THE American food writer Bill Marsano once wrote that “the British Empire was created as a by-product of generations of desperate Englishmen roaming the world in search of a decent meal”.

Once upon a time even the staunchest patriot would probably have had to admit that Bill had a point. Over the last two decades, however, Britain has been transformed from the laughing stock of the world’s gastronomes into nothing short of a food superpower.

Today, the UK produces more varieties of cheese than the French, boasts the third highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world (only Italy and France do better) and exports £12.8 billion worth of grub to the rest of the world every year.

While we will never know what Mr Marsano would have made of the excellent chicken parmo, one thing of which we can be sure is that North Yorkshire’s farmers and foodies have always been at the forefront of Britain’s vibrant food industry. This week it was therefore with great pride that I launched the annual Stokesley Food Week, which this year runs until tomorrow.

Centred upon the Stokesley Farmers’ Market – named England’s best farmers’ market in 2014 – the Food Week includes a brilliant variety of events including demonstrations by well-known local chefs, cocktail-making sessions, and tasting opportunities.

On top of all that, discounts are being offered by food retailers across Stokesley.

Stokesley has also been celebrating its success in the classroom this week with Stokesley School’s annual prize-giving ceremony following a bumper crop of GCSE and A-level results (special congratulations to Sam Day, Josie Taylor and Michael Scoones who all won places at Oxford or Cambridge).

I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at this wonderful celebration of our area’s young talent, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting the school’s brilliant students.

In my speech I told the students about the time I spent in California’s Silicon Valley and how, on my way to work, I used to pass the headquarters of Apple, Google and Facebook. All three are companies founded by people under 24 and are an incredible testament to the creativity of youth.

As well as the excitement in Stokesley, this week I attended the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. I spent time speaking on panels and drumming up support for my idea to put apprenticeships on the Ucas system. This would be a small step that would help give apprenticeships more legitimacy in the eyes of parents and teachers, make it easier for school leavers and employers to find each other and end the classroom divide between those applying to university and those keen to do an apprenticeship.

For those interested, The Telegraph recently printed an article from me on this topic, which you can find on my website.

After all, as the Prime Minister put it in her speech on Wednesday: “Everyone, no matter who their parents are, should be given the chance to be who they want to be.”