Tastes of Woking Food & Drink Festival

THE town centre was packed for the three-day Woking Food and Drink Festival with thousands of people sampling produce from near and far.

The growing trend for small-scale food and drink production, with the emphasis on local goods made by local people, was heavily on show.

Al Crisci and Antonio Carluccio with their assistants

More than 80 exhibitor tents extended from Commercial Way to Gloucester Square and events took place in the Tante Marie Culinary Academy, The Lightbox, Market Walk, Jubilee Square and the WWF-UK Living Planet Centre.

Musicians dotted around the town entertained the crowds who enjoyed late summer weather on the first two days and seemed to be undeterred by the rather damp Sunday.

The Tante Marie Culinary Academy Theatre hosted a huge selection of top culinary experts with demonstrations of a wide array of sweet and savoury dishes. The stars included chef Antonio Carluccio, OBE, with Al Crisci, MBE, founder of The Clink restaurant.

Other crowd-pullers were Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Chetna Makan, MasterChef finalist trio Alison O’Reilly, Giovanna Ryan and Lorna Robertson (known as Three Girls Cook), international restaurateur Bruno Loubet, and rising chef and author Olia Hercules.

Carluccio, who has become an annual favourite at the festival, said “I have fond memories of Woking because I used to come many years ago for picking mushrooms. Now it’s completely different with this event here, the food festival, which is just wonderful.

“[This year] I am trying to do good deeds for The Clink, which is for ex-convicts who are learning to cook; they do a very good job. I hope people enjoyed everything here [at the Food Festival].”

Another star was Katy Ashworth, the I Can Cook presenter on CBeebies who took to the stage at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre.

Cllr Mark Pengelly, Woking Borough Council’s portfolio holder for culture and community development, attended the event and said: “Woking Food and Drink Festival is without a doubt one of the calendar highlights for the town.

“This year we saw yet another remarkable programme of food and drink experts and celebrities demonstrating their remarkable skill and knowledge, as well as a superb array of the finest cuisine on sale, much of it from the Surrey area and surrounds.

“The new attractions, including the Bite-size Talks, Meet the Producer and Expert sessions and the Cellar Wines and Deli Zone, were excellent.

“We are waiting to hear the results of the Surrey Life Food and Drink Awards. Will the festival win the Best Local Food Event award for a third year in a row?

“I am very proud to see the festival growing from strength-to-strength and I am already looking forward to what next year’s event has in store. Well done to everyone who was involved in its organisation.”

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