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Malton - is 'the food capital of Yorkshire' living up to its name?

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:43 24 October 2015

Tom doing a spot of shopping at Malton Relish deli

Tom doing a spot of shopping at Malton Relish deli

Archant

Jo Haywood visits a town that is a genuine foodie destination

Malton Cookery School, where Lady Isabella teaches country house cookingMalton Cookery School, where Lady Isabella teaches country house cooking

Tom Naylor-Leyland is a food evangelist. His passion and enthusiasm is palpable as he thunders round his adopted home of Malton, pointing out its foodie highlights and energetically conversing on its growing potential as a must-visit Yorkshire tourist destination.

He’s obviously a man with a plan – the plan being to put Malton on the map as the county’s premier foodie hub. As director of the Talbot Hotel and Malton Cookery School, a leading light in the successful We Love Malton promotional group and heir to the Fitzwilliam Estate, which owns a large chunk of the town, he’s in a very good position to get things done. And get things done, he has.

An elegant hotel, a popular cookery school, artisan food production units, the Made in Malton branding initiative, a town centre brewery and a nationally-recognised food festival are just the edited highlights of what’s been achieved since Tom first came on board in 2009. He’s the first to admit that it’s very much a team effort, but you can’t help wondering if Malton would have come this far this fast without his driving energy.

‘I’m very surprised by the progress we’ve made in such a short time,’ he said, after a spot of cushion plumping and leaflet straightening at the Talbot Hotel. ‘But there’s so much more to do. We’re only on step three of about 20 steps.

Thousands of visitors descend on the town during the annual food festivalThousands of visitors descend on the town during the annual food festival

‘Some people thought we were mad to begin with, and who can blame them? Everything we wanted to do was untested and new. But it’s been very heartening and quite humbling to see the way the town has pulled together. Everyone can see that positive things are happening. Businesses are actively seeking to move back into the town centre as part of a positive ripple effect.

‘But we’re not done yet. I want to see people choosing Malton as a holiday destination; somewhere they can spend a few days eating delicious food in one of the most beautiful areas in Britain.’

Tom is not a chef but he’s been passionate about food since childhood, when he cooked with his grandmother and mother (who now teaches at Malton Cookery School).

‘Every good son thinks his mother is the best cook in the world, and I’m no exception,’ he said. ‘She worked in a New York deli before we all came along (he’s one of six children) and I think, deep down, she’d still love to run her own deli now.

‘I’m not professionally trained but I’m a very keen home cook. My wife would probably say I’m an absolute bore when it comes to food, but I love cooking and I’m incredibly greedy, so there you go.’

Tom admits that, even though he trained in jewellery design and silversmithing, he was still looking for ‘his thing’ when he came to Malton food festival in 2009 to man a stall with his mother selling chicken salad, Marans’ eggs and garden produce.

‘I knew immediately that this was it,’ he said. ‘I left London a month later.’

There were around 20 stalls and 1,000 visitors at the time. This month, more than 20,000 visitors are expected to peruse 160 stalls at Malton Food Lovers Festival (May 23rd-24th). Among the big names on the menu are Levi Roots (who’s also headlining the accompanying music festival with his 12-piece band), Prue Leith, Valentine Warner, William Sitwell and Diana Henry.

‘It was Antonio Carluccio who first called Malton the food capital of Yorkshire, and we’ve been trying to expand on that idea ever since,’ said Tom. ‘People come to town to immerse themselves in a Yorkshire food experience – and not just on festival weekend. They can eat fantastic food all year round, meet wonderful producers over at Talbot Yard and roll up their sleeves and cook themselves.’

Talbot Yard, once a courtyard of derelict coaching buildings opposite the Talbot Hotel, is currently being transformed into a collection of artisan food production units, including a bakery, ice cream parlour, fishcake maker, coffee roaster and a fresh pasta specialist, that will be open to the public.

So, what’s next on Tom’s to-do list (because he patently doesn’t have enough to do)?

‘It’s very exciting actually,’ he said. ‘We’re just about to launch Malton Brasserie, a more relaxed, informal eating experience here at the Talbot. Oh, and we want to develop an artisan food trail round the town. And we’re thinking of repainting the buildings in the main square to make a bolder statement.’

Brace yourselves – there’s much, much more to come on Malton’s already packed menu.

Malton Food Lovers Festival is on May 23rd and 24th. For full details, visit maltonyorkshire.co.uk

Who’s who

:: Tom Naylor-Leyland, director of the Talbot Hotel and Malton Cookery School, is heir to the Fitzwilliam Estate. His father, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland, is a direct descendent of the Wentworth-Fitzwilliam dynasties, who have a strong connection with Malton that stretches back over three centuries.

:: Thomas Watson Wentworth, of Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire, bought substantial parts of Old and New Malton in 1713.

:: Sir Philip inherited the estate in 1987, becoming the 4th Baronet Naylor-Leyland with family residences at Nantclwyd Hall in Denbighshire, Wales, and Milton Hall in Peterborough.

:: Sir Philip married Lady Isabella Lambton in 1980. They have six children: Tom, Violet, George, Edward, Beatrix and William.

:: Tom, the heir apparent, moved to Malton in 2011, shortly after his marriage to Alice, who runs Mrs Alice, a website where she shares fashion and lifestyle tips – and lovely photographs of their blue-eyed boy Billy.



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