THE Taste of Edinburgh food festival, now in its sixth year, gets underway today, determined to showcase the best of Scottish producers and culinary talent, writes Nick Drainey
YOU would be forgiven for thinking there’s only one festival that matters in Scotland this weekend, as the spotlight is turned on the annual music extravaganza that is T in the Park. But for those who do not head up the M90 towards Kinross, Edinburgh offers an alternative treat. The country’s largest food and drink festival will welcome more than 30,000 gastronomes in celebration of fine dining, drinking and dancing.
In what has become a fixture on the social calendar, foodies attending Taste of Edinburgh from today until Sunday will get the chance to see some of the best restaurant chefs demonstrate their culinary skill, while producers will show off their wares and musicians entertain the crowds.
But amid the top-name chefs and fancy dishes at The Meadows is a simple message: Scotland produces great food and when cooked well it is amongst the best in the world. Taste Festival managing director Justin Clarke says: “Scotland has one of the most outstanding natural larders in the world. With such great ingredients and produce available right on our doorstep, it’s not surprising that it’s home to some of the most extraordinary restaurants in the UK. This year’s event is really about showcasing these culinary talents – from well-renowned restaurants, to hidden gems and artisan suppliers and producers.”
Now in its sixth year, the festival is tapping into a growing awareness of where food comes from – a factor becoming ever-more important for an increasing number of consumers – and just what can be created when good local produce is used.
Among the well-known names appearing will be Loyd Grossman – the former MasterChef presenter whose name now backs a number of cookery products – who will take centre stage at the main AEG Taste Theatre. He agrees that people are becoming more discerning when it comes to food. He says: “Over the last 20 years, in particular, the British public have become more adventurous in their cooking and eating. Food festivals have helped to focus public attention on the wealth of adventurous flavour and variety that is now available on tables all over the country.”
Others chefs displaying their world-class techniques include Michelin star talent Jeff Galvin, Gordon Ramsay protege Jason Atherton and Channel 4 culinary duo, The Fabulous Baker Brothers. They will join Scotland’s very own Michael Smith of The Three Chimneys, master patissier of London cake boutique Cake Boy, Eric Lanlard, and chefs of The Ivy, Tim Hughes and Gary Lee.
Justin says the event has become established because of the world-class food and talent on show, as well as more interest in food’s provenance. He says: “What the festival is actually about is, anyone who loves food and drink can choose what they want to do. They can just eat and drink, they can go and learn, discover, try and buy, they can socialise, meet friends and generally have a relaxed time, or, if you are really keen, you can cook things, talk to the chefs and find out how they create their dishes.”
But it is not all food. Edinburgh’s traditional pub and music venue, Ghillie Dhu, is bringing along their bands. In the afternoons the sounds of the Stevie Agnew Duo will accompany alfresco diners and The Islander Ceilidh Band and The NB Band will provide foot-stomping entertainment in the evenings.
Hands-on cookery classes will, as usual, form part of the festival, but new attractions include a barbecue cook-off where visitors can take part in an “Amateurs” competition after “The Professionals” have done their stuff.
Jeff Bland, the executive chef at The Balmoral, Edinburgh, will also be on hand to give a masterclass, but his main aim is to promote Scotland’s produce. He says: “I’ve a great passion for Scottish produce which is exactly what Taste showcases. Our seafood and game is the best in the world and it’s right on our doorstep. I believe all Scottish restaurants should be using local produce.”
Also at the festival for the first time is the Country Kitchen, another way organisers hope to celebrate what this country has to offer. Visitors can watch top chefs carrying out skill-based demonstrations using the finest ingredients from award-winning producers in Orkney and Lanarkshire.
While the marquees will be a refuge, the inclement summer weather, which has been drenching Scotland, looks set to continue. For an outdoor festival, there is no disguising the fact that bad weather is bad news. However, a spokesman refused to let the dark clouds trouble him, saying: “In the words of Billy Connolly, there is no such thing as bad weather in Scotland, only inappropriate clothing – wellies and party socks advised.”
Show manager Francesca Weil also hopes to attract more children this year and help create a new generation of foodies. “We are delighted to be offering families a chance to bring their kids along free, giving the next generation of budding Taste chefs an opportunity to learn from the culinary talents of today,” she says. “Come rain or shine, it’s set to be the best festival yet.”
As well as the headline TV celebrities appearing in the demonstration theatres, there will be contributions from Scotland’s very own Michael Smith of The Three Chimneys, master patissier of Cake Boy, Eric Lanlard, and chefs of The Ivy, Tim Hughes and Gary Lee, as they take to the stage and share their skills and knowledge. Spaces for all demonstration theatres are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
Crown is king
Crowns are the official currency of the Taste festival. All of the restaurants accept crowns, as do many of the food and drinks stalls. Each crown is worth 50p and can be bought from the Taste Bank and roaming Crown sellers. They are non-refundable.
A new feature for Taste of Edinburgh this year is the Country Kitchen. Visitors will be able to pull up a seat and watch top chefs creating masterpieces using only produce found within the Country Kitchen larder.
Shop & Drop
Have you bought delicious produce, but want to enjoy the rest of your day without being weighed down? If so, lighten the load by heading over to the ‘Shop & Drop’ for collection when you leave.
The AEG Taste Theatre is expected to be the star ingredient of the show. Watch award-winning chefs live on stage as they share their culinary secrets with the audience.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west