The 26th Abergavenny Food Festival will take place over the weekend of 21 and 22 September. Stroller Tickets are on sale- £16 (day) £25 (weekend) with free entry for under 16s if with a paying adult. Buy online

A Stroller Ticket offers a truly immersive experience, giving access to six central market venues with 190 exhibitors and caterers–from Wales, and further afield–selected for quality, provenance, originality and sustainability; and a rolling programme of top-notch demonstrations, talks and debates, cooking over fire sessions, and family activities.

Anyone living in the Abergavenny area can also buy Stroller Tickets over the counter throughout July and August from Robert Price Builders’ Merchants, Park Road, NP7 5PF. 

Robert Price sponsors the Kitchen Stage in the Market Hall, which will host top chefs from across the UK, including Wales’ own Chris Harrod of The Whitebrook (boasting both a Michelin Star and a MichelinGreen Star); Jonathan Woolway, (ex Chef Director of the Michelin-Starred St John Restaurant Group), now back in Swansea with his newest venture, The Shed; and Gwenann Davies, head chef at the legendary gastropub, The Felin Fach Griffin. And very young chefs will also get their chance to shine in the finals of the Abergavenny Rotary Club Young Chef Competition.

The Festival’s full guest programme is now launched. This comprises all the free events that are part of the Stroller Ticket experience, as well as individually ticketed events like Drinks Theatre (tutored tastings), additional talks, and Meet The Author sessions.

Here’s a taster of some of the brilliant food world people who’ll be bringing expertise, passion and flair to Abergavenny.

This year, there are two events taking place in the revamped Borough Theatre: On Saturday, Jay Rayner, award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster (and presenter, Kitchen Cabinet, Radio 4) will be talking to Tim Hayward (Fortnum & Mason 2024 Restaurant Writer of the Year) about his first cookbook‘ Nights Out At Home: Recipes and Stories from 25 years as a restaurant critic’.

As you’ll know, Jay is no slouch in the kitchen, clearly demonstrated when he smashed the opposition to win MasterChef: Battle of the Critics 2023.

On the Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles will lift the curtain on royal kitchens past and present when he discusses his new book, Cooking and The Crown: Royal Recipes from Queen Victoria to King Charles III with Matt Tebbutt (presenter, Saturday Kitchen).

Tom Parker Bowles
Tom Parker Bowles (Photo: supplied) (Photo: supplied)

Although Tom is godson to the monarch and his mother,Camilla, is Queen, he can expect no deference from Matt. The pair go back a long way, to their co-hosting days on UKTV’s Market Kitchen.

Lively and thought-provoking sessions are guaranteed at the Festival’s talks and debates venue, The Octopus Books Dome at the Castle. It’s a diverse offering.

George Egg
George Egg, Photo: supplied (Photo: supplied)

Meet George Egg, anarchist cook, and DIY chef, celebrated for his Insta ‘snack hacks’; and hear Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (chef, author, campaigner and broadcaster) talking to BBC Radio 4’s This Natural World presenter, Martha Kearney.

Hugh Aber food fest
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Photo credit: Matt Austin) (Matt Austin)

Then there’s a must see debate: Having Our Cake and Eating It-Are Food and Nature in Conflict in the Welsh Countryside? Or can we do both? Strong views are brought to the table by the panel: Carwyn Graves (Welsh writer, food historian and naturalist), Sue Pritchard, CEO of the Food, Framing and Countryside Commission, and Josh Morgan who is taking a radical approach to dairying on his family farm.

Cake may very well also feature at the Festival’s famously crazy and hilarious Food Quiz, hosted by the irrepressible Monsieur Bon Bon and Madame Saucisson. This year it will be run on Saturday and Sunday in the Dome, but sorry no chance to cheat as there will be different questions each day!

Let’s hear it for ‘Local & Vocal’ the newest Festival programming strand which is going from strength to strength since being established in 2022. The smaller Local & Vocal tent at the Castle is the go-to place for engaging stories and discussions, championing local producers, growers, businesses and creatives, and filled with conversations to help us better understand our local food and how to produce a healthy, prosperous, just and sustainable food system.

Come to a Welsh language session: ‘Back in Black–The Story of Welsh Black Oats’–a tale of re-discovery, Welsh food heritage, partnership, and the sprouting of a new national seed sovereignty movement in Llafur Ni. There will be a simultaneous translation for non-Welsh speakers.

Join local Monmouthshire schools at Local & Vocal and find out how they’ve given chickpeas a chance with creative pitches and delicious korma creations. All showing that popular school dinners can be healthy, tasty and no longer linked to the destruction of tropical forests. Dishes will be reviewed by MasterChef winner, James Nathan.

Family activities are always a key feature in the Castle grounds–like children’s cookery sessions to inspire budding future chefs; creative workshops with willow; flower headdress and crown making and face painting; plus a chance to safely study live bees. Then there’s the terrific ‘Stump Up for Trees’ Charity which is giving away native trees with the aim of planting a million in the Bannau Brycheioniog area. Visit their stall and be part of the story. Plus there’s lots of ad-hoc fun and games like the donut eating competition to keep everyone well entertained.

Drinks Theatre is adults only of course. Here’s a selection. Things kick off Friday evening in the Angel Hotel’s glorious Ballroom. Help Pete Brown (four times Beer Writer of the Year), top charcutier James Swift, and Adrian Morales Maillo (owner of Sobremesa Drinks, Bannau Brycheiniog) solve Adrian’s ‘Tap Room Menu Conundrum’. What charcuterie to go alongside his Farmhouse Beers and Natural Ciders? Taste the products and share your views.

Wine gets its turn. To mark the publication of the 2025 edition ofHugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Guide (out 12 September), Editor Margaret Rand will team up with local wine merchants, Chesters, for a whirlwind tour of Pinot Noirs from around the world, including Wales. Next up: wine writer, broadcaster and eco warrior Jane Rakison (resident wine expert on BBC1s Saturday Kitchen Live) who’ll share hand-picked tasty wines, whilst discussing how the wine industry is addressing its impact on the planet.

There’s plenty more alcohol sampling ahead. Kate Hawkings (author ofAperitif: A Spirited Guide to theDrinks, History and Culture of the Aperitif) and Richard Tring (owner of Aperitivo) team up to show there’s way more to orange liqueurs than Cointreau.

If rum is your tipple then come along and meet Global Rum Ambassador, Ian Burrell, founder ofThe UK Rum Fest who will give a comprehensive tasting, referencing his first bookRum: A Tasting Course. Pete Brown wraps up the weekend with an introduction to the new wave of cider makers. Local producers Skyborry, Little Pomona, Sobremesa, Artistraw, and Ross Ciderwill blow your palate and your mind.

Many Festival guests have new books out this year. These are celebrated at ‘Meet The Author’ sessions in Abergavenny’s library–a chance to really engage on a personal level with authors, and all in a relaxed and informal setting.

Meet Anna Jones, the ‘voice of modern vegetarian cooking’. Her essential new book Easy Wins is a Sunday Times bestseller. Hear from Dina Macki, whose cookbook Bahari: Recipes from an OmaniKitchen and Beyond celebrates her British-Omani-Zanzibari heritage. Join Financial Times fellow columnists Tim Hayward and Alice Lascelles as they discuss their new books Steak: The Whole Story and The Martini: The Ultimate Guide to a Cocktail Icon.

Anna Jones
Anna Jones (Picture: supplied) (Photo supplied)

Dina Macki
Dina Macki (Photo: supplied) (Picture supplied)

And anyone thinking of starting a food business should take notes from Charlie Bigham who has done it the right way, building a multi-million pound enterprise without losing sight of his founding values. His book Supper with Charlie Bigham: Favourite Food for Family & Friends is also all about food that’s a joy to make.

From indoor to outdoor cooking, the Fire Stage in the Castle grounds offers a different dimension. The ‘Hangfire’ duo: Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn, are Fire Stage hosts and ignite the programme with their perfect mix of tasty food, hot tips and tricks of the trade. Local legend, ‘Beefy Boy’ Murf (Murphy) will cook up world class burgers; BBQ supremo Genevieve Taylor has promised to showcase recipes from her new book, Scorched: The Ultimate Guide to Barbecuing Fish; and there’s a long overdue return toAbergavenny for Val Warner–cook, hunter, forager and traveller.

Scorched by Genevieve Taylor (12th October 2023)
Genevieve Taylor (Picture: Supplied) (Picture: Supplied)

This selection of guest events is by way of an introduction. Check out the ‘What’s On’ page for the full line-up.