Sunderland to host city centre’s first food festival

Launch of the Sunderland Festival of Food.'Sunderland City College catering students
Launch of the Sunderland Festival of Food.'Sunderland City College catering students
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Sunderland’s first city-centre food festival promises a treat for the taste buds.

The Echo can reveal that a two-day celebration of food, glorious food will take place at the Museum and Winter Gardens and Mowbray Park in May.

Organisers hope the Sunderland Festival of Food will become an annual event celebrating local culinary concoctions, whilst also educating people about gastronomy.

More than 50 food stallholders are expected to exhibit in a specially built food village in the park, which will also include 10 street food vendors selling cuisine that hails from across the globe.

As well as sampling food to taste and buy, visitors will be able to watch kitchen demonstrations by guest chefs and there will be classes for adults and children led by Sunderland College’s head of catering.

Sugarcraft demonstrations, a pop-up tea room by Serendipity Tearooms and live music in the bandstand will also feature.

The not-for-profit event is the brainchild of Opus Dining Club and Sunderland Live, who are hoping to create a buzz about food on Wearside.

Lesley Craggs, director at Opus Dining Club, said: “We’re passionate about supporting the local food economy.

“We go to restaurants and attend events across the region and we’ve found that the food culture is very different in Sunderland.

“Whereas Newcastle food culture relies on a lot of passing trade, Sunderland has much more of an intimate, community feel.

“Our philosophy is about supporting the region and its food economy and, unlike other events, we won’t be inviting any stalls from outside the area to attend.”

The festival has teamed up with Sunderland College for the event which has been winning rave reviews for its restaurant The Lounge where catering students create food with flair.

The event will kick off with a gourmet dinner cooked by a hand-picked culinary team of 12 students from the college at Quayside Exchange on May 23.

Rob Stewart, curriculum leader in catering and hospitality at the college, said: “I think people would be amazed with the quality and standard of what we do here with the students who are incredibly hard-working and dedicated.

“The food they prepare is as good as any restaurant in Sunderland and the students are keen and always keeping up with trends. The gala dinner is a great opportunity to give these students more experience of what it’s like working in the industry.

“Attitudes to food in Sunderland are a lot different than what they once were, people are a lot more educated about good food now and they won’t settle for anything less, which is a good thing.”

Culinary team member Jodie Clough, 17, who is studying for her diploma in professional cookery, said: “People probably dismiss us as being college students, but this is our chance to show people what we can do.”

Michelle Whittle, event co-ordinator at Sunderland Live, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Sunderland Festival of Food. Sunderland Live already deliver the successful Farmers’ Market which takes place each month in Market Square and feel this event further develops the opportunity to showcase local produce in the city.”

l The Sunderland Festival of Food will take place at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and Mowbray Park on May 25 and 26.

There will be an entry fee to the festival, though the cost has not yet been confirmed.