A volcanic eruption may have kept celebrity chef Graham Tinsley and the Welsh culinary team from the world’s biggest food competition in Singapore – but nothing will keep Graham from a new competition at the Wrexham Food Festival.
Graham, chef director at the Castle Hotel, Conwy, starred in ITV’s Taste The Nation series last year as captain of the Welsh team and he currently manages the Welsh culinary team.
The team will help prepare the recipes created by Wrexham schoolchildren in the design a recipe competition to find the Taste of Wrexham.
Hundreds of Year 6 primary pupils have been been asked to design a dessert while Year 7 secondary pupils have been asked to design a main course.
Four semi-finalists will be invited to attend Wrexham Food Festival, supported by the Leader at Llwyn Isaf, this Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, to assist a member of the Welsh culinary team prepare their dish live which will then be sampled and judged by Mayor Arwel Gwynn Jones, under Graham’s expert eye.
The festival is being organised by Xuberance Events, the company that runs the highly successful Llangollen Food Festival, The Gardening Show and The Motorbike Show.
It is being backed by the Local Food Project of Northern Marches Cymru which has received financial support through the Rural Development Plan for Wales which is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Graham and his 12-man team were packing their bags when they were told just four hours before departure for Singapore that the flight had been cancelled because of the Icelandic volcano eruption.
Graham and the Welsh team are now waiting for the culinary Olympic event in Luxembourg but first he’s looking forward to Wrexham.
Graham, who has cooked in Highgrove, Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, said: “In these competitions you look for a whole host of things, you are looking not just for skills, but hygiene, and attitude towards cooking which is just as important as preparing the best dish.
“We look at the attitude of youngsters towards food. They are bombarded with TV programmes about cooking these days which perhaps glamourises the job too much.
“When your friends are enjoying themselves you are working – at Christmas and New Year when other people are off, you are working. It’s not all a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The hours are bad, the pay at the start is not good.
“But it can mean the world is your oyster. There is no language barrier in cooking and you can travel to places you only dream about.”
Schoolchildren have been asked to come up with a dish which features one locally sourced product in season, using a minimum of one fruit or vegetable; not cost more than £5 and take no longer than 30 minutes to prepare the dessert and one hour for the main course.
Festival director David Green, of Xuberance Events, said: “We’re delighted to have Graham involved. He is a top class chef with a fantastic pedigree and a real commitment to locally sourced food.
“Wrexham has an abundance of high quality food producers in the area and this is the ideal way to showcase them and if we can get young people involved and interested in good food then that’s got to be positive.
“We will be starting with 40 exhibitors and priority will be given to Wrexham producers. It will be a celebration of Wrexham’s growing gastronomic credentials.”
Jonathan Miller, Wrexham Council’s health and wellbeing manager, welcomes the new competition.
He said: “We are trying to improve children and young people’s awareness of healthy eating and have put a lot of resources into schools and into the training of teachers.
“We have put cooking equipment into schools and helped set up cookery clubs and brought in S4C chef Dudley Newbery to help train teachers in basic cookery skills.
“Understanding the science of food and the balance of food for good health is important and this competition gives that another focus.”
Caroline Dawson, Northern Marches Cymru’s local food project officer, said: “It’s all about getting our youngsters to appreciate the wealth of top quality local produce that is there on their doorstep.
“Wrexham County Borough is 90 per cent rural and there is some fantastic food being produced here so it is important that we make people aware of that.
“The idea of a competition gets our young people thinking about food and how it gets from farm to fork and having Graham Tinsley involved is a real bonus with his level of expertise and experience.
“Whoever wins the competition couldn’t have better people to prepare their dishes and we then hope to feature them on the websites to let everyone try them.”
For further information on food from Wrexham and the people who produce it go to www.localfoodfirstwrexham.co.uk or www.bwydlleolgyntafwrecsam.co.uk