A RECORD turnout of more than 20,000 food lovers are to descend on Chester to enjoy the seventh annual Food and Drink Festival.
The Festival will centre around Chester racecourse with a host of culinary activities taking place around the city’s bars, restaurants and food shops.
In the main grandstand area of Chester racecourse there will be a large producers’ market with cheeses, meats, fruit, vegetables, ice- cream, shrimps, salmon and cider, homemade chocolates and preserves.
There will also be wine, beer, champagne and cheese tastings. The main concourse will house exhibitors from all over the UK. There will be a food court featuring Cheshire restaurants, children’s entertainment and music.
The Leverhulme stand will host the main auditorium for seminars and cooking demonstrations led by chefs Simon Rimmer, Lotte Duncan and Mike Robinson.
According to a visitor survey into last year’s festival attendance, 72% of visitors spent more than £10 and 26% over £20. Statistics show 36% of the visitors travelled more than 15 miles to the festival with 10% staying in Chester hotels. There is a forecast of 82% return trade to this year’s festivities.
Festival chairman Stephen Wundke believes the popular event has matured in terms of visitor numbers but there is scope to improve the quality of the event.
He said: “I think with 20,000 people this weekend we will be approaching the limit of what this type of event can generate in terms of visitor numbers. We are now looking at how we can develop this product to the next level. Perhaps something that combines other activities with it, or lots of culture and art, a real showcase of our city at its best to commence the visitor year.
“This week’s Chester F&D festival has achieved national and international acclaim and really has made people right across the UK say – ‘if its Easter it must be the Chester Food and Drink festival’.”
Global cuisine has arrived on the Chester restaurant scene with European, Far Eastern, Asian, American and African food served across the county.
Mr Wundke explained: “Cheshire is positioning itself as the key destination for food and drink outside of London and more and more as a first choice as a holiday destination.”
He added: “People want to eat out more and want to see the type of food they see on the many cookery programmes on our televisions. All booms are either resource fuelled or consumer fuelled and the discerning Chester resident in common with our visitor is demanding the very best in available food and drink – and we are supplying that.”
The restaurateur sees the next step as to improve the quality of service and cuisine standards.
He said: “Very soon the Restaurant Association of Chester and Cheshire is going to introduce a benchmarking quality assurance. It will make it easier for both residents and visitors to be assured when they go out they will be getting a unique Cheshire experience.
For more details about the 2008 Chester Food and Drink Festival, go to www.chesterfoodanddrink.com.