Food and drink festivals are often a chance for organisers to showcase regional talent and cuisine—and the Exeter Food & Drink festival is no different. The festival is now entering its twelfth year, a rousing endorsement of South West England's culinary arts. A truly family friendly atmosphere is an excellent backdrop to the food on offer, a smorgasbord of local classic dishes and produce. The idea is about encouraging people to look a little closer to home when thinking about their food—even if it's just shopping in the local farm shop, the carbon footprint for all of us can be reduced down to a minimum.
The festival was founded in 2004 by Michael Caines, a recipient of two Michelin stars and a man keen to show the public what incredible South West food is right on their doorstep. Such has been the success of the festival that now sponsors vie to be involved—the main sponsor for this festival will be Exeter City Council, who recognise the opportunity to promote the region. The thousands of visitors the festival attracts also boosts the local economy and locations of tourist interest in Devon. The food transportation company 3663 is also heavily involved, an especially nice touch since they are responsible for millions of food miles every year—and are keen to cut this figure wherever they can, understanding that the future of our environment is only assured if we all pitch in.
The 2016 festival will be held from Friday 22nd April to Sunday 24th April and will house over one hundred regional food producers, as well as celebrity guests (these include television chefs). Part of the festival is devoted to hosting workshops for both adults and children keen to improve their cooking skills and to learn something that will surprise and impress their friends.
The 'Festival After Dark' is run for each day of the festival, starting at 6pm and running until 'late', a little like the concept of night events at the Natural History Museum in London. It's a chance for the grownups to let their hair down a bit and enjoy the live music on stage—as well as many of the local tipples, available from the Festival Bar in Exeter Castle Courtyard and the Festival Gardens Bar. South West booze is provided by the likes of Otter Brewery, Branscombe Vale Brewery and Clearwater Cask Ales.
A huge number of local chefs are making the pilgrimage to the Exeter Food and Drink Festival, including Ben Bulger (River Cottage), Melissa Johnson (the South West Junior Chef of the Year 2014) and Michael Caines himself. It is hoped that seeing some of these magicians firsthand will encourage more young people to see food as a potential art form rather than just something to shovel into their faces. Recruitment and information sites like yourfoodjob.com have exhaustive lists featuring all kinds of chef and food jobs all around the UK, as well as Exeter and Devon. For instance, this job as a chef in Devon is an excellent opportunity for someone who has completed an NVQ or City Guilds qualification. The best chefs sometimes don't even realise what their calling is until later in life—they are simply the best cook they know, and don't think to stretch themselves beyond creating delights for their families.
The Exeter Food & Drink Festival is also a chance to revel in hundreds of different locally produced dishes and foodstuffs. The fruit and vegetables taste better not only because they are fresher but also because they are guilt-free. The environment did not suffer to grow them—if anything, small-scale farmers put in more than they take out. Farmers maintain hedgerows, a haven for all manner of small animals. They also provide employment to the local community.
So why not visit a wonderful food festival this year and head to Exeter to see what the fuss is reallly all about!