Tens of thousands enjoyed the sun and tasty fare at the Big Sussex Market, part of the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival’s ‘spring harvest’, this weekend in the North Laine.

The festival kicked off on Friday with a hilarious 100-metre city chefs pancake race on Brighton Pier, won by Michael Bowell of Hotel du Vin, followed by a VIP party and Sussex beer festival at Pub du Vin.

Public voting also opened for the Brighton & Hove at www.brightonfoodawards.com, sponsored by new legal firm in the city wetalklaw.com and gourmetbritain.com, the national website for foodies. The first ever Sussex Gourmet Tour, a vintage bus tour of Sussex food producers yesterday, was sold out and the city’s first Restaurant Week is also now on [April 1st to 8th], with restaurants offering £10 lunch and £15 dinner menus; and cafés serving up a £5 deal.

“This spring we will be celebrating everything that is great about Sussex produce and our wonderful international Brighton food offer and we welcome everyone who wants to get involved, by holding events or sponsoring our main attractions which attract thousands of food and drink lovers,” said Nick Mosley, festival director.

The first ticketed Live Food Show will be held next Saturday April 9th, including chef demonstrations from invited restaurants alongside wine tastings and a superb three-course lunch at the Radisson Blu, tickets are on sale at www.brightonfoodfestival.com. Foodwriter Andrew Kay, hosting the Live Food Show, will also announce the winner of the children’s Great Brighton Ice Cream Competition at Boho Gelato. Over 1,500 entries have been received and a shortlist of five finalists’ ice creams have been made up for judging. The winner will get to see their ice cream made, as well as winning a giant tube of ice cream and cones to enjoy with their school mates.

“There is so much to enjoy in our city and the surrounding countryside and we have created a festival programme which represents all aspects of our foodie hub on the south coast, so please do support us and come along and enjoy our events,” continued Nick Mosley.

Paula Seager, MD of Natural PR, who runs the Brighton & Hove Foodie Awards and has supported the festival for many years, is also calling for votes: “Last year 5,000 people voted in the Foodie Awards and this year we want to do even better to support our wonderful local eateries – so please get online from 1st April at www.brightonfoodawards.com and vote for your favourites!”

Details of festival events, including associated foody fun, such as the fabulous Chocolate Festival on New Road on April 16th and 17th, can be found at www.brightonfoodfestival.com.