Royal chefs star at top food festival

A trio of Wales’s best chefs will have a starring role at a top food festival – as they prepare to take on the world.

They will be hitting the culinary high notes at Hamper Llangollen that’s being held in the town on Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and 19.

At Hamper Llangollen, Graham Tinsley, executive chef at Carden Park in Cheshire and Conwy’s Castle Hotel, will be cooking up a Welsh feast with Mike Evans, hospitality lecturer at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos on Sea, and Dion Jones, one of Europe’s finest young chefs.

Graham and Dion ceidiog

The event, hailed as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK, is supported by the rural development agency, Cadwyn Clwyd.

Cadwyn Clwyd’s contribution comes via the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.

The trio of chefs will be demonstrating the recipes that will be cooked by the team at the World Cup in Luxemburg when they will go head to head with the best culinary talents from around the globe.

Graham is just putting the finishing touches to the menus for the hot and cold dishes the culinary team – currently ranked seventh in the world – will be preparing at the World Cup.

But he is determined Welsh produce will feature strongly at Hamper Llangollen.

He said: “We always aim to showcase Welsh produce as part of what we are preparing. If we can’t buy it there, we take it with us.

“For Llangollen, we will also be going the stands of those exhibiting at the festival for inspiration. So when you see us cook the dishes, we will explain where you can buy the produce, whether it’s yoghurt, liquors or fresh vegetables. So you can buy the ingredients on the day and head home to make the dish for yourself,” said Graham, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations for his services to the food industry.

He has cooked for the Queen and members of the Royal family on numerous occasions, as well as the Emperor of Japan and European Heads of State at Cardiff Castle. Prince Charles, as patron of the Welsh National Culinary Team, has requested that they cook for him and his guests at every formal occasion in Wales and Graham was invited to attend his wedding celebration at Windsor Castle.

“We are hopeful of doing very well at the World Cup. When it was the Culinary Olympiad in 2012, we took silver and bronze, while at the last World Cup we picked up gold for the hot table and silver for the cold buffet.

“I’m just finalising what we will be cooking for the hot dishes this time, while I’ve got a little longer to think about the cold buffet. But it will definitely be a reflection of the great good and drink from Wales that’s available.”

One of Mike Evans’s latest graduates is off to join kitchen wizard Heston Blumental. His previous students include Bryn Williams from Denbigh, who runs London restaurant and celebrity favourite Odette’s and who is about to open his first Welsh venture, at Porth Eirias, Colwyn Bay.

Another ex-student is former Bodysgallen Hall chef David Kelman, who was among the four top chefs who beat 20 others to win a place cooking up a treat for D-Day veterans at the Royal Albert Hall in BBC1’s Great British Menu.

Mike is just back from cooking for his rugby heroes, Sam Warburton and Rupert Moon. He’s previously served up meals for the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, plus David Cameron and the First Minister of Wales, along with the elite of Moscow’s multi-millionaire business community.

Mike Evans, who now lives in Old Colwyn, is in charge of coaching the Welsh Culinary Team’s junior squad.

He added: “Catering is now seen as a very positive option to take – in September there will be around 80 students starting at Coleg Llandrillo, while a few years ago there would only have half that number.

“It is a tough life but it does have great rewards, and standards are certainly on the up. The TV shows certainly help, not only to demonstrate to young people how high they can aim, but to also show the quality of food that’s being produced in restaurants these days.

“The Culinary Team has taken me some great places, such as cooking for the Welsh Rugby Union – though most of the big names were in South Africa playing: we were catering for the injured ones left behind. But I’m a big rugby fan, and it was a real honour to be cooking for them.

“My time with the team has taken me to Cardiff to cook for Royalty for the opening of the Senedd building, when I got to meet the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla. And I’ve been to Moscow where we were showcasing British products, such as Range Rover and Jaguar, with a very upmarket buffet for Russian business people.

“Students who are considering a career in catering can see that we are cooking at a very high standard,” added Mike, who is hopeful that another of his students will soon be seeing stars. Just weeks after graduating from Coleg Llandrillo Nick Rudge has just joined Heston Blumenthal’s team at the Michelin- starred Fat Duck in Bray.

Rising star Dion, 26, from Valley, Anglesey, and now living in Wrexham, became the first Briton to win the world’s oldest culinary competition, the International Escoffier Challenge in the South of France.

A finalist in the 2014 National Chef of the Year contest, he’s also gearing up for his second bid to win the prestigious Roux Scholarship, after being pipped at the post last time, when he was runner-up.

Cadwyn Clwyd’s Agri Food Officer, Robert Price, believes this year’s festival is going to be one of the best ever.

He said: “Thanks to a whole host of indigenous companies like Orchard Pigs, North East Wales is rapidly establishing a reputation as a centre of excellence for high quality cuisine.

“The food festival is a perfect shop window for the companies who form the backbone of our rural economy.

“The location of the Pavilion is absolutely spectacular – I can’t imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.”

For more information about Hamper Llangollen 2014 visit

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