He may have been Italian, but celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio not only knew how to recognise quality British produce but also contributed a generous portion of his own enthusiasm to promote Malton’s food traders as the town worked to find a new identity.
But perhaps the most important ingredient he offered as the town’s reputation began to grow was a new title – Yorkshire’s Food Capital.
Short, accurate and memorable, it was inevitable the title would stick and it now even appears on the market town’s name signs.
The story of Malton’s food renaissance can be attributed to one man, Tom Naylor-Leyland who had a vision for the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate to cultivate a new branding for the town, which capitalised on the high-quality produce farmers and others in the food industry were offering in Yorkshire.
His first step was to promote a food festival, which has grown to become a major twice-yearly event, supplemented by monthly food markets on the second Saturday of each month from March to November.
While these events provided a great fillip to the town’s fortunes, massively increasing footfall when they took place, they did not provide a total solution.
That has come through increasing available outlets for artisan producers to occupy, meaning customers can see the bakers at work producing the bread they buy, can browse and chat to those involved as part of the process of shopping.
It has been a winning formula, with not only typical market town traders such as bakers and butchers finding a ready market for their wares, but more niche outlets like a gelato shop and French macaron producer also springing up, with the diversity leaving even Mr Naylor-Leyland marginally surprised.
“I expected butchers and bakers, but didn’t think we’d get a gelato-maker,” he said. For an area where meat and dairy are naturally expected, Malton now has a strong vegetarian and vegan offer, too.
While the festivals, markets and other events blend seamlessly with the established food and drink businesses in Malton, the project is far from complete.
The town continues to expand, creating more opportunities for restaurants and more to expand the offer available for both residents and visitors.
“We have seen many people move into the town and enjoy living in Malton; the town is growing and the food scene is growing. We are looking for top restauranteurs to come in,” said Mr Naylor-Leyland.
“There is always more to do, of course there is. There is more to Malton than food but it is now a big part of what we do.”