September is Food Month across Tunbridge Wells and the Times’ regular food and drink writer, Bruce McMichael, is running cooking demos at both the Tunbridge Wells Food Festival and the Health & Wellbeing Live show. Read on to find out where and when you can catch him and many other food and lifestyle experts offering their advice this weekend…
Thousands of visitors and locals are booking up restaurants, shopping for fresh farmers’ market produce and meeting friends and family at foodie-inspired pop-ups and health and wellbeing events across Royal Tunbridge Wells as the town celebrates its first Food Month.
Built on the reputation of health-giving spa waters, the town is enjoying a renaissance of good fresh food and inspiring eateries with dishes cooked by brigades of inventive chefs.
Organised by the town centre management team Tunbridge Wells Together and the Economic Development team at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Food Month is shining a spotlight on the town’s innovative and creative chefs, writers and entrepreneurs. Event experts, pubs, restaurants and cafés have formed an informal coalition to create a series of fun attractions in order to draw people into the town at harvest time.
“It’s a great place to live and eat,” says Bruce McMichael, who is not only a food and drink writer and regular contributor to this newspaper, but also editor of The Lemon Grove website and a cookery demonstrator.
“We’re unusual in that we have four farmers’ markets a month – two outside the Town Hall alternating with two on The Pantiles, so most Saturdays through the year there is fresh, locally-
sourced and often organic produce on sale.”
A keen cook and recent winner of an edition of Gordon Ramsay’s Culinary Genius – a popular new cooking talent show on ITV – Bruce is demonstrating Mediterranean and local Kentish dishes at the Health & Wellbeing Live and Tunbridge Wells Food Festival events.
“It’s great to see so many local restaurants, hotels and pubs getting involved with Food Month,” says Bruce.
Restaurants such as The Warren on Tunbridge Wells High Street will be hosting a special series of evening menus, while Fuggles beer café has some cheese tasting and pairing workshops. Other pop-ups and events will showcase the fabulous food, expert services and great locations this town can offer locals and visitors who want to seek out serious food and drink in fun, atmospheric locations.
At the start of the month, The Pantiles hosted its annual Harvest Food Festival, while this coming Saturday and Sunday the first Tunbridge Wells Food Festival takes place in Calverley Grounds, a popular place for community events including the Mela – which celebrates the diversity of the borough through music, food and dance, the Local & Live music festival and the winter Ice Rink.
The festival will showcase around 70 local producers from organic veg growers to cider makers. There will be familiar faces present, too, including Dudda’s Tun, Naked & Ready and Bean Smitten.
An outdoor food area will introduce visitors to a range of street food cooked by Kentish chefs.
Festival organiser Steve Wood says: “We have put a £4 cap on each dish to create a taster menu with smaller portions. It’s great for people to try restaurant-standard food in a street food atmosphere, and with chefs from Marlowe’s and The Warren taking part it’ll be a tasty couple of days.”
Highlights will include the Live Cooking Stage, the Cake Off baking competition and a chocolate workshop with Jo Banks of Alive with Flavour and Southborough-based Temper Temper, where children will enjoy making chocolate pizzas, apples, gingerbread and lemonade.
Over at the impressive private residence of Mabledon in Southborough, the Health & Wellbeing Live 2017 show kicks off this Friday, September 22.
With a keynote talk by double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, from Hildenborough, as well as workshops and cooking demonstrations with a focus on improving mental and physical issues, the event will also offer talks by locally-based experts, therapy treatments and health checks, says creator and organiser Rebecca Randall.
“With two days of inspiring speakers, treatments and activities, Health & Wellbeing Live aims to help people discover a happy and balanced lifestyle,” she says.
Shelley Harris, Rebecca’s co-event director, adds that it will be a ‘forum
for local people to discover more
about mental and physical health
“We want visitors to take away at least one thing from the event to help them make a positive change in their lives.
“There is really something for everyone, from live cooking demos, fitness classes, expert talks and practical workshops to sharing and exploring common issues and learning new skills.”
Bruce is also launching a new range of food products under the brand name The Lemon Grove during his cookery demonstrations.
“I’m working with Matthew Kearsey-Lawson of Kent Fine Foods on developing a range of condiments, sauces, oils and vinegars, all inspired by fresh, delicious citrus fruit flavours,” says Bruce.
“We’re doing a soft launch at Health & Wellbeing Live and at the Food Festival with our Lemon & Ginger sauce and Lemon & Lime marmalade, but the main launch will be next spring with oils and vinegars flavoured with zesty flavours, such as blood oranges and lime.”
With new restaurants and bars regularly opening across the town, September Food Month is a great way of celebrating the bountiful harvest season across the Weald and beyond.
Get to the Tunbridge Wells Food
Festival from 11am on both days, when Bruce and award-winning chef Matthew Kearsey-Lawson from Kent Fine Foods will entertain with a Posh Omelette Challenge. For more information on Bruce and his soon-to-
be-launched range of foodie products, visit www.thelemongrove.net