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Breathing new life into Welsh food heritage A new culinary course for visitors and locals By Sarah Hoss March 16th 2010 – NEWSWelsh celebrity chef Angela Gray is a woman on a Welsh cultural mission. Fired up by her experiences promoting Wales and Welsh culture to over one million visitors to the Wales festival in the USA last summer, Angela is determined to carry on the festival atmosphere back home in Wales with her own unique food experience ‘a Slice of Wales’. “I am very excited to have the opportunity to recreate what we shared with our American friends in Washington back here in Wales,” explains Angela, “I am getting our Washington team together to offer visitors and locals a slice of Welsh food and culture at three outstanding locations throughout Wales.” Last summer, Angela headed up a team of talented Welsh chefs including Hazel Thomas, Anthony Evans, Geraldine Trotman, Gareth Johns and Ana Rees who travelled to Washington D.C. to take part in Wales at the Smithsonian Folk-life Festival. More than 120 participants from Wales gathered on the Mall between Capitol Hill and the Monument where they demonstrated and shared Wales’s rich and varied culture with 1.2 million American visitors, many of whom were exploring their Welsh ancestry. Dry stonewall building, basket weaving, slate splitting, ceramicists and lovespoon carving were just some of the activities visitors could see. There was also a wonderful troop of performers including storytellers, singers, poets, dancers and musicians. Visitors were able to take a lesson in speaking Welsh, trace their Welsh ancestors and take part in various hands on workshops including traditional dying using plants, and painting. Now Angela wants to bring these experiences to people in Wales. Food played a central role - in the demonstration kitchen the format was a mix of story telling and cooking. The chefs painted a very colourful picture of life past and present by


using a range of traditional recipes, cooking methods, ingredients and anecdotes. Two raised beds were planted either side of the stage with a mix of vegetables, herbs and salads to convey the importance of home grown seasonal ingredients, which also demonstrated the return of that trend today as people turn to growing their own food again. “The American audiences took us to their hearts, and were really taken by our passion and love of our craft”, explains Angela, “Groups of people reappeared every day, scribbling down recipes and joining in the fun and laughter. I also had the honour of hosting two afternoon tea parties at the British Embassy where I talked about Welsh food culture and shared many personal anecdotes from my career. As the guests enjoyed a traditional Welsh afternoon tea, I was struck by their genuine interest and appreciation”. As part of the festival, a Welsh pub was set up - serving Tomas Watkin ales, and a fast food style outlet on the Mall served up more than 70,000 hand made Glamorgan sausages, thousands of bowls of cawl (10,000Kg of lamb), endless Welsh cheeseplatters and Penderyn Whisky ice cream sundaes. This is not the first time Angela Gray has hit the road to promote Wales overseas. Angela has been not so much banging the drum as stirring the Welsh cooking cauldron for nearly 20 years from the early days when Welsh food produce was the poor relation and we had all been lured into mass-produced, imported foodstuffs. Since starting her culinary mission in the kitchen of her former home in Cardiff, Angela now has her own cookery school showcasing Welsh produce and contemporary cooking based in three outstanding locations throughout Wales. Wales’s answer to Ireland’s Ballymaloe cookery school? Angela hopes so, “I have heard it said often that Wales is ready for such an establishment,” agrees Angela, “the time feels right, and with bases in north, south and west Wales, I am confident we can really fire up some passion for real Welsh produce and cooking it with style”. Angela’s cookery courses take place at Fonmon Castle, in the Vale of Glamorgan, Slebech Park, a remote shooting estate in the heart of Pembrokeshire’s National Park (and a surprisingly short hour and a half away from Cardiff) and at Ffin-y-Parc, a restored Welsh country house in Llanrwst. “Together with members of the Washington team, we will be offering ‘A Slice of Wales’ to organised groups of visitors from the UK and overseasat these fantastic locations and using


their beautiful kitchens, gardens and dining rooms. The days will run at any of our three prestigious locations and will include a full programme of cookery demonstrations, anecdotes, a delicious lunch or dinner, a tour of the grounds and the opportunity to participate in a hands-on workshop,” says Angela. Visitors will also be given a parting gift and will include some edible goodies, and a copy of the collaborative book: “A Slice of Wales” which was produced by Hazel Thomas to commemorate the Welsh festival in Washington. “I am so proud of the local produce we have here in Wales, and being able to promote Wales abroad is a real pleasure”, says Angela, “but perhaps now is the time to bring this back to Wales, for visitors and locals alike, after all we have so much to show and taste right here at home!”

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