TASTE of the West partnered with NatWest Bank to offer a Gousto-type cook-along event to spotlight the difficulties the hospitality sector, namely food and drink, have endured throughout the pandemic.

South West Chef of the Year Dez Thurland led a team of reporters and bankers turned-novice-chefs in a zoom cooking experience that was likened to can’t cook, wont cook- except the green peppers and red tomatoes were in fact, a range of award-winning glorious produce made locally in the South West.

The event was organised in partnership with NatWest Bank, which has helped support many of the South West’s food and drink producers through the pandemic.

The theme of the event was to showcase the fantastic and diverse ingredients available in the South West but also to spotlight the difficulties the food and drink sector has gone through due to lockdown, and what companies like NatWest and Taste of the West have done to help these businesses.

Seven untrained ‘chefs’ including myself were gifted a huge box of locally-sourced ingredients from ‘independent producers in the South West’, including Butter Bike co. chilli peanut butter, Roly’s handmade fudge and my personal favourite Mr Filbert’s chilli and lime peanuts.

The products we were given to create the meal came from a “wealth of talent’ that has been well and truly battered by the pandemic.

After an initial briefing from Chef Dez- we began the cook-along with step-by-step instructions.

Aside from being overly keen and slicing potatoes before being told I was supposed to have diced them, eating almost all of the peanuts before realising they were garnish and making a terrible mess of my kitchen work top- the overall finished product, a signature dish of Chef Dez with was a resounding success, so much so I toasted with a Twisting Spirits gin and Luscombe tonic (also fantastic).

The role of Taste of the West, who are celebrating their 30th year this year is to “help showcase these amazing goods to a wider market by spotlighting the industry to the wider UK.”

A fellow ‘chef’ Craig Cabot, of NatWest South West Board, noted the ‘diverse’ manufacturers and producers of such a wide range of produce in the South West.

He said: “The quality of food and drink here is truly world class. It’s a sector that contributes so much to the region.”

Natwest have worked closely with businesses in the food and drink sector throughout lockdown to try and ease the burden and ensure survival by giving the funding and support necessary.

The focus now though is on moving forward.

Craig added: “Some businesses have struggled to survive and it’s important as we move forward out of lockdown we help these businesses to thrive.

“As a bank we have a huge role to play in helping them thrive and flourish. The produce in the region is exemplary as we can see through what Dez has been cooking.”

Taste of the West champion food and drink producers in the West Country, as well as all the places that sell them.