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Food-lover whets appetites with new Cheshire event

visitor economy 14/04/2022

23rd and 24th July - Dorfold Hall, Nantwich

A UNIVERSITY graduate who fell in love with international cuisine while working as a waiter says he is ‘super excited’ about launching a new Nantwich food and drink festival this summer.

Michael Johnston, 29, is steaming ahead with plans for a fun-filled family event at the Dorfold Hall showground after a chance visit to Nantwich last year left him bowled over by the town’s friendliness and strong food culture.

As founder of The North Leeds Food Festival, and sister events in Harrogate and Ilkely, the Dorfold entertainment programme will include a similar crowd-pulling mix of artisan produce, cookery demonstrations, family activities and street food from around the world.

All will take place over the weekend July 23 - 24 with Yorkshire-based Michael and his family playing a hands-on role to welcome visitors and ensure their enjoyment.

He said: “We were looking to expand our portfolio of festivals and stopped off at Nantwich on a sunny day last summer on a trip South and thought ‘Wow what a beautiful town!’  

“Despite restrictions that were still in place at the time, there was a lovely atmosphere which made us want to return and explore more of the little independent shops and eateries.

“And every time we have there’s been a real buzz with families eating out on the town square and generally enjoying the great vibe.

“So we decided to take the bold step and bring our new festival to Nantwich. There’s no intention of detracting from the wonderful Nantwich Show in July or indeed Nantwich Food & Drink Festival in September. We hope to add to the rich tapestry of Nantwich life and its really happening social calendar.

“Plans are going well and we will be super excited to welcome the foodies of Nantwich and beyond. We are working flat out to make this a very special launch weekend.”

A graduate of Manchester University, where he studied Business and Economics, Michael is ploughing the ‘front-of-house’ experience he gained working as a waiter into staging a festival to whet all appetites and create fond memories.  

From the age of 14 he worked at top city restaurants including Harvey Nichols and Zizzi in Manchester and has travelled to 60 different countries to sample cuisine.

While back-packing in Peru, he visited the world’s largest food festival Mistura in the capital of Lima and was struck by the way it celebrated the talents of not only acclaimed chefs but humble street food sellers whose livelihoods hinge on creating a tasty food experience.  

After trips to more foodie meccas he gave up his job to channel his energies into what he loves most – international cuisine and encouraging people to be adventurous with their food.

With the help of his family, he launched The North Leeds Festival and six years on it is one of the city’s biggest crowd-pullers, with tickets for May’s event already selling like hot cakes.

He added: “Dorfold is stunning and a perfect setting for all we want to offer this summer.

“At the heart of the festival is a celebration of international cuisine, local producers, live music and family entertainment. We aim to shine the spotlight on independent businesses, food and craft. So far feedback from them has been excellent. 

“Nantwich has its share of festivals, both foodie and music, and they are ready to embrace another event that shines the spotlight on the lovely town they are proud to call home.”

The Dorfold Hall Food and Drink Festival will set taste buds alive with street food traders from across Cheshire and Yorkshire serving up internationally inspired dishes, including Greek, Lebanese, Dutch, Thai and Malaysian.

There will be a Cookery Theatre with top chefs and Artisan Market with more than 60 local producers.

Creatives are also lining up to join the market to showcase their skills at making handmade soaps, candles and jewellery.

A music stage will host a toe-tapping programme of soul, blues, pop, jazz and rock, alongside family entertainment, magicians and street performances.

More will be released on activities and the festival’s charity partner over the coming weeks.

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