It all started when Mark Barnett began whipping up homemade butteries for friends and family in 2017 – and the rest is history.
After leaving Banff Academy in 1986, Mark was encouraged by his dad, Ian, to take on the role of apprentice baker at a local bakery in the town centre, known as Seafield Bakery.
Having learned the ins and outs of the industry from the get-go, the now 51-year-old knew he had a passion for it.
Mark now lives in New Pitsligo, near Fraserburgh, where he makes butteries for customers at The Gold ‘n’ Crispy fish and chip shop, which is run by his partner Lorraine Miller and located next door to his home.
He has been a baker on oil rigs over the years and now works for Aberdeenshire Council’s roads department.
Butteries were instant hit
While Mark first started producing his butteries for friends and family, he went on to make a batch, along with some scones, at the fish and chip shop for the first time when Lorraine had arranged a coffee morning for the local flower show judges in 2017.
This was around 12 months before the World Buttery Championship was set to take place.
“Initially, I started making the butteries for ourselves and friends,” Mark said.
“Then, I took them to work and it just took off from there. They went down really well.
“I bake everything myself from scratch using a basic recipe and I don’t use any premixes.
“In July 2018, we started farmers’ markets. This came about as Martin from the Slow Food Organisation, who organised the World Buttery Championship, asked us to come along and sell our butteries at a stall they had on George Street, Aberdeen, and haven’t looked back.
“We now attend Ellon, Huntly and Inverurie farmers’ markets regularly and attended one day events throughout the year (pre-Covid), such as New Deer Show and Deeside Local Food Festival.
I bake everything myself from scratch using a basic recipe and I don’t use any premixes.”
“We had signed up for Portsoy Boat Festival and Seedy Sunday at Aden Park in Mintlaw before coronavirus struck.
“I love the taste of butteries, of course, and the fact they are unique to this area. They have a real ‘Scottishness’ to them. I also like the debate and arguments around what they are called.
“People call them butteries, rowies, rolls, or even cookies (locals from Peterhead call them that). Then I get questions from people about what to put on a buttery and how is the best way to eat them.”
World Buttery Championship
With his butteries going down well with locals and farmers’ market visitors, those closest to Mark wanted to go one step further and find out how to promote them and ensure they were more recognised.
“I entered the World Buttery Championship about a month before it took place by applying online,” he said.
“It was friends and family that messaged encouraging me to do it.
“The funny thing was that I hadn’t completed my application form. It was only when Martin phoned me the day before the entries had to be in asking me to send a photo of me to him, which completed the application.
“If he hadn’t messaged, my application might not have been accepted.”
A total of 10 bakers competed in the competition, which took place at North East Scotland College.
“I felt shocked when my name was announced and feel very proud that I am the first-ever World Buttery Champion,” he added.
“But I knew they were good and felt justified that my family and friends thought they were the best.
“It was also special as Lorraine and our daughter, Madison, were there on the day to see me make them and lift the title.
I really hope the World Buttery Championship returns one day – I would certainly like to enter again to defend my title.”
“Everyone will have their own opinion as to who made/makes the best buttery, which of course they are entitled to.
“However, once people have tasted a sample of mine, a lot of feedback has been they hadn’t tasted a buttery like it for a long time and it reminded them of how butteries should be made (with traditional ingredients that aren’t substituted with healthier alternatives).
“I believe my buttery was chosen as the champion as it’s made with good traditional ingredients. I really hope the World Buttery Championship returns one day – I would certainly like to enter again to defend my title.
“Other than that competition, I haven’t entered any others with my butteries.”
Pies, scones, shortbread and more
The baker continues to make his butteries outside Lorraine’s fish and chip shop in a small bakery, which is a renovated former outbuilding.
But butteries aren’t the only items that Mark specialises in now.
He said: “As time has gone on, the items I make have increased, especially with Covid.
“Lorraine and I decided to offer more bakery items to the local village other than the butteries, including various scones, pies, sausage rolls, oatcakes, shortbread, and even pie shells and lids. A favourite at the moment is strawberry tarts.
“People can get their hands on all of this at The Gold ‘n’ Crispy.
“The pair of us continue to take bakery orders on a Friday and attend local farmers’ markets. We are looking forward to attending new venues or day events in the hopefully not too distant future.”