of people attending and made it stack up financially.”
Now the annual three-day extravaganza has become the jewel in the crown of Cornwall’s many foodie events as Truro’s Lemon Quay becomes a bustling reminder of everything that tastes good about Cornwall.
“We are now at capacity,” says Ruth of the festival which last year attracted 43,500 people. “Last year we thought about what we could do, or if we should move, but the feedback is that being in Truro on that site is really important. Instead we thought about how to evolve it in different ways.”
This year there are plenty of new things happening: alongside around 60 stands showcasing the best in Cornwall’s food and drink, and a programme of around 40 chef demonstrations, tasting sessions and master classes – there will be pop-up kitchens from some of Cornwall’s finest chefs. The Funky Food Zone for children is moving into the main marquee with Kelly’s and Rodda’s planning some tasty activities. Producers are using the opportunity to launch new products – including, you heard it here first, Premium Cornish Gin fro the Cornish Gin Distillery.
Other new producers taking part for the first time include Rebel Brewing, the Chough Bakery, Polgoon Vineyard and Hugo’s Breakfast launch a new Cornish porridge range.
The festival is being opened this year by Cornwall’s Nathan Outlaw – a stalwart of the festival who was involved in its first year when it was simply a few stalls and chef demonstrations and who has been part of it ever since. He will also be leading the pop-up kitchens during all three days – alongside the Castle, Bude and more. Nathan will also be creating the menu for the Choose Cornish Awards, which take place at Pool’s Heartlands during the festival.
Cornwall Food & Drink will also be launching its first book, The Great Cornish Food Book at the event. The book, tells the story of Cornwall’s developing food and drink sector, with profiles of producers and some new and old Cornish recipes that make the most of these great local ingredients.
“It’s got a real scrapbook feel to it,” adds Ruth. “It’s not just pages and pages of recipes but it tells a story. It’s intended to celebrate the Cornish food and drink sector, how things have come on in ten years, its astonishing and was a story to be told.”
The festival is now worth around £2 million to the Cornish economy – and producers who take part say they see many potential trade customers as well as individual shoppers. It also helps join up suppliers and producers with restaurants, the demonstrations and masterclasses offer insight into how these locally produced and sourced ingredients are then used by the best chefs and restaurants.
“The masterclasses and tastings were something we introduced five years ago and they have been more and more popular every year,” adds Ruth. “It captures the imagination and people want to try things – it just seems to strike a chord with people and its reassuring for us.”
The traditional material for the 10th anniversary is tin. And the festival has teamed up with the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, with products offering donations per sale to its important work. Festival sponsor Coodes Solicitors will host The Real Cornish Breakfast Challenge pitting the culinary efforts of the Cornish Pirates rugby team against a team from Cornwall Air Ambulance.
“I am sure anybody who organises an event will say at some point ‘why am I doing this?’ But when it goes really well you stand back and think: we did this and it’s worth it.
“Sitting here today, I think I was a bit naïve and had no idea how challenging it was going to be to grow the festival to what it is today.
“If I could have looked forward, I would probably have said at the time that it was impossible – but we have done it.” n