Some 19 years ago, Taste of Grampian started out as a small event designed to stimulate the local food and drink sector.
To say it’s been a runaway success is an understatement – it has grown to become Scotland’s largest one-day food and drinks festival, attracting thousands of visitors – and at the last event more than 16,000 turned up to the Thainstone Centre in Inverurie.
Now the countdown has begun to this year’s flavour and action-packed festival, which takes place on Saturday June 2. And what a line-up awaits those heading there.
As always, there are some some big hitters appearing including celebrity chef James Martin, who returns for the second consecutive year along with TV’s wine expert and columnist Susy Atkins, while BBC Masterchef Professional winner Gary McLean, aka Scotland’s first national chef, makes his Taste of Grampian debut.
But the beauty of this festival is that it brings the well-known and less well-known together. Visitors taking a stroll through the village of food and drink stalls may well find themselves being offered samples of new products which are being showcased at the event, products which one day could end up being weekly shopping buys.
Take award-winning company Summerhouse Drinks from Peathill in Aberdeenshire, for example. It launch a brand of lemonades back at the festival in 2014 and, from there, went from strength to strength and is now a household name, while Strathearn Cider Company launched its Scruffy Dog Cider at Taste of Grampian last year and, as a result, secured a contract with Oddbins across Scotland. The Grampian region is considered to be a major part of Scotland’s larder and as well as being home to some fabulous meat, vegetable, drink and artisan food producers.
The region is home to the UK’s largest white fish landing port in Peterhead and Europe’s largest shellfish port in Fraserburgh.
Visitors to Taste of Grampian’s fish market, an integral part of the day, can see a magnificent seafood display as the centrepiece and enjoy several free seafood cookery demonstrations from talented chefs including Cat Frankitti, Craig Wilson, Graeme Mitchel, Alan Stewart, Ross Cochrane and Fraser Rodman.
There are plenty of chefs in action throughout the day elsewhere with demonstrations at the BBQ cook school and the Braehead Foods demonstration kitchen, as well as the outdoor arena. And one not-to-be-missed event is the surf and turf cook-off with Colin Slessor, auctioneer at Aberdeen and Northern Marts and one of the stars of the hit TV show The Mart, who will be paired against Graham Mitchell, head chef of The Cock and Bull, Balmedie.
Fans of Scotland’s national dish can cheer on competitors taking part in a haggis-eating competition when eight people compete to see who can eat a pound of cooked haggis in the fastest time possible.
Meanwhile, celebrity chef Gary Maclean will not only cook up a storm himself, but has the hard task of judging the final of the Aspiring Young Chef competition which takes place in the morning in ring three when finalists Barry Gunn and Ryan Laird have to come up with a well-balanced meal.
As well as being a superb celebration of Grampian’s food, drinks take a sparkling role this year.
New for 2018 is a Brewdog masterclass, during which BrewDog will showcase several craft beers. Following last year’s success, the gin masterclass returns while a new craft brewery tent will highlight some of the north-east’s best-loved brews and ciders.
As well as being able to eat and drink their way around the region via more than 180 stands, there’s an impressive entertainment programme. Local musicians will entertain the crowds all day into the evening to the night market, which will be a celebration of music and food from 6-9pm.
Performers taking part include the Strathspey Fiddlers, Chalmers Mackay Music School, The Calvin Napier Band, Kintore Quartet, Fair Trickit, Johlson, John Duncan and pianist John Rankin to name but a few.
Last, but by no means least, there’s plenty to see and admire at The Press and Journal and Evening Express motor show while a selection of vintage cars and motorbikes on display will have visitors feeling nostalgic.
With arts and crafts, clowns and balloon modellers on hand to entertain wee ones, and a wealth of places to eat, the festival really does have something to keep all members of the family entertained.
Entry to Taste of Grampian is £8 for adults and accompanied under 16s go free. This year’s event takes place on Saturday June 2, 9am-9pm at the Thainstone Centre, Inverurie. General Admission Tickets for the event, including masterclasses, can be purchased via EventBrite at ww.eventbrite.co.uk. Alternatively visit www.tasteofgrampian.co.uk