Malton's annual food festival marks its tenth anniversary this weekend – and MAXINE GORDON reports on why it should be the best yet

MALTON'S Food Lovers Festival is a different smorgasbord to when it all began just ten years ago,

Back in 2008, there were just 25 stalls and 1,000 visitors.

Last year, the event smashed all records, drawing a crowd of 30,000 – including celebrity host Prue Leith, the new star of the Great British Bake Off. There were some 50 stalls selling more than 150 artisan products – mostly from Yorkshire.

The festival’s growing success led none other than the late Antonio Carluccio to dub Malton ‘Yorkshire’s food capital’.

This year's fun runs from Saturday to Sunday and promises to be the best yet, says the ever-enthusiastic Tom-Naylor Leyland, festival founder and director. "The festival is expanding. We will have up to 180 stalls, masses more music and more talks, tastings, demos and cookery lessons."

For the first time, all the demos will be free of charge. Tom said: "We always had free tastings, but charged for the demos. Now all the demos will be outside in a covered area and be free."

A garden area "the village green" will be created next to the Milton Rooms, lined with astroturf so children can play and adults can relax, says Tom.

Top billing this year will be three of Yorkshire’s born-and-bred Michelin-star-winning chefs: Tommy Banks, winner of The Great British Menu 2016 and 2017 and owner of The Black Swan in Oldsted, named as the Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the World 2017 on Trip Advisor; Andrew Pern, of The Star Inn at Harome, and James Mackenzie, of the Pipe & Glass Inn, South Dalton. They will be doing cookery demonstrations and book signings.

The festival, which is free to enter, will also have a pop-up bar, run by local brewery Brass Castle, Orchards of Husthwaite Cider and Yorkshire gin producer, Sloe Motion.

It will be an affair for all the family too – there will be children’s theatre workshops, a vintage fun fair and kids zone. Chancery Lane Car Park will be transformed into a picnic spot for the day, surrounded by a selection of award-winning street food stalls.

The festival is a great advert for the Ryedale market town, says Tom - but his aim is to promote Malton as a serious food destination all-year round. Much energy has gone into attracting new food businesses into the area. "We have seen 26 new food and drink businesses open in the last three years - some of which you can visit, while others are more involved in wholesale and production."

Among these newbies are Florian Poirot, the French master patissier who has opened a shop in Talbot Yard Food Court selling hand-made macarons, chocolates and desserts. Also new is the Rare Bird distillery, that makes gin, and where you can make your own blend in masterclass sessions.

Food tours have taken off too, where a guide takes you around some of the many food and drink retailers in the town – with lots to sample on the way.

Besides the town's monthly food market (on the second Saturday of the month), six Street Food Sunday events are planned through summer. "This is an al fresco summer lunch party," says Tom. " We put out deck chairs, people can enjoy craft beer, jugs of Pimms, and fabulous music and street food." Dates are June 10, 24; July 15, 29 and August 12 and 26, from 11am-3pm.

So where does Tom see the town in another ten years' time? "Ten years ago, when we started, we really wanted to be a food destination. We are a food destination, but I really feel we are seven steps out of 20.

"There is so much more to do, such as putting on extra events throughout the year, bringing in lots more food businesses and we want to see more production in Malton. We want it to be the UK's premier foodie destination."

To find out more about the Malton Food Lovers Festival: