A look ahead to Malton Food Lovers Festival 2012
PUBLISHED: 10:13 10 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:15 20 February 2013
Some of Britain's starriest chefs are about to descend on Malton in North Yorkshire, as Chris Titley reports Photographs by John Cocks
Which of these famous names is the odd one out: Antonio Carluccio, Tom Parker Bowles, Andrew Pern, Sophia Loren? Why, Sophia Loren of course. The other three are all acclaimed chefs, while Sophia is rare breed Oxford Sandy & Black piglet. What all four have in common is that they feature in the Malton Food Lovers Festival which takes over the North Yorkshire market town on the weekend of May 19th and 20th . Italian cook Antonio will be reunited with Sophia, a pig he adopted at the Yorkshire Meats farm during a trip to Malton last October, and named in honour of the actress from his homeland.
Quite what form the reunion will take and whether Sophia will be appearing in a delicious sauce are questions as yet unanswered. What we do know is that Maltons fourth celebration of local food will be the biggest yet. The first year, 2009, was small and we didnt know whether it was going to be successful. And its just grown, said Jeni Cropper, one of the organisers. We said we had 10,000 people last year.
We really think that was an underestimation. We think we might get as many as 15 or 20,000 this year.
Theyll be able to watch a stellar cast. Food writer and television presenter Tom Parker Bowles returns. The distinguished kitchen grand dame, Rosemary Shrager is appearing as is Andrew Pern of the Star Inn at Harome, national journalist and local resident Selina Scott, James Mackenzie of the Michelin-starred Pipe and Glass Inn, the list goes on.
How have they managed to bag so many star names? They love Malton and the fact that its still got its proper shops a proper butcher, proper veg people, theres a very good deli and a very good bread maker, said Jeni. They love the fact that its in the middle of farming country so they can get access to the land.
Which is another key to the events success. While a generous sprinkling of celebrity chefs will draw in the crowds, they are garnish to Maltons main dish. The winner is still going to be the local produce because thats what everybody sells and uses. Were getting about a hundred stallholders who all bring their own home-made, home-grown produce, from cakes to cheese to vegetables to fruit.
For the first time theres a charge to go to the festival: 4 online or 5 at the door. Its been levied, Jeni explained, because the towns major landlord and bankroller of previous festivals, the Fitzwilliam Estate, wants to ensure it has a sustainable future. She is convinced that the event brings substantial benefits to the town as new visitors are delighted by what the town has to offer. Its got a lot of very specialised, very good value, different sorts of shops. And its in this sort of amphitheatre of beautiful buildings. So once theyve been they cant resist coming again, added Jeni.
Among the specialist outlets she mentions are dining pub the New Malton, the Malton Relish deli, The Mount Hotel re-opened by a German couple complete with bierkeller and Bavarian food and old fashioned sweet shop Mennells. Another innovation is the food-lovers indoor market, held in the Milton Rooms. People are now beginning to associate good food with Malton, Jeni said.
That reputation has been burnished by news that another celebrity chef, James Martin, is returning to his home town. He will be working in collaboration with the Talbot Hotel when it reopens after a comprehensive 4 million refurbishment.
James started to learn his craft by helping his father when he was head chef at Castle Howard. North Yorkshire is in my blood and Ive watched the town of Malton successfully build a reputation as a foodie destination, with its popular food festival and the abundance of growers and producers in the area, he said.
I shall be looking at sourcing local suppliers and guests can look forward to finding all my favourite Yorkshire produce on the menu from Wakefield rhubarb to Whitby crab.
All this is music to the ears of Denys Townend, chairman of Maltons Business in Action and owner of Linton Pet Shop in the town. Weve got a lot of lovely cafs and a few restaurants. What we have been lacking is a good quality hotel which they are now renovating, the Talbot, he said.
On the back of the food festival and the forthcoming food market, it is being well advertised, it is getting the traction from celebrity chefs, from celebrities themselves, and its putting Malton on the food map.
Its attracting a lot of visitors, and thats really good for the town.
This good news is particularly welcome at a time when many independent traders are feeling the pinch. And theres quite a debate raging about how Malton should develop. Two separate planning applications are under consideration. One of them would see a supermarket built on part of council-owned Wentworth Street car park.
The other is a Fitzwilliam Estates scheme for a retail complex on the livestock market site.
We did a survey last year of the businesses and the consensus was 80 per cent didnt want a new superstore on Wentworth Street car park, said Denys. And they were generally in favour of the smaller food hall and car park on the livestock market site.
While the arguments rage, Malton folk continue to do their bit for their town. There are groups of people who are organising events throughout the year: a literary festival, the Christmas lights switch-on, the Roman festival last summer, the Malton Dickens group, said Denys. There are all sorts of little groups who are doing a bit to help the town. It just works as a nice friendly community.
Getting there: Malton is on the A64 between York and Scarborough and can also be reached on the A169 from Pickering. Regular train services from Scarborough, York and Leeds arrive at the railway station.
Where to park: Visitors enjoy two hours free parking in the Market Place.
What to do: Shop in the many unique and friendly stores. Eat at one of the growing number of cafs and restaurants.
The print version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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