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Raise a glass to some of our top local food and drink producers and chefs of 2020

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Despite it being a difficult year for many, we reflect on just some of the innovation and creativity that has shone brightly in 2020.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Scotland’s hospitality industry with numerous national and regional lockdowns meaning businesses have had to close their doors, some for good, or offer up alternative ways of operating while sticking to the rules.

Just as we have been finding ways of adapting to this bizarre year at home, local food and drink producers and chefs have been doing the same out on the main stage.

Here we revisit some of those working in the food and drink industry that we’ve heard from this year and who have been doing great work – though there are so many more out there showing that while hospitality may be temporarily down, it’s certainly not out.

We look forward to featuring them in 2021.

1. Dean Banks

There’s no denying that Angus-born St Andrews chef Dean Banks has led the way in innovative new ventures this year as he became one of the first restaurateurs to offer their dine in experience at home. He also went above and beyond expectations to open a new high-end fish and chip shop Haarbour in St Andrews after smashing his £25,000 crowdfunding target in 48 hours.

Dean Banks.

The fun didn’t stop there as we learned that his Haar at Home concept sold 14,000 lobsters in the span of eight months.

We may not know what 2021 has in store but we sure hope it involves Dean getting a well-deserved holiday.

2. Darren Peattie and East Neuk Salt Co.

It all started with eight words – “We’re going to set up a salt company” – and swiftly became a reality. The story of Darren Peattie resurrecting salt harvesting in St Monans is one of great success as the East Neuk local set out on a mission to become Scotland’s largest salt producer.

After setting up a crowdfunding page and with a nail-biting £28,450 to hit in two weeks in order to make the dream come true, we were pleased to report that Darren smashed his target and raised more than £52,000.

Set to launch properly in January, we’re excited to see what the new year brings and you can expect many more recipes with salt appearing in celebration.

Darren Peattie of the East Neuk Salt Co.

3. Bowhouse

Speaking of St Monans, one of the region’s foodie havens and home to several of its top food and drink producers, Bowhouse, is located there, too.

Based on the Balcaskie Estate, just outside the small East Neuk town, several small food and drink stars call the site their home, including Jess Rose Young who launched a pop-up cafe at the beginning of December; Futtle who have become one of Scotland’s two organic breweries; and butcher Sophie Cumber.

The artisan food and drink centre also runs a market, both on the premises and online, showcasing the best of local produce and street food, which is something we can’t wait to taste more of in 2021.

4. Hayley Wilkes of WeeCOOK Kitchen

If you go down to Carnoustie today, you’re sure of a tasty pie. At least that’s likely to be the case if you head towards the nearby village of Barry and the WeeCOOK Kitchen.

Owner Hayley Wilkes was recipient of the top accolade at November’s Business Women Scotland Awards and we can clearly see why. Our food and drink writer Brian Stormont went to meet Hayley last month to learn how she managed to remodel the business and ensure customers could still taste WeeCOOK’s award-winning homemade pies.

Hayley Wilkes.

5. The Scottish Bee Company

With hives across Fife, Perthshire and other regions further north, the Scottish Bee Company has had one success after another this year. Not only did its signature heather honey become the first food product in the UK to receive the BSI Kitemark, but owners Iain and Suzie Millar also signed a contract to have their honey sold in the Far East over the next 12 months in a deal worth £100,000.

With the aim of increasing bee numbers and pollination across the country, we are all for The Scottish Bee Company’s 100% honey and look forward to their next endeavour in 2021.

Iain and Suzie Millar of The Scottish Bee Company.

6. Elizabeth Gray at Milton Haugh Farm Shop

One local producer, Elizabeth Gray, brought us the news we’d all been waiting for and revealed we now have Christmas all year round as she seeks to increase turkey sales at her Milton Haugh Farm Shop.

With an amazing idea that she thought of to help save Christmas, Elizabeth has set up a “turkeybank” that will allow people to order turkeys from her as early as March and have them stored in the shop’s freezers ready for December, meaning there will be much less stress next festive season.

Elizabeth Gray.

7. The Crafty Maltsters

A family in Fife, known as The Crafty Maltsters, have set out to put Scottish barley back on the map by malting the grain in smaller batches to create a more distinguished flavour.

They are hoping to revive some of the nation’s barley varieties not harvested since the 1800s.

Daniel, Norman and Alison Milne of the Crafty Maltsters.

8. Nick Nairn

We may have found it tough watching the impact of the various different restrictions on the hospitality industry these past few months, but being directly affected by it and among it has been so much harder, as we’ve been learning.

Celebrity chef Nick Nairn was one of those directly affected after he opened his new restaurant in Bridge of Allan at the end of February. Not only that, he ended up suffering from the virus himself, as we learned back in April.

But following what was the end of life as we’ve known it, Nick quickly became one of the chefs to lead the way on social media by creating at-home cookalongs for us to join in with, as well as stepping to the forefront of calls to the government for more support and reflecting the fears of the industry.