Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival has been hailed as the tastiest ever with a record crowd of over 25,000 foodies savouring the delights!
The succes has cemented the two-day event as one of the best autumn food festivals in the UK with visitors from near and far attracted to the diverse range of local food and drink being showcased.
Over 150 exhibitors filled the Pump Room Gardens for the weekend festival, which is now in its seventh year and free to attend.
New for this year was Aubrey Allen’s ‘Home Cook of the Year’ competition with finalists judged in a live cook-off by celebrity chef Brian Turner CBE, Michelin star chef and local food hero Andreas Antona, from Simpsons, and Warwick and Leamington Spa MP Chris White.
Kate Reddington, from Leamington Spa, was crowned the winner in front of a packed audience after wowing the judges with her favourite three course menu despite badly cutting her thumb in the opening minutes of the contest.
Kate, an NHS health education specialist, said: “I cut my thumb in the first five minutes which I think was down to nerves. I got it all bandaged up and then knew I just had to concentrate and make sure I was focused.
“It feels fantastic to win. I love cooking at home for my family and friends but have never done anything like this before. The set up in the Live Kitchen was great and it’s been a tremendous experience.”
Brian Turner said he was impressed with the standard of all four finalists and the festival overall.
He said: “It’s my first time here and it’s been a great day out. There’s a huge amount going on with all the stallholders and live music, and so many people here. It’s a great atmosphere.
“I’m gobsmacked that the competition drew so many people to watch. It just goes to show that even if you are only a cook for a family at home that with a bit of effort you can cook really good and tasty food that keeps everyone entranced. The finalists did a great job with a well-deserved winner.”
Andreas Antona added: “It was a very high standard considering the finalists are all home cooks. I have judged worse professional competitions! It was the precision of Kate’s cooking that won her the title.”
Other highlights included the Taste Trail which was a sell-out with festival-goers keen to sample the menus of participating restaurants around the town.