COCKERMOUTH is swapping bikes for bakes and bites to eat as it gears up for the Taste Cumbria food festival this weekend.
Just a few weeks after it was brought to standstill by some of the finest cyclists in the world, there will be a different kind of jam in the town as it again hosts the Taste Cumbria food festival, showcasing some of the county’s finest produce and chefs.
This will be the sixth event and more than 30,000 foodies are expected to fill the town over the two days.
As well as watching free demonstrations from chefs and drink experts, they will also get the chance to dine at a special pop-up restaurant run by Simon Rogan – the country’s leading chef.
His two Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume, in Cartmel, was recently named the UK’s top restaurant for the third year running by the Good Food Guide.
The success of the festival and of local restaurants is a sign of how much the food in the county has progressed over the past decade, according to one of the country’s most respected chefs, Steven Doherty.
He says: “Cumbria is amazing at the moment, it is a very exciting place to be. There is a lot going on.”
Steven has lived and worked in the county for more than 20 years.
He became the first British chef to hold three Michelin stars at Le Gavroche before moving to Cumbria in 1993 and creating the gastro-pub phenomenon at the Brown Horse in Winster and at the Punch Bowl, Crosthwaite.
He is currently consultant overseeing food at the George & Dragon at Clifton as well as Askham Hall and is executive chef/owner at Lakeland’s First Floor Cafe at its flagship store in Windermere.
Steven will be performing a cookery demonstration and will also be compering over the weekend.
He says: “There has always been strong food theme here and in the past 10 years especially, it has moved on incredibly rapidly.
“People from outside the county now want to come here to cook. I came here to do something different and Cumbria has been very kind to me over the years.
“When I used to see people in London, they never understood why I moved, now I see them and they say ‘yeah, we get it’.
“I’m very proud and very happy to be part of this dynamic scene.
“The Taste Cumbria festival is part of the profile of the county.
“People want to go out and get to see these guys on the street and see what there is to offer.”
The event is now firmly established in the foodie calendar.
With its packed producers’ market, hot food court, expert masterclasses and demos, it attracts tens of thousands of visitors from Cumbria and beyond.
As well as Steven and Simon Rogan, this year’s show will feature Richard Burr, a 2014 Great British Bake Off finalist.
He will be taking part in masterclasses and a book signing and Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott will be sharing her passion for gin as part of her role as ambassador for the Lakes Distillery.
The weekend launches tonight with a beer festival at Jennings Brewery, hosted by Moo! Bars of Penrith and Carlisle.
There will also be a comedy night in the Trout Hotel marquee, with comics Phil Ellis, Ray Bradshaw and Steve Shanyaski taking to the stage.
Main Street and Market Place will be closed to traffic throughout tomorrow and Sunday as they will be filled by the producers’ market and hot food court.
Main Street also hosts the festival marquee, where visitors can learn from the experts at free demonstrations featuring lamb, tea and coffee cocktails and more.
In Market Place, food lovers can tuck into a wealth of hot food freshly made on the spot, and there’s plenty for the children to do in neighbouring Bitterbeck Car Park where activity sessions will be set up by King’s Church to keep the youngest visitors entertained.
Youngsters will be able to join in the free Grub Club masterclasses where Andy Walsh, of The Coffee Kitchen, will be making creative pizzas.
The adult masterclasses, hosted at Riversmeet in Market Place, also feature lots of local experts, making everything from the perfect coffee to sushi, baking and cooking with fish.
Away from the main festival streets, the beer festival takes place at Jennings from 5pm to 9pm tonight and noon to 9pm tomorrow and there are half-price brewery tours too.
In the Trout’s marquee, from 11am to 5pm tomorrow and 11am to 4pm on Sunday, they’ll be serving Nyetimber English sparkling wine, made in exactly the same way as Champagne, alongside tapas and mezze.
As well as the Tickled at the Trout comedy on the Friday evening – where they will be serving Cranstons pies and Jennings ales – there’s also a Sparkling and Soul night tomorrow, with music from Soul City Walkers and fizz to wash down a Lakeland platter supper.
Some tickets for the Taste Cumbria pop-up restaurant, masterclasses and the events at the Trout Hotel are on sale.
To book, or for more information, go to www.tastecumbria.com, call 01228 612000, or visit the Times & Star office in Workington.
Marie Whitehead, director of cn events which organises Taste Cumbria, said: “I think this year’s festival is shaping up to be another fantastic success.
“We’re really excited by secret location for the pop-up restaurant – as we’d hoped, no-one’s guessed where we’re hosting it yet.
“We’re also excited by the line-up of chefs for our masterclasses and free demos.
“There are some old favourites and some new faces in there and they offer something for every food and drink lover.
Taste Cumbria is organised in association Allerdale council and Cumbria Life, and the main sponsors are the Lakes Distillery, the Trout Hotel and Jennings Brewery. Additional sponsors are the Coffee Kitchen, Cockermouth Town Council, Cumbria Tourism, Caterite, Cranstons, the Times & Star, innovation and technology giant Westinghouse, and Robert Welch cutlery.