Masterchef judge John Torode will be the star attraction at a County Durham food festival when it makes its return following last year’s cancellation.

The TV chef and presenter had been due to headline at Bishop Auckland Food Festival last spring before the pandemic forced its postponement.

Torode – best known for his time fronting Masterchef alongside Greg Wallace and who now co-hosts his ITV show John and Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen with wife Lisa Faulkner – is the first big name to be announced for the event which will take place in the autumn.

Read more: Bishop Auckland Masterchef star proves recipe for success

And this time – in addition to free entry – the celebrity chef demonstrations, which will take place in a large cookery marquee, can be watched without the need to buy a ticket.

Bishop Auckland Food Festival pictured pre-pandemic
Bishop Auckland Food Festival pictured pre-pandemic

Torode said of Bishop Auckland Food Festival: “How exciting it is to be going to a food show.

“It’s such a joy to be involved in what can only be described as one of this country’s greatest culinary feasts.”

And he urged people: “Come along, eat, drink and be entertained and support all the wonderful local producers.”

Running over the October 2-3 weekend in the town’s historic Market Place, the festival is being organised by Durham County Council, which has just hosted Seaham Food Festival – part of a programme of showcase events aimed at supporting Durham’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2025.

The Seaham festival was a huge success, attracting the likes of Rosemary Shrager – who has also appeared at Bishop Auckland Food Festival in the past – and local chef Mike Bartley who is from Bishop Auckland himself and says it was his hometown food festival that inspired his appearance on Masterchef earlier this year.

Bishop Auckland Food Festival is back in October
Bishop Auckland Food Festival is back in October

Already traders from across the North East have signed up to the festival and it is set to showcase some of the region’s best produce, including street food, drinks, cakes and desserts.

Alongside that will be an entertainment programme and cookery workshops, with Torode giving his demonstation on the Saturday.

Australian by birth, the chef embarked upon his cookery career at the age of just 16 and, credited with being one of the major figures who introduced Australasian food to the UK in the 1990s, he went on to establish the restaurants Smiths of Smithfield and The Luxe in London.

His work on TV shows has seen him explore worldwide cuisine and Bishop Auckland Food audiences will see his skills in action.

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The festival is expected to attract thousands of people over its weekend run – with the 2019 event having drawn crowds of more than 29,000 visitors – and it is set to help the local economy as well as raise the county’s profile for the UK City of Culture bid.

Coun Elizabeth Scott said: “For more than a decade, Bishop Auckland Food Festival has been bringing top chefs and international cuisines to County Durham, while also showcasing the amazing produce being created right here in the North East.

“It has boosted the economy by hundreds of thousands of pounds and has inspired a love of locally-sourced ingredients and creative cookery among people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Bishop Auckland Food Festival is back in October
Bishop Auckland Food Festival is back in October

She said it ties in with the bid’s aim to inspire and the council is out to build upon such achievements.

More details of the festival programme and its line-up of celebrity chefs will be revealed in coming weeks. Keep an eye out here.

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