A taste of the Wirral
PUBLISHED: 10:51 17 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:43 20 February 2013
Take a bite out of a year-long campaign to celebrate good food on this beautiful peninsula
Talk about putting yourself under pressure. Emma Wombwell, head chef at Raby's Wheatsheaf Inn, had barely celebrated winning top Chefs Shine Award and Chef of the Year Award, for the second time at the Wirral Tourism Awards for Excellence, when she signed up to launch a year-long campaign to promote local producers, restaurants and food. On January 26th, the 26 year-old will cook up a banquet for the people she would probably like to impress most. Everyone from the local producers whose fruit, vegetables and meats feature on her menu, the key people involved in the Wirral Year of Food and locals all eager to see what she has in store will be there. But Emma, from Neston, has the training to deal with it.
After going to catering college in Plymouth, with partner and her now sous chef Mike, the pair worked at restaurants in London and La Rochelle, France before coming back home to work at Cowshed Restaurant at The Wheatsheaf Inn.
Emma, who has also won a young chef award from North West Fine Foods, explained: 'We both wanted to come home, we wanted the rural life back. Now I want to work with the owners Phil and Kelly to make the Wheatsheaf the best place it can be.
'We're really lucky because we have so many good local food producers. We get game from a local shoot no more than a mile away. We also have a fantastic local butcher, Edge and Son and some of our fruit and vegetables come from Claremont Farm.'
Wirral Year of Food, organised and spearheaded by Wirral Council, has been designed to help promote the quality of food, food producers, restaurants and cafes in the area.
Emma Degg, head of tourism and marketing for Wirral Council said: 'Wirral has a fantastic reputation for food among residents and the visitors who know some of our best kept secrets. The Year of Food is an opportunity for us to shout about what we have on offer from our Michelin star restaurant, Fraiche, to our award winning farmers' market.'
In Hoylake, a former Wheatsheaf Inn chef is planning his own list of seafood themed events. Julian Davies and wife, Jackie opened Julian's three years ago. The 55-year-old award winning chef, originally from North Wales, is planning to dish up fresh local fish throughout July.
'We've got the Dee and the Mersey around us which are full of fish,' said Julian. 'I also have contact with local fishmongers who can get me beautiful fresh fish. Being so close to the coast I wanted to celebrate what we have in this part of the world.
Julian, who has now been a chef for almost 40 years, has worked everywhere from The Chester Grosvenor and Paparazzi restaurant in Chester as well as cooking for Esso workers in Libya for a year.
Hoping to pull in more visitors for a special fair is Port Sunlight Village. In December, they will hold a Christmas Gourmet Fair in the village. But early in 2010 they are planning to launch their own tea rooms.
Lionel Bolland, chief executive of the Port Sunlight Village Trust said: 'We are quite excited about this. We already have our summer festival which has grown into a major event and we want the Christmas one to be the same.
'We have had a lot of local food producers come on board and it's a beautiful setting to host an event like this.'
Andrew Pimbley and his family, who run Claremont Farm in Bebington, are a lynchpin for the local food industry. As well as being the organisers behind the hugely popular Wirral Food and Drink Festival, now in its fifth year, they also grow tonnes of quality fruit and vegetables at their 250 acre farm. They run a farm shop, work with celebrity chef Brian Mellor and also take schoolchildren on tours around the farm.
The Pimbleys have farmed at Bebington for more than 100 years. Andrew's grandfather James first brought back the concept of Pick your Own after spending some time in America.
Claremont Farm supply produce to many top restaurants in the area, including London Carriage Works in Liverpool, and has established itself as a major part of Wirral's food scene.
Andrew, who worked on a cattle ranch in Venezuela for three years before coming back to work at the farm, said: 'It's a hard job but it's worth it. It's important to be passionate about what you do and I'm lucky that I have that.
'We're so pleased with how successful the food festival has been and we're already planning this year's. We've got some great people based here including Brian Mellor and the Vegi Table cookery school. Wirral is a place filled with good food and produce and the Wirral Year of Food will hopefully make more people aware of that.'
Wirral's Year of Food: the highlights
Events are regularly being added but here are some of the main events
March 13th and 14th: Brian Mellor cookery courses for Mother's Day at Claremont Kitchen, Claremont Farm, Bebington.
April 3rd - 5th: Easter Egg Hunt at Church Farm in Thurstaston
Throughout May: Asparagus season starts at Claremont Farm, Bebington and Church Farm in Thurstaston
May 3rd - 9th: National Honey Week is celebrated at Roses Tea Rooms, Heswall
May 24th - 30th: Vegi Table at Claremont Farm in Bebington mark National Vegetarian Week
June 27th: Join in the fun of a traditional tea party accompanied by music from a string quartet at Port Sunlight Museum, Port Sunlight Village
Throughout July: Wirral Fish Month takes place at Julian's Restaurant in Hoylake
August 14th - 15th: Flower and Vegetable Show at Birkenhead Park
August 29th - 30th: Wirral Food and Drink Festival at Claremont Farm, Bebington
December 4th and 5th: Gourmet Christmas Fair at Port Sunlight Village
To find out more visit www.visitwirral.com/food