The woman who co-founded one of the UK’s top food festivals is returning – but this time as one of the exhibitors.
Sue Haygarth was instrumental in setting up the Hamper Llangollen festival and has chosen this year’s event as the launchpad for her own one-woman business.
Her spicily named company, KarmaSucre, makes delicious macarons, all of them with natural fillings like homemade lemon curd, passion fruit coulis and salted caramel using Anglesey Sea Salt.
It was 16 years ago that Sue, from Buckley, and Lowri Owain from the rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, came up with the idea for a food festival at Llangollen.
Now the festival, which is staged from October 19-20, is officially one of the UK’s top 10 food festivals.
From 1996 until 2011 Sue was Denbighshire County Council’s Regeneration and Investment officer.
“I took early retirement through redundancy in 2011,” said Sue.
A keen home-baker, Sue added: “I had been playing around for some time with trying to make macarons.
“The great French chef Michel Roux said that it takes about two years to perfect a really good macaron.”
A macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with eggs, icing sugar, granulated sugar, ground almonds, and food colouring. They sometimes are called macaroons, although Sue says a macaroon generally contains coconut.
“It’s a confectionery which has a niche market and I set about trying to perfect it. I first tried some out on colleagues at work and then I did some tastings at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre and have been selling some on-line and through mail order, building up to my first food festival.”
“ My daughter lives in London and when we visit we always go for a coffee and I always have a macaron, but they are very pricey. I love anything with ground almonds. But you cannot find macarons up here so easily.”
Although Sue had started her own project management consultancy business, HaygarthBerry Associates, when she ended her 40 years in local government, she made the decision to start her own macaron business and got her home kitchen a five star hygiene rating for her food production.
“I like baking and cooking but I don’t like just making a sponge cake, I want something challenging.”
After a life time spent helping and advising small business, Sue suddenly found herself on the other side of the fence. Before Denbighshire she had also worked for Clwyd, Swansea and Flintshire local authorities.
With Denbighshire she had been used to business support and project management and dealt with the council’s portfolio of over 200 business units. “Snowdonia Cheese moved into one of ours – a great company.”
She also managed small town centre capital projects and most recently was working with social enterprises with partners in Ireland.
“Just handling things like packaging and websites requires a leap of faith in yourself.
“I worked with a lot of businesses and one of the challenges with a ‘lifestyle business’ was that they were reluctant to invest too much or grow too big, too quickly – now I have become one of those lifestyle businesses!”
She said: “I am really looking forward to attending Llangollen. We had the first one in what I call the old sports hall and we invited the chef Dai Davies along. The hall proved too small and cramped as we were inundated with visitors. Hence the next year we made it even bigger. A food festival was not such a common thing in those days.
“We had been working with companies like Patchwork Pate, Wholebake, Llaeth y Llan and Snowdonia Cheese and were also helping a lot of very small food companies and we thought they should have a stand somewhere to show off their produce to the public so people could see what good produce this part of Wales had.
“There were about 20-30 stands and we got Dai to do cookery demonstrations and it went down a storm because most people had not seen a food festival before. But Dai was already a ‘celebrity chef’ and had his followers – it was a huge success.
“It was amazing really because we were not a region particularly known for cheese, yoghurt, cakes or anything like that, but we had all these really good food producers.
“We were always looking to raise the profile of North Wales produce. When we started the food festival we were very much taking a leap in the dark, now everyone is doing it.
“It will be great going to Llangollen, I’m sure I will know lots of people there and it will be good to have to stand and sell my own produce to a big audience.”
This year Graham Tinsley, the star of ITV’s Taste the Nation and a former captain of the Welsh Culinary Team, will be joined in the show kitchen at the festival by the ever popular Dai Chef.
Robert Price, Cadwyn Clwyd’s agri-food project officer, said: “In addition to many favourites, we have lots of new food producers wanting to come this year and we’re delighted that Sue will be among the star attractions at this year’s event.”
“The location of the Pavilion is absolutely spectacular – I can’t imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.
“It’s also brilliant news for the local economy. If you buy from a local producer, all that money is recycled through the local economy and that sustains employment in our rural areas.”