Up to 20,000 visitors will bring a £1 million windfall to Ludlow this weekend when the town stages its 22nd food festival.
While organisers have remained true to their roots of promoting local producers, the stellar line up of chefs and attractions includes the national and international too.
It all starts tomorrow at Ludlow Castle and everyone is welcome.
Chefs on the menu include Great British Menu winner Richard Bainbridge, Masterchef: The Professionals winner Mark Stinchcombe with his multi-award winning wife and chef Sue; Raymond Blanc’s development chef Adam Johnson, 2014 Masterchef winner Ping Combes and chef and author Sophie Michell.
Friday evening sees Indian chef and Masterchef judge Romy Gill MBE, cook and chat at a special “Evening With” at the castle’s Beacon Rooms. Tickets are £10 and can be purchased direct from the festival’s website, www.foodfestival.co.uk.
The Ludlow Assembly Rooms play a bigger part in the festival across the weekend too. On Saturday there will be free chocolate tasting sessions with renowned Austrian chocolatiers Zotter, who are in Ludlow for one weekend only.
And talking about one-offs – Shrewsbury chef James Sherwin’s will open a pop-up restaurant on Saturday night.
Visitors can enjoy seven courses featuring the best farmed and wild ingredients from the region. Tickets are limited and cost £25 per person from the Ludlow Assembly Rooms website.
Event spokeswoman Jo Gadsby said: “When he’s not operating the pop-up, James is a sous chef at Shrewsbury’s renowned House of the Rising Sun so expect great things.”
Sunday is dedicated to a Foodie Literary Festival at Ludlow Assembly Rooms. From 11am, people can join the likes of best-selling author and Instagram sensation Eleonora Galasso, who has more than 40,000 followers on the social media platform.
She will take guests on a virtual trip to Italy to enjoy its recipes. Her recipes have been featured in Glamour Magazine, The Guardian and The Evening Standard.
Kids will love illustrator Meg Hawkins and her tales of The Adventures of Scratch and Hedgy.
Lovers of travel won’t want to miss Marie Keft’s Slow Travel, while Geoff Branwood will give a fascinating look at Britain’s Historic Pubs.
Ms Gadsby added: “If you dream of far flung places then make sure you join Pearly Kee as she guides you through Nyonya cuisine. Texan Bethany Kehdy will be sharing her passion for Middle Eastern and North African dishes as she chats through her book, The Jewelled Kitchen.
“Her blog Dirty Kitchen Secrets has built up a loyal following and recipes from The Jewelled Kitchen have feature in Red Magazine, The Telegraph, The Times and many more.”
The global phenomenon that is the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year exhibition will feature throughout the weekend. Since 2011, 30,000 images have been submitted for judging and the very best come to Ludlow. It will head to New York after visiting Ludlow.
Ms Gadsby said: “Ludlow will look a little different across the weekend – in fact you might spot some animals usually found in the jungle rather than a medieval market town. Multi coloured gorillas from The British Ironworks will be located around Ludlow symbolising where there will be ‘something to see’.
“You might want to pop over and see the pink gorilla at the Ludlow Assembly Rooms or perhaps the purple gorilla at Ludlow Library where one of our guest butchers will be serving up more than 2,000 sausages for the sausage trail. Of course there will be some amazing producers exhibiting inside the castle – 180 to be precise – with more setting up for the Sunday market. As well as firm favourites, there are a number of new producers including Haven Distillery & Taste of Tanzania.
“All of them will have the opportunity to meet 15 overseas buyers at the festival, after organisers worked with UK Trade & Investment and Buy-From Shropshire to bring representatives of countries such as China, India and Japan.”
New this year, Buy-From Shropshire will also have a dedicated area at the festival, with help and advice for businesses and topical debates about food, farming and sustainability, the theme of this year’s festival.
Also making a special trip to Ludlow will be a number of slow food producers from outside the region, hand picked for their exceptional produce including Emilia, which specialises in Parmesan cheese made according to Italian quality and tradition. It won the slow food award as Best Deli and Cheesemonger in London in the 2014 and 2015 and are regular traders at London’s borough market.
Those who love discovering new ingredients and want a tutored tasting can sign up for slow food taste workshops. This year they will be showcasing everything from gin to charcoal sea salt.
Among the guests will be Illtud Dunsford of Charcutier Ltd, winner of this year’s BBC Food and Farming best produce award, Alison Lea-Wilson, from renowned sea salt brand Halen Mon, and Phillipa Cook, from Ironbridge-based Moonshine and Fuggles, who will guide you through six different premium distilled gins.
Taste workshops cost between £8 and £16 for the hour and include food and drink. For more details and tickets see the Ludlow Food Festival website.
Ms Gadsby added: “The very popular sausage trail has had a revamp this year with guest butchers joining those around the town and of course no Ludlow Food Festival would be complete without the ale trail. For those with a sweet tooth there will be pudding tasting at the Methodist Church, how many can you eat?
“Talks and demonstrations on Ludlow’s two main stages are free as is the talks and tastings area. More intimate than the stages, this year you can learn more about smoking food from Jo Hampson, of Smoky Jo’s Cookery School in Cumbria, one of the UK’s leading exponents in the art of food smoking.
“There’s also foraging with expert Liz Knight, gluten free baking with Great British Bake-off favourite Howard Middleton and much more. If you want to get a little more hands on then why not book a place in the chef’s kitchen, the masterclasses include making your own sushi, pork pies and to prepare and cook duck to perfection.
“Little ones won’t miss out either with a special kids area with cookery lessons from Grow Cook Learn who will be celebrating the anniversary of discovering mammoth bones in the region by making mammoth biscuits. The Kidz Kitchen guys will be enticing children with their Roald Dahl revoluting recipes for the weekend while everyone will be singing along with ukulele players and CBeebies favourites, John and Jo from Spring to Life.”
There will be pottery fun with Bambino Bizarre and crazy circus antics from The Chef on Stilts, plus there will be a tasty slow food Sam the Snail slow food trail for kids around the festival. Children can pick up a Sam the Snail passport so they can collect the adventure station stamps along the way. For extra bonus points they can visit the Harper Adams stand for some edible bug action.
Lindsey Rollings, events manager, said: “We’ve kept all the elements that makes Ludlow a great food festival, the incredible venue, the trails, the stages and the fantastic regional exhibitors.
“Then we’ve added some new elements and attractions exclusive to Ludlow. To have the calibre of chefs across the weekend and authors with us for the literary festival on Sunday who have travelled from every part of the UK, London, Cumbria, Cornwall and Norfolk to be with us is really quite special. It’s going to be one very tasty weekend.”
Tickets are available online now adult £8 (£8.50 on the gate), child five to 13 years £2 or family £20.