Video: Masterchef’s Tom Rennolds in a camper van on the Yorkshire food trail
Tom Rennolds and Jonny Ross may not be as hairy as the BBC’s bikers and they don’t ride big bikes but they do have engaging personalities, a borrowed VW camper van and a film crew so that everyone can follow their Yorkshire food trail on YouTube.
Yesterday they began a tour of the county’s finest food and drink producers with a trip to the Ilkley Brewery.
Mr Rennolds, 26, a former plasterer from Silsden and a finalist on TV food programme MasterChef this year, is using his celebrity status to promote Yorkshire food.
He and his friend, an events organiser, have teamed up to organise a Best of Yorkshire Food Festival at King’s Hall, Ilkley, between July 27 and 29.
But first, in the true spirit of the food adventurers, they have to sample the wares for themselves.
Yesterday, on visit to the Ilkley Brewery, the pair heard how beers like Siberia (5.9 per cent, made with rhubarb) are produced.
As it was only 10am they decided to restrict their intake to just a few sips.
Mr Rennolds said the idea for the food festival came after talking to Mr Ross, who organises wedding fairs.
“I want to get all the best food producers and the best restaurants, bring them together and celebrate them.
“I always loved watching cooking programmes but I only slowly got into food through an ex-girlfriend when we visited various restaurants.
“I started doing work experience in restaurants and entered MasterChef. Now I really want to bang the drum for Yorkshire.”
The former Ilkley Grammar School student recently hung up his trowel and hopes to one day run his own restaurant.
He says that plastering is not that different to cooking.
“Plastering is a trade and so is cooking. There are a lot of similar skills involved. Timing and working under pressure are both important and both trades are physically demanding.
“Being on MasterChef was fantastic and I met some inspirational people.
“I do hope to have a restaurant in the future but I want to see more things first, that is why I am going on this Best of Yorkshire tour. I am meeting people and getting a broader knowledge to find my own way.
“I want to find the best, celebrate them at the food festival and make everyone aware what we have to offer.”
Mr Ross, from Addingham, near Ilkley, was even looking forward to spending a week in a compact camper van with his colleague. “Sleeping in the van is going to be a nice tight squeeze. But we are all from Yorkshire so we will be fine.”
Ilkley Brewery director Stewart Ross – no relation to Jonny – said: “Tom’s food is legendary and we are pretty proud of our beer. Tom’s signature dish is a rhubarb one and we have our own beer which contains rhubarb.”
A passion for food and drink is the key to success, he said. He and his brewing colleague Chris Ives worked in the property industry when they decided to go into brewing when their industry went into recession.
They knew little about the brewing process but, three years on, the Ilkley Brewery is thriving and they are looking to sell their beers to foreign markets.
The brewery, though still small, can now produce up to 40,000 pints a week.
“Myself and Chris worked in commercial property and didn’t know a thing about brewing until this,” he added.
His fellow director said: “Today is the third anniversary of our first ever brew. We are still very small but by making more people aware of us we are trying to get into more markets.”
During this week Mr Rennolds and Mr Ross hope to visit more than 100 businesses in the food and drink industry.
Mr Rennolds said: “We’re going to three breweries, Michelin-starred restaurants, Bettys, cake shops and butchers. We’re going to learn to make sausages and cook a Yorkshire breakfast.”
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, which backs the venture, said: “We are delighted to be working with Tom and Jonny on this project, which has all the right ingredients for a great event.
“Tom has already done an outstanding job in flying the flag for Yorkshire and our fantastic cuisine with his success on MasterChef and this tour and festival will build on that great work.”