It’s clear we’re spoiled for choice here in the north-east when it comes to food and drink offering.
More and more people are now turning their hand to creating their own products, developing successful businesses and showcasing the skill and talent here in the region.
When it comes to hunting down the independent local producers who champion the area, however, it can prove a challenging task to uncover them. In steps Deeside Local Food Festival.
Celebrating the local food and drink scene, the festival, which is now in its fourth year, anticipates welcoming more than 3,500 visitors to this year’s event at Cults Academy on Sunday September 16.
It is organised by The Mixing Bowl Aberdeen, a community-led food interest group.
Rachel Gambro, who is on the committee of the group, is the co-founder of the one-day festival, which showcases street food vendors, food producers and chefs.
Incorporating a produce market, a street cafe, chef demonstrations, children’s activities, hands-on workshops, food and drink talks, musical entertainment and more, there’s plenty eating to be done at the event. But what’s different this year?
Rachel said: “There have been a number of changes this year.
“We’ve enlarged our produce market and we’ve got more than 60 stalls – with 25 of them new to the festival and 58 of them hailing from Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire. There’s a wide variety of products available with little duplication.”
As well as bulking the offering, four well-known north-east chefs will be participating in the Great Aberdeenshire Menu, concocting their own dishes to highlight how best to incorporate local producers products into home cooking.
Kev Shand of McWilliams Butchers will create the starter, Kevin Dalglish of the Chester Hotel, will be responsible for the fish course, Ross Cochrane of the Rothesay Rooms will deliver the meat course and the dessert will be designed by Orry Shand of Entier Services.
“We’ve moved the chef demos outside now into the marquee which is a really busy area,” Rachel said.
“It’s been enlarged and this year we’re cooking the Great Aberdeenshire Menu. It’s great to have representation from some of the distinguished businesses in the area and with the calibre of chefs involved it’s going to be hugely popular.”
A variety of cooking workshops will also run, with four spaces available for each event. Workshops include the chance to make your own burger, create and bake your own pizza, cooking sizzling fajitas and making your own risotto.
“We’ve involved North East Scotland College this year and their trainee chefs will be running the hands-on cooking workshops,” Rachel said.
“It’s something adults and children can all get involved in and there’s a chance to make some delicious food. It’s a pre-bookable event and I think it will fill up fast.”
Food and drink talks will also shine a light on individuals doing something different in the area. Leanne Townsend of Wild Food Stories will discuss foraging, Laurel Foreman of Wark Farm will tell the story of being a farmer and butcher, Grace Noble will share why she is the only Aberdeenshire Highland Beef producer in the area and distillers Glen Garioch will give an insight into its Legends Lunch.
Rachel added: “It’s an adaptation of the producer’s film we created for the festival last year – we’re now able to bring the producers to the people and they themselves can give them an insight into their business.
“We’ve chosen producers who can offer an experience at their own venue after the event so people can go and experience them at a later date.”
For anyone who gets ravenous at the event, there are plenty of goods available to try out at the street cafe.
“There’s A Taste Of The Wild, Basic Kneads, Casa De Gelto, Foodstory, FreshMex, Louise’s Farm Kitchen, Mary’s Kitchen, Melt, Sweet Toots Cakery and so much more,” Rachel said. “No one’s going to go hungry.”
As well as food and drink, there will also be a few special guests making an appearance with the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative’s Countryside Classroom on Wheels – a purpose-built trailer that will bring a dairy calf and sheep to the event to help educate children about livestock.
Rachel said: “This year we’ve got a dairy calf and sheep coming to visit which will give children the chance to speak to the farmer and learn about caring for the animals and meeting the animals.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to see the animals and this is a truly exciting addition to the festival.”
Run and organised by a group of volunteers, Rachel and the team will be on-site to oversee the smooth runnings of the event.
“We rely on a lot of volunteers on the day who are brilliant,” she said.
“There’s a big team already lined up for the day – it’s going to be a busy one.
“It’s a special event as we focus on the very local producers of our area. Each year we’re overwhelmed with the number of producers who get involved in the festival.
“To have so many talented and dedicated food and drink producers in our area definitely calls for a celebration – and that’s exactly what the festival is.”
The event will run from 11am to 4pm on Sunday September 16 at Cults Academy. Entry is £3 per adult and children under 16 years go free.