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Taste of Grampian 2023: James Martin roasts audience and local talent shines at food extravaganza

Thousands of people attended the north-east's biggest food and drink festival.

Scores of north-east food fans enjoyed a Saturday morning with James Martin, with a difference, as the region’s biggest food festival returned.

The Yorkshireman was the star attraction at this year’s Taste of Grampian, with his no-nonsense approach to cookery proving a hit with local foodies.

The 50-year-old declared war on modern kitchen gadgets like spiralisers, and even the increasingly ubiquitous air fryer, as he carried out a demonstration at P&J Live on Saturday.

He denounced garlic crushers as he bashed a clove into oblivion with a pan, and championed butter over margarine (“not food”, he insists).

James Martin was sporting a tan he recently acquired filming in Spain. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Chef turns comedian as he leaves food fans chuckling

And the crowds who sought shelter from the soaring temperatures outside soon found themselves being roasted instead by the cheeky chef.

Slicing veg at lightning speed, he poked fun at the chopping skills of us mere mortals in the audience, and later imitated the tentative way we amateurs separate egg whites.

Digging his bare hands into cake batter, he even slammed the use of spatulas, and later joked that there was nothing wrong with Lidl and Aldi – as they “keep the riff raff away from Waitrose”.

The crowd took the good-natured ribbing with a pinch of salt. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

His unpretentious style went down well with those who had paid extra for the exclusive experience at the Dyce venue.

Some even took notes of the recipes, with one enthusiast leaning over to ask if I’d managed to catch all of the spices used to coat his KFC-style fried chicken.

And James Martin mega-fan Richard Bertram, from Aberdeen, walked away with a free bottle of the cook’s own gin as he promoted his new product with a give-away.

The hall was packed as James Martin showed off his talents at Taste of Grampian 2023. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Adding the finishing touches to a Swiss roll, James took a moment to thank the crowd and praise the “fantastic stuff” on offer at the stalls downstairs.

And for many, it was the local producers from all corners of the region who were the true stars…

Scores shun sunshine to take in north-east food festival

The event kicked off at 10am, and I was one of dozens who filed from the 727 bus into the huge arena as it got under way.

Some quenched their thirst with a gin… Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
Crowds also enjoyed talks and demonstrations in the main hall. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Entering the cavernous hall, due to host music legend Elton John in about a week, visitors were greeted by a tummy-rumbling array of treats and the alluring waft of sizzling steak.

Taste of Grampian has been going for more than 20 years, and the 2023 instalment was the second time it’s taken place at P&J Live.

Crowds arriving at the event were greeted by a pipe band. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

More than 150 stalls were on hand, with most offering the finest food and drink the region has to offer – while a handful offered crafts and jewellery.

And it’s a chance for the most humble local producers to rub shoulders with industry titans.

Walkers was offering plates of shortbread on one stand, with Brewdog pulling pints nearby, while Cove Honey Bees and Newburgh-based Sweet Toots Cakery seized the chance to champion their wares yards away.

There was plenty on hand to tickle the tastebuds. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

On a stage in the middle of the hall, “Kilted Chef” Craig Wilson was frying some crispy kale while ladling praise on some mini carrots he picked up in the area.

Craig kept the crowds entertained throughout the day, rustling up a range of dishes using local ingredients.

Deeside husband-and-wife farmers shocked by success – again

Crathie-based Balnault Farm sold out their entire range of burgers, chops and sausages within a couple of hours last year.

They returned with double the amount of meat this time, and were flabbergasted at being left with a mere handful of supplies by noon.

Helen Lambert, who runs the independent business with husband Neil, told me that next year they would need to triple the order.

Craig Wilson and host Julia Bryce had fun as they kept the crowd entertained at Taste of Grampian 2023. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Baker Erin Anderson launched her Just One More… cake business in Laurencekirk last August, and was wowed by the “crazy” response.

She had been preparing non-stop since Wednesday night, slaving over mounds and mounds of traybakes and brownies.

Chloe’s Kitchen Creations was another popular cake stand. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

It’s only the third time she’s exhibited at a stall, and she’s already planning a return to Taste of Grampian next year.

What other stalls were the most popular at Taste of Grampian 2023?

Wark Farm Pies was another big success, with the small Alford business selling a staggering 700 snacks to pastry-mad punters.

We asked Georgie to show how many pies she had left… Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Cook Georgie Bain isn’t used to being the public face of the company, usually more at home in its countryside kitchen.

But today she got to see just how much people enjoy her efforts.

Georgie told us: “It’s nice to see how many people enjoy what I have made… No matter how much we take, we always seem to sell out!

“People have been so lovely.”

And the most popular pies? Georgie says the pork and bacon offerings were the soonest to be scoffed.

There was a constant queue outside the Seafood Bothy. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

The Seafood Bothy, a staple by the Stonehaven seafront, said it had been “mad all day” as customers queued up for the likes of lobster rolls.

Owner Maria Lewis said: “James Martin visited us earlier and was impressed with our story, and the fact we catch all the seafood we use ourselves.”

Seafood Bothy’s Maria Lewis was smiling after a hard day’s work. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson
The “sold out” signs were needed. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Meanwhile, Eight Doors Distillery made the long trek south from John O’Groats to show off their whisky at Taste of Grampian for the first time.

Owner Kerry Campbell said the fledgling firm, which only got off the ground in September, had a “brilliant day”.

Were you at Taste of Grampian? What was your favourite part? Let us know in our comments section below

For food fans who missed out, or are keen for a second serving of local produce, the second ever West End Market will take place in Aberdeen on Sunday.

Learn more about Wark Farm Pies here.

80 of the best pictures from Taste of Grampian 2023 at P&J Live in Aberdeen