Bury St Edmunds has become foodie heaven for two days as the town’s Food and Drink Festival took to the streets with everything from popcorn to paella.
The nearest the arc’s beach got to the sea was Royal National Lifeboat Institution flags for the sandcastles, but the smells of food made up for the lack of a salty tang.
If you wanted real mouth watering aromas, you headed for Butter Market or the Farmers’ Market in Angel Hill, where the mingling of so many smells, from fresh basil to burgers, almost made breathing in fattening.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of OurBuryStEdmunds, who organised the event, said: “Where the market is generic, this is more specialist – the only stalls we allowed here sell food and drink.
“The stallholders are predominantly local to here. You have to think of food miles and we want to promote local producers.”
The ‘food only’ rule even applied to the family-owned Rougham Hall Nurseries stall because they stocked it entirely with food plants and produce from their farm shop.
Joint owner Yvonne Harbutt said: “We find more people are getting into growing their own. Today we’ve got herbs, strawberry plants, chillis and fruit trees and bushes.
“A lot of people are starting to want to do mini-orchards and you’re finding that as well as the common things like apples, pears, damsons and cherries, people are interested in things like quince and mulberry.”
Some of the stallholders would be familiar to regular Bury Market visitors, but others were new or businesses who normally live in other parts of the town.
Leigh Lloyd’s Leigh’s Cheeses is a market regular, but he says the food festival is better for business.
“A lot of people coming here haven’t seen us before,” he said, over the Camembert. “Because it’s a food festival, everyone coming into town is here to buy food.
“I’ve been in the market for 10 years and footfall has dropped, as with every other market, but the food festival still holds its own.”
For the Ice Cookery School and Cook Shop, this was a first visit. They live at Rougham Industrial Estate with sister company, the restaurant suppliers Infusions, and managing director John Jackaman had no doubts about the value of being at the festival.
“We’ve just opened the school and the cook shop at Rougham and we need people to know we’re there – we don’t get passing trade,” he said. “This is perfect for us because, being a food festival, people are interested.
“It brings in visitors to the town and people will travel a long way for a good cookery school – we’ve got a Michelin-starred chef.”
Meanwhile, in the Theatre Kitchen out side Moyses’s Hall, another Michelin-starred chef Galton Blackiston from Morston Hall, Norfolk, was doing his first of three 45 minute demonstrations, cooking Norfolk sea bass.
He may have got a subdued ‘boo’ for claiming he was from the ‘better’ county, but all the seats were taken and it was standing room only by the end.
The day in the kitchen had started with a bake-off won by Bury’s Really Rather Good Cafe and after Galton, Maria Broadbent of the Casa del Mar restaurant in St John’s Street took over, with her head chef Paul Gort.
Maria was at her second food festival and said: “It’s good in that we promote the business but it also interacts with the community, and Bury is very community minded – and, of course, we can share our love of food.”
She was returning on her own at 2pm for what she called a ‘back to basics’ session.
“It’s saying ‘you can do this’,” she said. “We want to get people in their kitchens, cooking. We’ve got things like mincemeat and pasta and we’ll talk about shopping, because a lot of people don’t understand about shopping for food.”
The festival continues on Monday, with TV chef Ed Baines taking over the three star spots and more local restaurant chefs doing their bit.
Mark Cordell urged people not to be put off by the weather forecast, adding: “There’s plenty to do and you can watch the cookery demonstrations under cover.”
But if today was anything to go by, you need to get a seat early.