A TOP TV chef was a man on a mission at a new food festival.
Graham Tinsley, MBE, the captain of the Welsh culinary team, made an impassioned plea to people to buy and enjoy locally produced food.
He was one of the main attractions at the first ever Wrexham Food Festival.
The event, supported by the Leader, was hailed a great success by exhibitors and visitors alike.
Graham, who starred in ITV’s Taste of the Nation series last year, is the chef director at the award-winning Castle Hotel in Conwy.
He said: “It’s an absolutely tremendous event that has provided an important showcase for high quality local produce.
“It shows that around the corner there may be a bespoke delicatessen, a cheese maker or a farm producer who supply some wonderful products.
“You don't have to go to the big supermarkets all the time – you should search out these fine products from your local area."”
The Food Festival was organised by Xuberance Events, the company behind the highly successful Llangollen Food Festival, The Gardening Show and The Motorbike Show.
They were backed by the Local Food Project, Northern Marches Cymru.
The project 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.
Hundreds of local schoolchildren entered a competition to design a recipe to find the Taste of Wrexham. Four finalists were invited to the festival to stage a cook-off under Graham’s watchful eye.
In the cook-off for the main course, Fianna Ball-Smith, a year seven pupil from St Joseph’s School, was pitted against Lauren O'Connor, also of year seven, from Ysgol Bryn Alyn.
Lauren was narrowly judged to be the winner with her pan fried chicken with leek and Stilton sauce.
The final of the dessert competition was also keenly contested with Lewis Melia, from year six at Victoria School, vying for the title against Alexander Oulton, from year six at Bronington School.
In the event Alexander just came out on top with his blue chocolate stir with local blueberries.
Graham added: “The encouragement in the audience for the schoolchildren has been great.
“All four finalists studied hard and found out what was in season. Their attitude was great and the recipes were top class.”
The festival was officially opened by the Mayor of Wrexham, Cllr Arwel Gwynn Jones. “I have been around the stalls and the array of produce is remarkable and that’s fantastic,” he said.
“Importantly, many of them are local who are producing healthy food that people enjoy.
“I am sure that this will also be good for the local economy – and the way things have started this will become the biggest and best food festival in North Wales.”
Caroline Dawson, Northern Marches Cymru’s local food project officer, was thrilled that the first festival had proved so popular.
She said: “The response and the sheer number of food lovers who have come is just fantastic.
“It’s exceeded all expectations.
“As soon as people started coming in you could pick up on this buzz – there was energy and feeling that it was going to be a good day.”
Among those already looking forward to next year’s festival is Robert Didier, a former chef who tantalised the tastebuds of James Bond actor Sean Connery and a host of other Hollywood stars.
Robert, who trained under Raymond Blanc, now runs Bwlchgwyn-based Orchard Pigs, who makes a range of handmade pies and pastries, including their trademark Tractor wheel pie using local free-range produce.
He said: “The event has been really well organised and the turnout is absolutely brilliant.
“People are spending money which is in this climate is great.
“They’re not just looking for fine food, they're looking for local fine food and supporting local businesses.”