Rossendale Food Festival and Raymond Blanc protege Chris Kenny
PUBLISHED: 19:35 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013
Our new cookery editor Philippa James interviews a brilliant young chef with roots in Runshaw College, sings Summertime, and joins the Rossendale Food Festival
WE all know Lancashire has a wealth of great chefs and places to eat but it is always heartening to hear tales of success from younger people in the county.
I was in my village PO recently (don't get me started on the Post Office closures!) when I heard about Chris Kenny, who is still only 20. He trained at Runshaw College in Leyland where his tutor, Neil Cruickshanks, described him as 'one of the most exceptional students I have seen in 25 years'.
Chris's awards list is like a telephone directory. It includes Student of the Year, (I doubt Chris would mind my rustic shorthand describing him as 'Stud of the Year'!), an Outstanding Achievements Award along with, among others, a City & Guilds Gold Medal and The Company of Cooks Award!
While at college, Chris went on placement to Simply Heathcotes in Wrightington and so impressed the team there that he was offered his first job. He has now migrated south, to Oxford, where he is working at Raymond Blanc's renowned Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.
I asked Chris how he was finding life, working in such a prestigious setting. He described it as 'really good, but challenging.
'The team there has up to 50 chefs working behind the scenes and it's a very different to the close-knit world of Runshaw.
Chris has the title of apprentice chef and he lives with one of the chefs and his wife at their house close-by. Chris added: 'Oxfordshire is very nice, but not as good as Lancashire!' He went on to say that he misses his family, his girlfriend, well, just about everything and he gets back up to Lancashire as often as he can.
When we were chatting he was working on the appetisers station and he said that he was surprised how much produce came from Lancashire, making him both proud of the region and a little home sick too.
I asked what Lancastrian influences Chris had seen in the Oxfordshire kitchen? Pugh's pigs, from Garstang, quail from Rufford, Hesketh Bank salads, and even blood from Lancashire. The restaurant makes its own black puddings.
The only big foreign influence was that many of the cheeses come over from France...perhaps we'll have to start sneaking a few of our fine Lancashire cheeses into Chris's luggage when he's been on a trip back home!
A delightful, accomplished and eminently talented young man, with maturity and aplomb way beyond his tender years.
Watch out for the name Chris Kenny because I'm fairly convinced that we shall be seeing a lot more of him and he'll be giving the likes of Mr Ramsay a run for his money.
Joan takes the biscuit
I WAS delighted to be asked to return to the Rossendale Food Festival in Rawtenstall to give some cookery demonstrations.
While there, I bumped into Joan Whiteley, with her husband of 47 years, Raymond, from J and R's Biscuits, on the market. They've sold locally baked biscuits and preserves for the last nine years.
Prior to this Joan was on the market for 18 years, selling haberdashery until her daughter, Hazel, took over. Joan, who is chairwoman of the Rawtenstall Market Trust, said various venues were considered but, if the festival was to run at the market side of the town, she would take on the organisation of the event. This is no mean feat for a lady who defies her age - she's 70 in October. She has been the festival's sprightly organiser for the four years it has been running.
Along with Rossendale Leisure Trust, the Borough Council, Carnival Committee, Friends of Rossendale Mela, and numerous other local organisations, Joan has worked like a trouper to make this festival part of the Rossendale Weekend, with music in the park, a rural fair, and open air, multi-cultural mela, (Mela is taken from the Sanskrit word,
meaning 'gathering' which embraces an intercultural diversity of music, dance, and food) the burgeoning success that it has become.
May I wish the remarkable Joan all the very best as she retires from the festival role that she has fulfilled, with such vigour, enthusiasm, and dedication.