News • 29th Jul, 22
A trio forced to ee their war-torn country, and a chef who learned his craft under the guidance of Michelin-starred Heston Blumenthal are to headline a leading food festival.
Yuliia Voronkova (pictured) and friends Katya and Olga were forced to leave their homes in Ukraine early this year. Fleeing with their children, Tymur, Mykyta, Vladyslav and Myroslav, the trio settled in Gwynedd.
The friends faced, as they say, a journey into the unknown but have shown grit and determination to stand on their own two feet. United by a love of cooking, the Yuliia, Katya and Olga are now crowdfunding to eventually open a restaurant called Sunflower, which will serve a mix of Ukrainian and British dishes. To help raise the profile of their campaign, the three have been offered one of the top slots in Mold Food & Drink Festival's September event.
The friends will be joined by chef Nick Rudge who has just opened The JackDaw, Conwy, after spending several years working for maverick chef Heston Blumenthal in his legendary The Fat Duck restaurant. Completing the line-up is Geoff Miller of Holyhead's Cegin Caribi. After being made redundant, Geoff started his business in his back garden and is now taking the festival world by storm with his Caribbean dishes.
This year's Mold festival, said co-chair Gwenan Roberts, is all about celebrating the very best of North Wales cookery talent.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, the last couple of years have been a terrible time for the hospitality industry," said Gwenan. "Businesses have had to pivot every which way to survive the pandemic, and even now, trading conditions are tough with soaring prices and rocketing fuel costs.
"So, this year, we have decided our main cookery stage shouldn't be about celebrity talent but about shining a much-deserved spotlight on people like Yuliia and her friends, Nick and Geoff, who deliver outstanding food or who have dreams of success against a backdrop of tough conditions.”
For Yuliia and Nick, it will be the first time they have ever appeared at a food festival.
"We are so delighted to be invited to participate in the festival," said Yuliia. "We have not done anything like this before but look forward to showing how to cook some Ukrainian dishes and explaining more about our plans to open our Sunflower restaurant. "We're currently learning English at college and have settled into new homes in North Wales. Now our minimum goal is a food truck, but tThe festival will be a chance for Nick to celebrate his love of Welsh food and produce.
Originally from Llandudno, Nick, a former Llandrillo College student, opened The Jackdaw – named after the nickname given to people born within Conwy's walls – in 2021, originally commandeering his parent's kitchen to create stand-out take-out meals. Before this, Nick spent seven years at the three-Michelin-starred The Fat Duck. He then moved to Melbourne to help Heston Blumenthal take a temporary residency in the Crown Hotel.
However, the pandemic saw Fat Duck staff put on furlough, and Nick came home with dreams of launching his own business. With premises in Conwy, he has quickly made a name for himself, his much-coveted restaurant, and its stand-out taster menu.
Nick said: "It has been a tough time for the hospitality industry, but I am delighted with how things have taken off, and I have so many ideas to put in place yet. Fortunately, I had a good grounding working for Heston and now have my own great team all of whom get where I want to take us. I am passionate about championing local produce – for example, our kombucha comes from just over a mile away, and we stock Welsh wines and soft drinks. I've lots of new concepts bubbling away in the background and am looking forward to sharing our food at the festival."
Festival co-chair Richard Howells said there was a wealth of food and drink talent across North Wales that deserved to be celebrated.
"Across the region, businesses of all shapes and sizes make the most wonderful produce. Exemplary chefs are creating fantastic dishes with local food and drink. This year more than ever is the time to spotlight all that is good in the region, and to shout about and promote our own producers and hospitality industry,” he added.
This year's festival will be held on September 17/18 on New Street, Mold.
For itineraries and details of all the chefs taking part, keep an eye on the festival's social media pages and www.moldfoodfestival.co.uk