Emma Crowhurst: Another great festival

The pigeon plucking competition at the Aldeburgh Food Festival

The pigeon plucking competition at the Aldeburgh Food Festival - Credit: Archant

Emma Crowhurst Chef, writer, cookery teacher and food lover

Aldeburgh Food Festival weekend has come to an end, although there are numerous fringe events still to take place. All the hard work and effort has paid off with greater visitor numbers than ever before.

The sun shone nearly all weekend and hoardes of people enjoyed eating and drinking in Snape Maltings’ beautiful courtyard.

Wonderful chef demonstrations, fabulous exhibitors stands, delicious food everywhere, who could ask for more?

There were some familiar faces alongside new ones on the two chef stages. My time was spent hosting the courtyard stage and looking after some very talented chefs.

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The first morning saw me on stage with Chris Lee, formerly of the Bildeston Crown. He cooked a stunning surf and turf dish. October sees the opening of The Packhorse, at Moulton in West Suffolk, 2.5 miles from Newmarket. The Packhorse will be managed by Chris and Hayley Lee as head chef and manager respectively. Chris is all fired up and looking forward to a new challenge after 10 years at the Bildeston Crown. His beautiful presentation of the delicious chicken and lobster dish was faultless and it tasted fantastic. Unfortunately visitors to the show are not allowed to taste the food made by the chefs due to health and safety rules. But behind the scenes we can vouch for the quality of the recipes produced.

Sunday morning saw two new faces on the Courtyard stage. Xavier Esteve, owner of Upstairs at Baileys, started the day right with a taste of the real Spain. His chef David scored a hit with his first demonstration at the festival. Their popular deli in Beccles has long been an institution, you walk through the deli to reach the restaurant upstairs, hence the name. With Xavier translating for David as he cooked an exciting romesco flavoured risotto served inside a squid parcel, they made a wonderful team. Their restaurant is finding national acclaim and I am really looking forward to seeing more from them very soon.

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On the marquee stage there were more new faces, although not if you have been watching The Great British Menu. From Midsummer House in Cambridge Daniel Clifford cooked up a storm to the delight of the crowd.

Also on the marquee stage was the very talented Paul Foster, who has been head chef at Tuddenham Mill for three years now. At only 30 years of age, and in his first head chef role, Paul has recently been turning the heads of critics in the culinary world and receiving many accolades including Young Chef of the Year 2011 by the Observer Food Monthly and Up and Coming Chef of the Year 2012 by The Good Food Guide. His pigeon with beetroot was a simple triumph.

Sunday finished with a chorus of approval from almost everyone still at the festival. David Grimwood from the Froize Inn at Chillesford had a host of helpers to celebrate 20 local producers with 20 ingredients in five recipes. His great friend, Blythburgh Pork’s Jimmy Butler assisted with praising the wealth of Suffolk’s bounty and a few jokes along the way. Their ‘set’ finished with the inaugural pigeon plucking championship accompanied by the pop chorus choir singing about all things foodie! Pascale from Gressingham Duck won with the best plucked bird!

The atmosphere at the close of the festival was one of sadness and satisfaction with everyone saying it was the best ever and I am inclined to agree.

The sense of community and commitment to the production of the best that Suffolk has to offer will go on and on. Do enjoy the fringe events that are taking place all over the county.

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