Television presenter Gregg Wallace hailed the quality of Yorkshire produce during a larger-than-life appearance at the Great Yorkshire Showground.
Wallace, who is perhaps best known for starring as a judge on BBC’s MasterChef, was in jovial mood during his appearance at autumn food and farming show Countryside Live where he posed for pictures with visitors and cracked jokes during his tours of the event’s new Tasting Hub.
Wallace has seen for himself that Yorkshire has culinary ambition and talent. Chris Hale of Sandal, Wakefield, put in a series of impressive performances on MasterChef earlier this year to reach the quarter-finals, while Liz Cottam of Gildersome, Leeds made it to the semi-final this year.
Michael O’Hare of Michelin-starred Leeds restaurant Man Behind the Curtain has also appeared on the show.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Wallace said he was taken aback by Yorkshire people’s enthusiasm for local food and drink.
“I’ve never met a people anywhere outside of Italy so proud of their local produce. Most chefs talk about how important it is for them to eat locally and seasonally but I have never met people so proud of their local produce before, even down to the waitress at breakfast who was pointing out to me all of the local stuff, that’s quite incredible.
“I think if there is one stand-out product (in Yorkshire) that has got to be the rhubarb from the Yorkshire Triangle, that’s the one. I’m lucky enough to have met (renowned rhubarb producer) Janet Oldroyd a number of times over the last ten years –that is a product that is a world leader.”
Countryside Live was hosting a cookery theatre for the first time and it staged two ‘cook-offs’, one each day, with a little help from Wallace.
With cookery theatre co-ordinator Sue Nelson as his guide, the TV star picked out fresh produce from the shelves of Fodder, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s on-site farm shop, which the chefs were tasked with using as part of their time challenges.
On Saturday, chefs Ian Rae and David Spencer of The Coachman Inn, Snainton near Scarborough, used Barnsley lamb chops, potatoes, pears, green beans, stock and cream to create tasty dishes, and on Sunday there was showdown between Tom Lawson of Rafters Restaurant, Sheffield and Matthew Brewer of The Peppered Pig, East Cowick, near Snaith, whose dishes consisted of pork chops, potatoes, plums, cabbage and carrots.
Wallace also selected his favourite beer and cheese pairings from the products at the show.
Visitors to the Tasting Hub heard the story of ‘barley to beer glass’ by Isaac Poad, grain and seed merchants and brewers from York. Apple pressing demonstrations and cider tastings were offered by Orchards of Husthwaite, near Thirsk and Theakston’s cooper showed off his cask-making skills.
Wallace also judged the honey section and said: “The local honeys have really impressed me. To have five or six different flavoured honeys from different plants put in front of you, you realise the incredible variety of such a beautiful product.”
Sue Nelson, of guided local food trails specialist Yorkshire Food Finder, was co-ordinating the show’s cookery theatre.
It was a chance for the public to watch Yorkshire chefs produce imaginative dishes from an array of fresh ingredients.
Mrs Nelson said: “The talent we have seen here over the last two days is phenomenal and the stuff they are doing is mind-blowing.
“Find yourself a good local butcher and a good local baker and you can eat really well and cheaply and I think our chefs have been getting that message across.”
Standard of beef makes for tough judging decisions
Cattle judge Philip Parrott declared the beef entries “a credit to the meat trade” after making it to Countryside Live to run the rule over bovine beasts at the second attempt.
A serious leg injury sustained on the farm prevented Mr Parrott from accepting an invitation to judge last year but he said his appearance was well worth the wait.
There was a record 201 prime, commercial beef cattle at the show and from that bulging field of entries the supreme champion was named as Black Pudding, a British Blue heifer shown by Edward and Sarah Layton of Leominster, Herefordshire.
The 576kg animal, purchased by the Laytons this spring, was also the reserve supreme champion at this year’s Royal Welsh Show.
Mrs Layton, who showed great emotion as she was declared the winner, said: “I’m completely shocked. I knew she was a great heifer but there is an immense amount of very good cattle here. We are very grateful to showman Neil Lloyd for his fantastic help.”
In reserve was a Limousin shown by Phil and Sharon Sellers of Lincoln.
Reflecting on the entries, judge Mr Parrott from Aylesbury, said: “The cattle are outstanding right the way through. They were really remarkable and it’s a credit to the stockmen and breeders that produce these animals.”
Sheep numbers were also strong, with 262 entries and it was Martin and Val Brown from Leyburn and their daughter Hannah who shared the top titles.
Mr and Mrs Brown’s Beltex X lambs won Best Pair of Butchers Lambs, while daughter Hannah, 22, picked up the Supreme Champion Single Butchers Lamb with a home-bred Beltex X.
Mr Brown said: “We always come to a show hoping to have a win, but it gets harder and harder as we have fewer sheep these days. We are just delighted.”
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society is keen to harness young people’s interest in farming and so the young handler classes are a key focus. Among the winners was champion sheep young handler Harvey Heath of Ashbourne in Derbyshire who at the age of nine, has already been showing for three years.
A touch of South America in our neck of woods
A former intensive care nurse who quit her job after falling in love with alpaca breeding was among the winners at The Yorkshire Alpaca Group Show.
Featuring at Countryside Live for the first time this year, more than 100 of the long-necked animals, which originate from Peru, competed for a series of titles.
In the Colour Championship, the supreme champion Huacaya – one of two breed types at the show – was Gilt Edge Samurai.
The two-year-old working stud male, who is also known as Sam, then went on to be named as Supreme Champion alpaca at the show.
Sam was brought over from New Zealand by Barbara Hetherington who, in 2009, ended her nursing career to keep alpacas.
British Alpaca Society judge Mary-Jo Smith, one of the country’s leading alpacas breeders, based in Oxfordshire, picked out the winner and remarked on how Sam had great density in his fleece which made him stand out from the competition.
Ms Hetherington, of Beck Brow Alpacas in Ainstable, Carlisle, also took the Best of British Huacaya title with Sam, a championship for alpacas that are born in Britain or are of British parents.
She said: “He provides stud services and people have told me how pleased they are with him, so to have that confirmed here is a great feeling.”
Having started out with four alpacas in 2008, Ms Hetherington, who is now an alpaca breeder full-time, has a herd of 160 on her farm – 90 of which belong to her.
“They are certainly attractive,” she said.
“They all have very individual personalities. What’s amazing is that they all stay in family groups and look after each other.”
The other breed on show was the Suri.
In the Suris section, Carl and Sandra Samerson swept the board.
Their August 2015 born male called Solid White was named champion Suri and also collected the prizes for Best of British and Best alpaca shown by a member of the Yorkshire Alpaca Group.
On day two, the alpaca section was given over to less serious pursuits, with alpaca agility displays, a grand parade and fancy dress contests featuring alpacas dressed as, among other characters, Harry Potter, a pharaoh and Batman and Robin.