Record numbers attend star-studded Woking Food and Drink Festival

9 September 2015

Hailed as another culinary triumph, the third annual Woking Food and Drink Festival attracted record crowds who came to feast on the very best in local street food and handmade produce, while being thoroughly entertained and inspired by a host of celebrity chefs.

‘Cooking with gas’ from Friday morning right the way through to Sunday night, festival organisers made good their promise to stage an even bigger and better festival in 2015 with an estimated 90,000 people attending the three-day event.

Leader of Woking Borough Council, Cllr John Kingsbury said: “This year’s Woking Food and Drink Festival delivered everything we set out to achieve and more. It drew a huge number of visitors to our refurbished Town Centre, who we hope liked what they found and will keep returning on a frequent basis.

“In line with our desire to support our home-grown talent and as a way of encouraging people to shop local, the festival provided a valuable showcase for our artisan food producers, local restaurants and critically acclaimed chefs.

“Bigger and better each year, the festival is a joyous occasion for bringing the community together to celebrate and share its love of food. Not only is the festival delicious and exciting, it is also educational with free masterclasses, cookery demonstrations and an interesting array of international cuisines on offer.

“My sincere thanks to our sponsors, participating retailers and to everyone involved in putting on this impressive show. It all adds to the ongoing transformation of our Town Centre and developing cultural scene.”

Praise from the professionals

Welcoming over 300 visitors to its new Town Centre premises during the festival for a tour of its state-of-the-art academy, Tante Marie’s Managing Director, Andrew Maxwell said: “Woking Food and Drink Festival gets bigger and better each year. This year’s festival had an amazing vibe achieved by the diversity and number of local food and drink exhibitors in attendance, including the integration of the new market, which really embraced the event.

“The beating heart of the festival was the Tante Marie Culinary Academy Theatre, which featured a selection of experienced, quality chefs from around the area. The demonstrations were exceptional and the crowds definitely seemed to enjoy watching the chefs in action. Overall all, it was a great event all round!”

Equally positive, Great British Bake Off 2012 winner, John Whaite, said of his festival debut: “My demonstration was great fun with a great crowd of people. The Woking Food and Drink Festival is lovely! It’s got lots of variety, lots of people, it feels busy, there’s lots of produce. In my eyes it’s the perfect festival.”

Chef, co-presenter and judge on MasterChef: The Professionals, Monica Galetti, said: “Food festivals are very important. They are a great way for restaurateurs and suppliers to keep in touch with the public. People need to know what’s available to them, to have a bit of taste, so that they think, ‘yeah I want to try this’. The recession is still on. We need the support of people to come in [to town] and dine out. Festivals keep people in touch with food; people can try the food and try the wine. They draw people out and bring the community together.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of food festivals, some in parks, and some as part of shows. Woking is a community and it’s well set up for it. People in Woking have turned up very early to be a part of this festival. They are genuinely excited and interested in food. The festival is compact, it has a neat little buzz and it’s got a nice feel to it.”

Festival highlights

A mouth-watering amount of street food, locally brewed beer and hand-crafted produce. The Lowe & Slow barbequed bacon-covered Scotch egg was the ‘taste’ of the festival. Also tempting people to wait in line were Garcia’s freshly prepared sweet smelling Churros, back by popular demand, and The Breadstall’s signature sausage roll. Horsell-based brewing company, Thurstons, sold out while quenching people’s thirst in the warm Sunday sunshine.

Another hot-pick was the Tante Marie Culinary Academy Masterclasses, which sold out in a few days, with ‘Mastering the Art of Macarons’ being the most popular. The only paid for element of the festival, the masterclasses generated over £500, which was donated to Woking-based charity, LinkAble.

Of the live cookery demonstrations, it was the Michelin masters, Michael Wignall and Steve Drake who stole the show, delighting audiences with their tips and culinary anecdotes. People also queued across Jubilee Square for a slice of MasterChef, Monica Galetti’s Samoan style ceviche on the main theatre stage. One lucky audience member won an exclusive Flint and Flame Monica Galetti knife by correctly answering a question set by the chef.

Adding a generous helping of celebrity sparkly to Woking’s own bake off competition, John Whaite had the pleasurable task of picking two star bakers after inspecting and sampling a whopping 28 cakes! Caron Moses picked up the Adult Bake Off prize for her coconut, lemon and raspberry show-stopper, while Lois Malbon was crowned the winner of the Junior Bake Off with her ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ blueberry sponge, which had everything from great presentation, flavour and moisture.

Festival stats (sample of 583 visitors)

  • Almost half of people surveyed* said they came to the Town Centre specifically for the festival (48%).
  • A third stated they came from outside of the Borough (31%).
  • 94% of visitors rated the festival as ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’.

Sponsors information

Woking Food and Drink Festival 2015 was delivered in partnership with Woking Shopping and sponsored by Tante Marie Culinary Academy, Woking Advertiser and Celebrate Woking.