Food festivals are now a common occurrence, but they are a relatively new phenomenon. York’s Food Festival was one of the first back in 1997, and has always been one of the biggest and best. Every September, up to 400,000 people spend time at the free 10-day event in the historic city centre.
York: Spark, the collection of vibrantly painted shipping containers that has sprung up to re-energise Piccadilly, radically extends the Festival’s Street Food offer.
Spark will host a major charitable event for Action against Hunger using surplus produce. Also at Spark are many of the Taste Workshops that feature at this year’s Festival, which takes place from 21st-30th September.
Taking a lead from the “Slow Food” movement the Taste Workshops are an opportunity to learn more about local produce from producers and experts. Visitors can match Yorkshire Apple and Ciders with local produce, be guided through the production of single variety Chocolates from bean to bar at York’s new Cocoa Works, and taste and understand more about locally roasted coffee, beers brewed in the city, bread, cheeses and oysters.
If you are still peckish you can sample “Viking age” food prepared live by the Jorvik centre.at the heart of the festival. Alternatively, local charity YUMI is working with Syrian refugees to showcase their national cuisine.
The most substantial hands on learning opportunity at the Festival is the new “Food Factory”. A family ticket for nearly two hours of entertainment is £15. Participants learn to make bread, butter, pasta and ice-cream, preserve fish and make cheese, and if that’s not enough the visit is rounded off by making chocolate with the Cocoa Works.
The Food Factory is situated on St Sampson’s Square alongside the demonstration area and a new pop-up bar and street food area, “The Star on the Square”, run by regional celebrity chef Andrew Pern.
York Food Festival is a run by an independent organisation that aims to make a long-term difference to the city. The Festival runs school events mid-week with hundreds of local school children gaining cookery lessons.
The Festival is also hosting a new series of Hospitality Awards with local hero Tommy Banks, the celebrity chef from the Black Swan at Oldstead, presenting the prizes. Visitors can also see Tommy in the demonstration area, alongside fellow Great British Menu contestants Steph Moon, Andrew Pern and Andrew’s fellow Michelin star winner James Mackenzie. For lovers of York’s innovative Skosh restaurant, chef Neil Bentinck is also demonstrating.
A Taste Trail allows visitors to relish samples in a wide variety of food retailers around the city. Buy a booklet, £8 for 2 and spend the day exploring. For adults there are also Gin, Champagne and Ale Trails as an introduction to York’s many great bars. Ale lovers may wish to come on the first weekend of the Festival as it coincides with the CAMRA Beer and Cider festival on York Knavesmire.
Tickets for individual events can be sourced through the festival website www.yorkfoodfestival.com However, the majority of the festival is free.