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Tributes to former TV presenter Barry Norman who worked with Bennett Opies in Sittingbourne on a range of pickled onions

By Poppy Jeffery

A company director has paid tribute to a pickled onion fanatic and film critic, who died last month.

Barry Norman died aged 83 on Friday, June 30, and had worked with Sittingbourne food producers Bennett Opie to create his own line of vinegar-soaked spicy onions.

He presented the BBC’s Film programme for 26 years but also had a passion for the tangy treat, as well as cricket.

Barry Norman at Opies in Sittingbourne

Director William Opie said Mr Norman was full of pride for his creations, made thanks to a family recipe that had been passed on.

“He used to go round the factory and was so proud of the success of the pickles.

“I can remember the first time he appeared in my office with these jars in a briefcase and he was so proud of them.”

The team spent two years trying to replicate his grandmother’s recipe.

From left, Barry Norman, John Wringe and William Opie with the jars of pickled onions

“We didn’t change it,” said Mr Opie. “We use English onions and real spices so they’ve got a real kick to them.”

Mr Norman, who lived in Hertfordshire, also enjoyed pub lunches at The Red Lion in Milstead, which he visited for more than a decade.

It is where Mr Opie would tease out his tales about the film world.

“He had so many stories, he met just about everybody from Michelle Pfeiffer to Liz Taylor,” he said.

“In her early days, he travelled with Bridget Bardot and he said if looks could kill from the other passengers...”

"We will continue to produce the onions on their behalf to create a long-lasting legacy to Barry" - William Opie

His line of pickled onions, which can be bought from Tesco and Waitrose, have not been without their fair share of strange stories.

According to Mr Opie, his company gets queries about whether they can be fed to young children – and its heard about people competing to drink the vinegar.

Bennett Opie has no plans to stop producing the homemade-tasting onions either.

“The family recipe has now been passed to the next generation, to Barry’s daughters, and we will continue to produce the onions on their behalf to create a long-lasting legacy to Barry,” said Mr Opie.

“We feel this will be a fitting tribute to a great man who we had the privilege to meet and to work with.”

To find out more, visit pickleodeon.co.uk

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