Stephen Jardine: Everyone must know we’re good with food

Scotland's food revolution: ability to surprise. Picture: PA
Scotland's food revolution: ability to surprise. Picture: PA
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ONE of the best things about the food revolution now under way in Scotland is its ability to surprise.

Having spent so long as a culinary joke, it’s understandable that the changes do take some time to sink in. On one level, it’s rather quaint.

Last month, I had lunch with the London-based editor of a national food magazine on her first visit to Scotland in years. She was simply gobsmacked by the quality of eating on offer and faintly embarrassed it had passed her by until now.

It is a common theme among visitors but especially pleasing when it comes from those in the know.

Ask anyone in the business and they will tell you that outside London, this is the best place to eat in the UK. That change is being led by a population more engaged with what they eat than ever before.

Farmers markets and traditional butchers and bakers shops are booming, and next weekend our food renaissance will be celebrated by the thousands packing into the SECC for the BBC Good Food Show.

Just a few years ago, the idea of a good food show on the banks of the Clyde would have seemed like a bad taste joke. Now it’s an annual fixture and one of the most successful in the nationwide calendar of major culinary events.

But there is still a long way to go. It’s only a couple of years since I attended a food conference in Govan Town Hall brimming with local and seasonal messaging.

Inside, delegates enjoyed a light organic lunch but outside local people were queuing at Greggs.

A lot of work is now under way to challenge those inequalities and the sporting events of 2014 provide a great opportunity to captivate people with what fitness and good diet can achieve.

Change may be under way at the grassroots but more still needs to happen at the top as well.

At the National Restaurant Awards in London this week, half a dozen Scottish establishments made it into the top 100. Only three reached the top 50. That’s a great honour for Tom Kitchin, Andrew Fairlie and Roy Brett but the big question is, where were the rest?

Similarly, this year’s Michelin Guide produced a crop of new stars for English restaurants but no change at all in Scotland.

No new Michelin stars in Scotland and only six restaurants in the British top 100 just doesn’t feel right.

The blind spot I experienced with the London food magazine boss seems to be replicated among those who judge and award the industry.

Perhaps that’s fair enough in the context of where we’ve come from, but as we approach a year when visitors will flock to Scotland for a glittering array of events, the hope must be that they will all leave converted to the joys of this land of food and drink.