SHETLAND’S first ever food festival, featuring 10 days of events, gets under way tonight.
The festival, an attempt by the council to showcase all that is best about Shetland food and to encourage interest in what the islands have to offer, will run until Sunday 12th October.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness, who will launch the event at Clickimin tonight, said: “In Shetland, we produce some of the best raw materials that any keen cook or professional chef could wish for. The food festival not only reminds us that we have a real wealth of good things on our doorstep. I hope that it will also help people much further afield to recognise Shetland as a byword for good food.”
Clickimin is the focus for many of the events over the first weekend, beginning tonight with demonstrations by leading chefs Jean Christophe Novelli and George McIvor. There will be more demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, when Clickimin will also host a producers’ market and tasting sessions led by Trevor Laffin of Slow Food Edinburgh.
There are also food festival events in many parts of Shetland throughout the festival. Storytelling and music will be on the menu at the Spiggie Hotel tonight and tomorrow, at Busta House on Sunday, the Wind Dog Cafe on Wednesday, and both Sumburgh Hotel and Spiggie Hotel next Friday. Talks and presentations will also be taking place around the isles and on the second weekend there will be bannock making in Scalloway, a farmers’ market in Tingwall Hall and a special Sunday lunch in Vidlin Hall.
SIC marketing official Neil Henderson said: “I’d like to extend our thanks to all the local food producers, eateries and others who have come forward to play a part in the food festival. I’d also like to express our gratitude to all the public and private sponsors who have pledged money or helped to organise particular events. A lot of community effort has gone into the event and that’s really encouraging.”
The film programme includes Babette’s Feast (Thursday 9th), the Shetland-set Bastinado Salsa (Saturday) and the Pixar feature Ratatouille (Sunday). Bastinado Salsa will be accompanied by some food samples and Ratatouille can be booked together with lunch at the Shetland Museum.
Another strand in the festival is a series of food-related courses which will range from various aspects of local food production and marketing to cheese-making and poultry production.
Chairman of the council’s development committee Josie Simpson said: “If we include everyone who’s involved in fishing and agriculture, as we must, food production is one of the biggest employers in Shetland. To secure a good future, we need to make sure that consumers know what we have to offer.
“The food festival is one of the ways we can do that. It’s part of a broader approach that has led to the publication of a Shetland Food Directory and a two-day promotion of Shetland food at the Edinburgh Festival.”
The programme for the festival is widely available locally and at www.shetlandfoodfestival.com. There is a small charge for some events and admission is payable on the door. Shetland MSP Tavish Scott told delegates at this week’s Scottish Tourism Forum conference that events like the food festival were a great way of promoting the isles to a wider audience.
He said: “Shetland has a great resource in the quality of the local food the islands produce – with seafood and lamb as good as any and with a growing range of products from small local companies. The food festival will not only showcase this to Shetland people, it will also attract visitors to come to the islands in October, when the main tourist season is over. And once they come and taste what we have on offer, they should come back.”
Mr Scott said he hoped the festival would become a major annual event in the Scottish calendar and act as a catalyst to make food a bigger part of the “Shetland experience” for visitors.
“There are already many excellent places to eat out in Shetland, but we must strive to raise standards across the board and to push the standards still higher,” he said.
“When visitors leave Shetland, they must take with them not just memories of our landscape, heritage, music and wildlife. They must also take with them the memory of the taste of top quality seafood and of well presented Shetland lamb and beef. And they must head away well laden with supplies of the wide range of special Shetland produce, from chocolate to beer, and from oatcakes to kippers.”