Dartmouth’s famous food festival returns this weekend for three days of feasting around the town.

The festival, which started life in 2004, is now one of the biggest and best in the South West, and has all the ingredients for a perfect foodie weekend.

From tomorrow, October 20, to Sunday, October 22, the town will be celebrating the best in food, drink and cookery skills from across the South West.

A festival spokesperson said: “The event has something for everyone - an exciting mix of delicious regional produce, chef demonstrations, workshops, lively food debates, tastings and book talks. And best of all, most of it is free.”

One of the festival’s main ingredients is its chef demonstrations.

Festival advocate, award-winning chef and restaurateur Mitch Tonks returns to the stage again this year.

The weekend’s line-up also includes Matt Tebbutt, Mark Hix, Richard Bertinet, Jane Baxter and Orlando Murrin.

The spokesperson added: “Local heroes such as Elly Wentworth from The Angel, James Goulding from The Pig and Nick Evans from Rick Stein’s Cookery School are also championed in the buzzing chefs’ demo tent.

“Alongside these chefs, wine experts including Susy Atkins, of the Sunday Telegraph; Will Lyons, of The Times; and The Guardian’s Fiona Beckett will be tickling your palate with their tutored wine tastings. And if wine isn’t your thing then don’t worry, as local spirits such as Salcombe Gin and Hattier’s Rum will be running masterclasses in the Royal Castle Hotel.

“The increasingly popular Food Matters programme this year welcomes the likes of Tommi Miers, Tim Spector and Henry Dimbleby while the Talks and Tastings programme features Shane Holland and Kathy Slack, as well as local producers Sharpham Cheese and Rare and Pasture charcuterie.”

This year one of the festival’s long-standing partners, Salcombe Gin, has created the first official, limited edition Dartmouth Food Festival gin.

Made especially for the autumn festival the gin is a sloe and damson variety that’s been aged in 80-year-old port casks at their waterside distillery in Salcombe. It will be available from a number of outlets at the event.

Next year the festival will be celebrating its 20th anniversary.

To celebrate they’re compiling a commemorative book containing recipes, stories and images from the last 20 years.

Food Matters

In recent years Dartmouth Food Festival has introduced ‘Food Matters’ to the programme at Royal Avenue Gardens, where lively conversations are held on “life, science, diet and everything” between experts from food production to preparation, promotion and consumption.

The spokesperson said: “Despite difficulties with the food chain and rising costs, there remains much to celebrate, explore and debate. Sustainability inevitably remains our central theme.

“In light of the environmental consequences of modern farming, there’s general agreement the world needs to change how food is grown, or reared, and to adapt the food we eat for the health of nature as well as our own health.

“The importance of the microbes that live in our digestive tract to human health is much debated and personalised dietary advice is now commercially available.

“Meanwhile, the catering industry faces major problems. First hit by the Covid pandemic it now faces higher food prices, a skills shortage and financial uncertainty with the cost-of-living crisis.”

They said Food Matters events consist of a conversation between host and experts, followed by audience discussion.

“Audience participation is encouraged,” they added. “And, in the spirit of sharing knowledge and public debate, all Food Matters events are free.

“We aim to entertain you with a friendly exchange of ideas and discussion because, well, food matters! Come ready to join in the conversation.”