Top television chef John Torode will headline a County Durham food festival this spring as organisers pull together all the ingredients for an irresistible culinary weekend.

The MasterChef co-host is the first famous guest to be announced ahead of Bishop Auckland Food Festival’s return on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April.

Entry to the Durham County Council festival has always been free but this is the first time that visitors can also watch demonstrations by celebrity chefs without buying a ticket in a new cookery marquee.

John, who also presents John and Lisa’s Weekend Kitchen with his wife Lisa Faulkner on ITV, will demonstrate a selection of delicious dishes on the Saturday.

Australian by birth, he is credited as one of the major players in introducing Australasian food to the UK in the 1990s. His television career has also seen him travel the world in search of vibrant cuisines and exciting recipes for the BBC and UKTV.

John said: “I am really looking forward to coming to Bishop Auckland Food Festival. I have heard great things about the event and the wonderful produce that can be found in the North East. Please come along and say hello. I love to meet people who share my passion for food and cooking.”

Last year, the festival attracted more than 29,000 people to the town’s historic Market Place, boosting the takings of local businesses and more than 150 traders. Hundreds of people enjoyed demonstrations by celebrity chefs including John’s MasterChef co-presenter Gregg Wallace, who described Bishop Auckland as “one of the nicest, friendliest places I’ve been.”

And this year’s festival is shaping up to be just as appetising, with traders from across the North East serving up the finest produce the region has to offer, along with tasty street food, tempting tipples and indulgent cakes and desserts.

As well as the main cookery theatre, the festival has also teamed up with Savour Magazine to showcase the North East’s most talented chefs and restauranteurs on the free Market Place Stage. An action-packed programme of workshops, meanwhile, will educate and inspire children and adults alike.

Music has always been a popular part of the festival and once again, an eclectic line up of bands and singers will create an uplifting soundtrack to the foodie fun on offer.

Cllr Joy Allen, the council’s Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “Bishop Auckland Food Festival is a wonderful day out for the whole family and boosts the local economy by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“It is such an exciting time for Bishop Auckland, as the town hall is also reopening this spring following a major revamp. What better time to plan a visit or a weekend break to enjoy the festival and everything else the area has to offer.”

To stay up to date with the latest festival news, visit www.bishopauckland and follow @bishfoodfest on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.