Celebrity chef Joe Hurd and reigning MasterChef champion Irini Tzortzoglou will bring the flavours of the Mediterranean to County Durham this spring.

As excitement builds for Bishop Auckland Food Festival’s return on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April, organiser Durham County Council has added to its line-up of famous faces appearing at the popular event.

As a proud Yorkshireman with Italian heritage, Joe’s interests in cookery have been inspired by these two influences from day one. A regular on BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen, ITV’s Munch Box and at festivals and events across the UK, he is passionate about sharing his knowledge of traditional Italian recipes, ingredients and cooking techniques.

Joe will be appearing on stage in Bishop Auckland Food Festival’s free cookery marquee on the Saturday and Sunday.

“I’m really excited to be appearing at Bishop Auckland Food Festival for the first time this year,” said Joe.

“I’ll be cooking up some of my favourite Italian dishes, but I’ll be seeking out some of the wonderful local produce too. I can’t wait.”

From the flavours of Italy, to the tastes of Greece – MasterChef 2019 winner Irini was born in Crete but now lives in Cumbria. Irini served up a variety of traditional Greek dishes with her own unique twist during the popular TV cookery contest, impressing the judges and fans of the show who tuned in in their millions.

Since winning the competition, Irini has been writing her first cookery book, Under the Olive Tree: Recipes from My Greek Kitchen, which is due to be published this summer.

She will be demonstrating some of her favourite dishes in the cookery marquee on the Saturday, influenced by her latest accolade, that of a certified Olive Oil Sommelier.

Irini said: “The excitement of the MasterChef championship has continued all through 2019 and into 2020, and my passion and interest in food, having been ignited by my success in the competition, continues to grow.

“I very much enjoyed creating more than 80 recipes for my book and more recently learning about the benefits and culinary applications of olive oil over a week-long course in London.

“I can’t wait to apply my newly found knowledge and show how simple food can be made delicious, nutritious as well as exciting with a few simple MasterChef touches. I’m grateful for being asked to be part of this amazingly successful food festival.

“I’m really looking forward to sharing some of my food with the people of County Durham, meeting the other talented chefs and enjoying what Bishop Auckland Food Festival has to offer.”

While in Bishop Auckland, Irini will be reunited with one of the MasterChef judges, John Torode, who is headlining the food festival on the Saturday. Great British Bake Off 2016 finalist Jane Beedle will also be delivering workshops at the event, and more celebrity chefs will be announced in coming weeks.

The festival will also see more than 150 traders from across the North East serve up the finest produce the region has to offer, along with tasty street food, drinks, cakes and desserts.

The event attracted a record-breaking 29,000 people to Bishop Auckland’s historic Market Place last year, boosting the profits of traders and local businesses alike. It is hoped this year’s festival will bring even more economic benefits to the town, while raising County Durham’s profile as a culinary destination.

To find out more about the festival and to book workshop tickets, visit www.bishopauckland foodfestival.co.uk. To stay up to date with the latest festival news follow @bishfoodfest on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.