The seventh Bolton Food and Drink Festival launched yesterday bringing tantalising tastes and aromas to Bolton town centre.

The day kicked off with a cookery challenge, presided over by celebrity chef Michael Caines.

About 300 people packed into the AGA Rangemaster cookery theatre, in Victoria Square, to watch chefs Mike Harrison and Tom Bridge rustle up meals using a bag of surprise ingredients, including sea bass and fennel.

Two-star Michelin chef Mr Caines, director of ABode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants, said: “It’s difficult when you do these types of things to make it flow, but not when you’ve got two great chefs like Mike and Tom who can share their knowledge.

“Tom is a food historian so he was telling us all about the pie. Mike was just talking about his real drive and passion for the festival.

“Everyone was entertained and we ended up with three fantastic dishes.”

Mr Bridge, author of Pie Society, who stepped into replace the Mark Addy’s Robert Owen Brown, created a wild sea bass pie.

Mike Harrison, who has appeared on radio and TV cookery shows, made an apple tatin with cream to accompany his sea bass dish. Both chefs said they are keen for people in Bolton to support local producers.

Mr Harrison said: “We need to get back to the oldfashioned flavours. All the supermarket stuff, there’s no flavour to it at all.”

Mr Bridge, whose parents used to run the Gypsy’s Tent pub in Deansgate, said: “I think we’ve got the greatest market in the North West, without a doubt. I adore Bolton Market.

“You can get the freshest fish and fruit and veg, it’s an incredible place.”

The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Guy Harkin said he wholeheartedly backs the pair’s support for local producers and Bolton Market.

“The quality of the products is outstanding,” he said. “You could put this straight on TV, it’s almost like a TV studio in a marquee.

Everyone enjoyed it.

You could hear the cheers.

We like our grub in this town.”

Lindsay and Frank Smith, 65, travelled from Glazebury, Warrington, to watch the cook-off.

Mrs Smith, 59, said: “It was brilliant. It was so informative. We are coming on Sunday and Monday to see the demos of Jean-Christophe and James Martin. We’ve been coming for about four years now.”

Later in the day, Mr Caines did a demonstration which sawhim make a scallop dish with cauliflower and cumin and a chicken dish in white wine sauce.