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Me and My Buttery: World Buttery Championship founder on mission to take palm oil out of butteries

Martin Gillespie helped start the World Buttery Championship in 2018.
Martin Gillespie helped start the World Buttery Championship in 2018.

Martin Gillespie knows a few things about butteries.

In 2018, the Aberdonian helped launch the World Buttery Championship, crowning Mark Barnett from New Pitsligo the inaugural winner.

Martin, 57, is also the coordinator of Slow Food Aberdeen and Shire, a volunteer group dedicated to traditional methods of making food.

In our weekly Me and My Buttery feature, we talk to Martin about his buttery habits, why palm oil needs to get out of the rowie industry and whether the World Buttery Championship is set for a post-Covid comeback.

Hello, Martin. Great to talk to you for Me and My Buttery. So, tell me: How do you eat yours?

Well, as someone so integrated into the world of butteries, I’m happy to be flexible. Hot with butter? Yes. Hot with marmalade? Yes. Cold with anything? Not really, no.

And it has to be made with butter. Like my grandma always said, a little bit more butter won’t do any harm.

Was it your love of butteries that made you start the World Buttery Championship?

Yes, and to highlight to people that these days most butteries are made with palm oil.

The people of Aberdeen and much further beyond love butteries. But people will not be aware that when they pick up their butteries from any of the city bakers that they are crammed full of palm oil [palm oil plantations are blamed for deforestation in some parts of the world].

World Buttery Championship palm oil
Martin, third right, at the World Buttery Championships in 2018.

We believe that the producers who do use butter instead of palm oil are far superior.

So we launched the World Buttery Championship to help highlight those producers that use butter and not palm oil.

Why are butteries made with butter better?

My wife is a food scientist, and she’ll tell you about the Maillard reaction. It’s the browning effect on cooked food, like with a steak.

You have the same reaction with butteries, which makes them brown and crispy.

But that’s only with the butter ones – butteries made without butter are peely-wally, because they don’t get the same reaction.

Is the World Buttery Championships coming back?

We would like to think so. We’re coming out with lockdown this year, and it’ll be four years since the first [held at North East Scotland College].

World Buttery Championship palm oil
Mark Barnett, the reigning world buttery champion.

Originally, the plan was to have it every two years, but that stuck us right in the middle of the start of the first year of pandemic, so that wasn’t happening.

Where will you hold it?

We need a live venue for it – we don’t want to be one of those food championships where people send it in by post. It makes it more exciting to have it on stage.

In 2018, one of the chefs, who usually makes fantastic butteries, had a meltdown on the day and her butteries were rubbish.


If you have an unusual or interesting way to eat your buttery, we’d love to hear about it.

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