Let the celebrations begin

This delicious cake – telling Norfolk's food story from butchers and bakers to a dedicated cheese maker – is just the start of a whole month of tasty treats.

September is about to be taken over by all things scrumptious in a spectacular celebration of this county's growers, makers, chefs and food scientists.

And as the leading lights of the food, drink and business communities came together to mark the start of the EDP Bidwells Norfolk Food Festival, organisers said things could only get better.

Aviva's stunning Marble Hall on Surrey Street in Norwich was last night the setting of the launch event for this year's celebrations which officially kick off today and run until October 3.

The evening began with festival organisers and supporters cutting the specially-made launch cake which had been created by Sheringham baker Emma Thorburn of Buns of Fun.

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Welcoming everyone to the event, festival chairman Richard Woolliams reflected on the journey they had been on with the festival since its inception in 2005.

He said: 'I think it is true to say our festival has really come of age and has grown – particularly over the last two years – into the country's biggest food festival.

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'That's quite a statement but we have nearly 1,000 events over the next five weeks and over 400 businesses involved, so I think we can be confident we are the biggest.'

The Norfolk Food Festival, now in its seventh year, has grown from a long weekend to a full month of celebrations which this year aims to become a destination festival for visitors from across the country.

Throughout that time, the bulk of the work had been carried out by a loyal band of volunteers and food lovers who have given up their free time outside of their day jobs to make it a success.

As they enjoyed canapes from award-winning Norfolk restaurant Brasted's and wine and champagne from Southwold brewer Adnams last night, they were congratulated for their dedication which has involved months of planning.

James Brookes, senior partner and head of the farm agency team at title sponsor Bidwells, said his company was proud to have supported the festival throughout its journey.

He said the Norfolk food industry was an incredibly important part of the county's economy and had earned a deserved reputation for high quality and delicious produce.

He added: 'Norwich is unique – as are our other towns – in as far as the quality of eating establishments is concerned. They're as good as it gets. We've got internationally renowned chefs based in Norfolk to a density that others would struggle to get.'

Four of those top chefs have put their names to this year's festival as patrons of the celebrations.

Delia Smith and Galton Blackiston, of Morston Hall, have been joined by Antonio Carluccio, who recently opened his first Norfolk restaurant in Norwich, and Marco Pierre White, who now owns the Norfolk-based hotel and pub company Maypole Group.

Speaking at last night's launch, Norfolk chef Mr Blackiston said: 'Being a patron means I get to talk about everything that's fantastic about Norfolk. We have this wide expanse of sea which I think produces the best fish anywhere, fantastic farming land producing potatoes, strawberries and asparagus, and our meat and poultry is second to none.'

To help ensure the growth and continued development of the festival, organisers have created a not-for-profit company to run it.

EDP editor Peter Waters said the celebrations could only get better. 'Using the umbrella promotion of the EDP Bidwells Norfolk Food Festival to showcase the weekend events will hopefully see them go from strength to strength, and with all the other midweek activity this is without doubt going to be the best – and biggest – county-wide festival yet,' he said. 'The aim now must be to keep the impetus, keep growing and turn it into the best and the biggest destination food festival in the UK. In the meantime, we hope everyone enjoys celebrating Norfolk produce throughout September.'

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