Britain’s youngest head chef will have a starring role at food festival in North Wales - fresh from cooking Welsh Cakes on the beach in Dubai.
Luke Thomas, of Connah’s Quay, will be among a celebrity line up at Hamper Llangollen 2015 where he will be championing fresh, local ingredients.
The 21 year old says he can’t wait to pass on some of his award winning culinary tips to festival goers.
Entrepreneurial Luke (pictured right) says he is as passionate about food as he was when he clinched the UK’s FutureChef 2009 trophy, aged just 15.
Today he is the kingpin behind a number of restaurants in Chester, the Cotswolds and Berkshire, but he remains hands-on in the kitchen.
He said: “What I enjoy doing is just browsing round the exhibitor stalls and finding some lovely local ingredients that I can cook up on the podium. It might be the plumpest local sausages, Welsh oysters or seasonal fruit and vegetables but I know there will be plenty of choice there.
“I will be aiming to make three dishes in a half hour, simple recipes using great ingredients, designed to show people that they can achieve delicious cost-effective meals at home quickly and without having to spend hours on preparation.”
This year’s Hamper Llangollen will be at the Royal International Pavilion over the weekend of October 17 and 18. It is a favourite on the culinary calendar for Luke, not least because he grew up in Wales and, when not travelling the world, he still lives at his family home in Connah’s Quay.
It is expected that this year’s 19th annual event will again attract thousands visitors to browse over 120 stalls.
The popular event in Llangollen’s Royal Pavilion is recognised as one of the UK's top 10 food festivals.
Cadwyn Clwyd has provided financial support over the past few years to ensure the festival's long term viability. This was funded through the Rural Development Fund for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.
Luke became the youngest head chef in the UK when at age 18 he opened Luke’s Dining Room at Sanctum on the Green, Berkshire. It won the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Restaurant of the Year award in 2013.
Since then Luke has gone on to open Luke’s Eating House and Gin Rickey’s in Chester, partner with Puma Hotels to create Luke’s Broadway in the Cotswolds, and launch Retro Feasts, at first in London’s Mayfair and earlier this year at The Beach, Dubai.
Retro Feasts is inspired by some of Luke’s childhood favourite recipes, like home-made cottage pie.
He said: “It’s simple food with a little bit of a twist. I’ve put a modern take on some old favourites, spicing them up a bit and making them a little more exciting, fragrant and fresh, but without taking away the essentials and the old fashioned nostalgia factor.
“One concept behind Retro Feasts was to spread the word about how good British food can be. The UK is home to nature’s very best ingredients and some of the best cooks in the world. They’re all right here on our doorstep and we should be shouting about it from the rooftops.
“That’s why I love events like Hamper Llangollen. It’s a chance to get even more people involved and enthusiastic about the fabulous food surrounding us.
“I love to talk to people about cooking, and to get their honest feedback. One of my greatest passions is being able to pass on a simple tip that might help someone turn a mid-week evening meal into a real show-stopper.”
Even after several years in the business, Luke remains Britain’s youngest head chef, but despite his success he says he is always keen to learn more.
He said: “I wouldn’t lie and say I am in the kitchen seven days a week. Nowadays there’s so much going on with the way the business is so rapidly developing that it’s impossible for me to do that. But I do get in the kitchen as often as I can, whether it be in Chester, Berkshire, London or Dubai. Cooking is where I am happiest, I love the buzz of the busy fast-paced environment, the creativity and the satisfaction of serving great food.
Hamper Llangollen 2015 will also include cookery demonstrations by members of the Culinary Guild of North Wales, led by Graham Tinsley, who has cooked for the Queen, is part owner of the Castle Hotel, Conwy, and consultant chef at Carden Park Resort, Chester; Denise Baker-McLearn, of Bethesda, who specialises in creating delicious meals using ingredients which would otherwise go to waste; and comedian and musician, Silky, who will be swapping jokes for yolks, showing off his cookery skills in public for the first ever time.
Hamper Llangollen chair Colin Loughlin believes this year's festival is going to be one of the best ever.
He said: “Thanks to a whole host of indigenous companies, North East Wales is rapidly establishing a reputation as a centre of excellence for high quality cuisine.
“The food festival is a perfect shop window for the companies who form the backbone of our rural economy.
"The location of the Pavilion is absolutely spectacular - I can't imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting."
* For more details about Llangollen Food Festival-Hamper Llangollen visit www.llangollenfoodfestival.com