A LINEUP of award-winning chefs will be appearing at the upcoming Alresford Watercress Festival.

The group will be headed up by 2023 MasterChef: The Professionals winner Tom Hamblet.

From April, Tom will take up a residency at Lainston House, with the festival giving him a chance to know the local area better.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to the festival – I’ve heard a lot about it – and to getting to know this part of Hampshire.

Hampshire Chronicle: Tom HambletTom Hamblet (Image: Watercress Festival)

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“I think I’m still in the process of discovering my food style as I’m still fairly new to the industry. I’ve been massively inspired by the award-winning kitchens I’ve worked in and doing competitions such as RIBI, the Great Britain and Ireland Rotary Club Young Chef Competition and Springboard Future Chef. These competitions push me and my cooking. I love the classics and I also love experimenting with different flavours and trying new things - but it has to be executed perfectly.”

Tom will present the “Barters Best” award to the trader with the most unique use of watercress, along with demonstrating to attendees what he will make using the produce.

Sharing the Cookery Theatre Stage with Tom will be Suki Pantal, founder of Suki’s Curries and Spices. She previously appeared on The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver, on Channel 4 in 2022. Her debut cookbook, Garnish with Garam Masala, will be released in May, with signed copies available at the Watercress Festival.

Hampshire Chronicle: Suki PantalSuki Pantal (Image: Watercress Festival)

Martin Dawkins, also known as The Rustic Chef, will also be in attendance.  Having worked under Marcus Wareing and Alex Aitken, he has more than two decades in the kitchen and has earned three rosettes and even a nod from the Michelin guide.

Martin said: “It's not just about delicious dishes; it's about doing right by the environment and our community. My cooking philosophy is simple – let the flavours shine. No need for too much fancy stuff; fresh and vibrant ingredients can speak for themselves.

Hampshire Chronicle: Martin Dawkins, the Rustic ChefMartin Dawkins, the Rustic Chef (Image: Watercress Festival)

“Every dish is my way of saying thanks to what nature provides.”

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Long-running Watercress Festival chefs Andy Mackenzie and Phil Yeomans from Lainston House complete the line-up and will bring their double act back to the cookery stage.

Taking place on Sunday, May 19, the event will feature dozens of popular returning attractions.

This year marks the festival’s 20th anniversary and new for this year will be the chance for three local producers to talk about, and sample, their wares to a live audience at the Cookery Theatre. 

The organisers are in the process of selecting the three businesses, which must be part of the Hampshire Farmers Market, but there is still time for businesses to put their name forward with the deadline for entries closing on April 5.