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Shrewsbury Food Festival 2017: Top chefs talk ahead of event

By Caroline Jones | Entertainment | Published:

The best in the business will be lining up at Shrewsbury Food Festival to show people how to cook better.

The festival’s Wenlock Spring Chef Demonstration stage will welcome TV stars, Michelin stars and Shropshire stars during a weekend bonanza. Several of the chefs will also feature at the FBC Manby Bowdler Cookery School, which is curated by Executive Chef Chris Burt, from Shrewsbury’s Mytton and Mermaid.

Laura Jones, from FBC, said: “We had great fun last year and this year we’re looking to up the ante. We’ve got a brilliant line-up with more guest chefs than ever before. We’re delighted that Chris Burt will be curating the stage again – and we’re thrilled that he’s also bringing so many friends with him.”

Burt, executive chef at the Mytton and Mermaid, is a force of nature whose 20-year stint at Shrewsbury’s Peach Tree, Momo No Ki and Havana Republic made him one of the county’s most celebrated cooks. He’s recently spread his wings by becoming the consultant chef for Finnebrogue Artisan, the Northern Ireland food giant that works on behalf of premium UK food retailers and big names like Heston.

Burt said: “We’ve got a great line-up this year. The courses get heavily over-subscribed, so the tip is to book early.”

Those who’d rather relax and watch the chefs at it, however, can grab a seat for the Wenlock Spring Chef Demonstration stage.

The fun will start on Saturday at 11am with Ian Cornall, from Shropshire’s Top Fishmonger, Barkworths Seafoods. Cornall is a regular sight for visitors to Shrewsbury Market. He’s run the fish stall there for many years, providing the freshest catch of the day to local shoppers. He’s also no stranger to Shrewsbury Food Festival and will be making a welcome return. “The food festival in Shrewsbury has been a really important catalyst. It’s helped to give the town a first class reputation for great food and we’re delighted to be part of that.”

He will be followed by Robert Swift, from Swift’s, which has shops in Ludlow, Craven Arms and other parts of the county.

Fifth generation baker Robert Swift was born into a baking dynasty. His family have more than 150 years’ experience of baking. They founded their company in a different age and have run shops in Shropshire and Staffordshire in the intervening years. Rob has been a mainstay at the festival and will be coming up with something new for festival-goers.

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He said: “Baking has been in the Swift family since 1863, when Hannah Swift, great, great aunt of my father, Richard Swift, began baking in the small Staffordshire village of Wheaton Aston.

“Hannah continued to run the bakery business with the help of her daughter Harriet until the time when Hannah’s nephew Tom took over at the age of 19, after serving his bakery apprenticeship at West Bromwich and Stafford.

“The Swift baking tradition continues to this day with myself and my brother well established. My own son – the sixth generation – has also made a start, helping to keep it in the family.”

Michelin star chef Nathan Eades, from Simpsons, in Birmingham, will line up at 1pm.

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Eades is one of the UK’s best chefs. He formerly worked at Fishmore Hall before opening his own restaurant. Soon after, he landed the coveted head chef’s job at Simpson’s, in Edgbaston, which has held a Michelin star since 2000. It is presently ranked in the Top 50 restaurants in the UK and Eades’ star is continuing to rise.

Nathan fell into cheffing and has never looked back: “It’s quite cliché really, I fell into it. I was about 16 and had finished my first year of sixth form. I came to realise that I didn’t want to go to university. At the weekends I had a job washing pots in a local pub. One Saturday night they were struggling for chefs and I was brought over to do the deep fried garlic mushrooms. The bug started from there really.”

Andrew Birch, from Fishmore Hall, in Ludlow, will complete Saturday’s line-up.

Andrew Birch is a real Shropshire star. He moved to Shropshire two years ago to take over the kitchens at Fishmore Hall.

Previously Senior Sous Chef of the 3-AA Rosette and Michelin-starred Montague Arms in Hampshire, Birch joined Acorn Award winner and owner of the boutique hotel, Laura Penman, to re-launch Forelles restaurant for Spring 2015.

Located in the foodie hot spot of Ludlow, the hotel has built up a loyal following with both visitors and local guests.

Sunday’s line-up will also feature a number of quality chefs. Chris Burt will feature at 1pm. He said: ““Shrewsbury food festival is a real highlight of the year. I’ve been there since the start and I’ve watched it grow and grow. It’s the best food festival in the region and there’s no wonder it’s won so many awards. The team behind it are totally dedicated and pull out all of the stops to get a seriously impressive line-up on the demonstration stage.”

Top TV cook Sally Bee will follow.

“It’s not just about eating healthily,” says Sally. “It’s also about embracing a healthy lifestyle.

“Thinking healthy thoughts that are positive, encouraging and celebratory have a direct influence on our health. A good thought, leads to a good feeling which in turn leads to better wellbeing. I never underestimate the power of positive thinking.”

Sally will be signing books after her demonstration before heading up a masterclass on the FBC Manby Bowdler cookery school.

Stephane Borie, from The Checker’s, at Montgomery, will follow.

Places for the FBC Manby Bowdler Cookery School can be booked at www.shrewsburyfoodfestival.co.uk or on the day of the festival, but places for the Wenlock Spring Chef Demonstration stage are available on the day, on a first come first served basis.

Caroline Jones

By Caroline Jones
Group Head of Features - @@cazj79

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