Like most industries, businesses and people with the hospitality industry have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. One of our Great Inns, The Victoria Inn has stepped up to support the industry creating Norfolk’s first ever virtual food festival, in aid of Hospitality Action

Norfolk’s first ever virtual food festival, hosted on Sunday 14th June, in the grounds of Holkham Hall, exceeded all expectations, attracting viewers across the country from Cornwall to Manchester, and as far afield as Portugal and America.  The day’s live stream alone reached more than 60 thousand keen foodies, and this is only set to rise with coverage continuing in the days and weeks to come in the form of recipes, blogs and more from the chefs and producers involved.

Hosted by Charlie Hodson of Norfolk Food Heroes, and in partnership with CookeryLive, Walsingham Farms Shop, Feast Norfolk and Local Flavours, the event showcased the talent of nine chefs and the produce of more than 50 local producers. Chefs cooked live on stage from 9am, including local favourites: Fran Hartshorne – Head Chef of The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe; Scott Dougal – Chef Patron of Wells Crab House; Johnny Payne – Coxfords Butcher in Aylsham; Chris Mann – Head Chef of Titchwell Manor; Michael Chamberlain – Head Chef of The Victoria Inn at Holkham and Ben Handley – Chef Patron of The Duck Inn at Stanhope. In addition, viewers enjoyed vegan specialities from chef Sara Matthews of Sara by Nature and dishes from sporting stars – Paralympian Jessica Jane Applegate MBE and Triathlete Sam Proctor. 

In between the live cookery sessions, viewers enjoyed behind the scenes footage, interviews and cookery demonstrations from local suppliers and producers throughout Norfolk. From bread making and pastry demos to dairy and farming insights, the day made for intriguing and entertaining viewing.  Viewers also had the opportunity to enter the FEAST ON THIS! competition to win a private sailing charter with The Coastal Exploration Company including foraging know-how from Charlie Hodson, followed by a 5-course tasting menu cooked by Charlie and Michael Chamberlain and an overnight stay with breakfast at The Victoria Inn – in total worth more than £1000.

The idea for the event was to shine a light on local produce and cookery talent, as well as giving people something to look forward to after weeks in lockdown and most food festivals cancelled across the UK for 2020.  In addition to this, the event also aimed to raise money for Hospitality Action UK – a charity needed more than ever at a time when the hospitality industry has been hit hard.  The team were bowled over with donations on the day – which included a singular anonymous amount of £500. A final total will be published in the days to come.

Chef and compère, Charlie Hodson, reflects, “I had high hopes for the day with a such an incredible setting and line-up of chefs, however you never really know how things will go when launching something such as a virtual food festival for the first time. After a long, but enjoyable day, I am overwhelmed with the support and interest we have received.  To think we had people watching across the world is simply amazing, as is reaching six times more people than we would have done at a usual festival.  I know the chefs and producers are keen to make this the first of many, so watch this space!”

Lucy Downing, Head of Marketing at Holkham, adds, “We were honoured when Charlie approached us with the idea, and the team has worked incredibly hard to make it happen in under a month. A big thanks especially goes to Nick Clarke of CookeryLive for the stage and technical support, and to all the partners, chefs and producers involved. We were also thrilled to host our second event for Hospitality Action UK, a charity close to our hearts.”