Top chefs to appear at Scotland's Salmon Festival

A celebrity chef and former finalist of Masterchef: The Professionals is among three chefs confirmed to lead cookery demonstrations at Scotland’s Salmon Festival.

Mark Heirs – a regular on STV 2’s Live at Five ­programme - has been head chef at a number of top hotels and worked at Glasgow’s prestigious One Devonshire Gardens and Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin star Fat Duck in Bray. He now works as a private chef and consultant.

Mr Heirs, a finalist on the first series of the popular BBC programme, will join Alfie Little, chef proprietor of the River House Restaurant, Inverness and Chris Bond, head chef of The Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness in the Marine Harvest Theatre Kitchen at the festival’s free family fair in Bught Park on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September. The fair runs from 11am to 4pm both days.

Members of the public can find out how to cook salmon in a variety of ways, including Mr Little’s famous Roast Scottish Salmon with Spicy Broth. The demonstrations will be compered by well-known food writer and ‘A Wee Pinch of Sugar’ blogger Rachel Gillon. Marine Harvest will also run its popular salmon barbecue, while La Tortilla, Inverness, will be cooking salmon paella.

A food and craft marquee will feature a range of local exhibitors, with artisans showcasing everything from tartan and tweed to hand-knitted accessories, photography, jewellery, silverware, lamps and health and beauty products.

There’s plenty for young ones too, with face painting, a bouncy castle and story-telling with Gordon MacLellan, aka The Creeping Toad, who will be telling tales and making wild hats and finger puppets. To tie in with the theme of the festival, there will be invertebrate trays for children to investigate, electrofishing and casting lessons with coaches from the Scottish Anglers National Association.

Scotland’s Salmon Festival is a biennial event led in partnership by Inverness College UHI, which takes place in the Highland Capital between Tuesday, 29th August and Saturday, 2nd September.

It ran for the first time in 2015 and attracted around 3500 people, generating a significant boost for the local economy. It is the first event of its kind which celebrates the Atlantic salmon and its importance to Scotland, economically, culturally and historically.

The festival’s extensive programme will kick off with a film night at Eden Court Theatre on Tuesday 29th August. There will be salmon canapés and a series of short films about the fish’s influence in Scotland. Highlights include ‘Atlantic Salmon – Lost at Sea,’ a film by Deirdre Brennan, which takes the viewer on an epic journey through the oceanic kingdom of the Atlantic Salmon. The film has been provided courtesy of the Atlantic Salmon Federation and is a unique production exploring the little known world of the iconic species.

Wednesday, August 30th, sees the official start of the festival with a two-day international conference at Inverness College UHI. The conference is aimed at students, scholars and policy makers and is expected to attract more than 100 delegates, who will hear from industry speakers providing an academic insight into the iconic species. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Atlantic Salmon Marine Ecology – Knowns and Unknowns’ and it will be opened by Dr Peter Hutchinson, Secretary of The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation. Dr Hutchinson is an internationally recognised expert on Atlantic Salmon conservation and management.

The conference will be followed by an evening of public lectures on Thursday, August 31st, themed around the natural history of the Atlantic salmon and the history of salmon fisheries in Scotland. On the same day, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery will run tours for visitors on Alexander Grant, Inverness’ famous fishing rod and fiddle maker, who set the first world record speycast on the River Ness in 1895. It stood for 110 years until it was broken by local ghillie and three-time world speycasting champion Scott Mackenzie. The tours run from 2.30pm to 4pm and are a rare opportunity to get behind the scenes and handle items including tools from Grant’s workshop, his fiddles and the famous Grant vibration rod. There will also be a Country Pursuits costume display featuring sporting outfits from the 19th and 20th centuries and a Fantastic Fish trail for children, which includes facts and fossils.

Alexander Grant is the inspiration for Inverness Angling Club’s Centenary Speycasting Tournament, which takes place on the banks of the River Ness on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September to coincide with the free family fair in Bught Park. The tournament marks the club’s 100th anniversary. 30 anglers from Norway, Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the USA will compete in the competition, which has been organised with the help of Scott Mackenzie. Competitors include Norwegian speycasters Vidar Ness, Geir Hansen and Jarle Strandberg, as well as Inverness Angling Club’s own Aiden MacDonald. Junior and female anglers will also compete with Jordon Grant (15), of Inverness Angling Club, and Donna-Claire Hunter, from Beauly, leading the local charge. 

Dr Melanie Smith, chair of Scotland’s Salmon Festival steering group and Head of Research Development at Inverness College UHI, said: “This year’s festival is gearing up to be bigger and better than ever. With great chefs cooking, plenty of wonderful salmon to enjoy, local food and craft exhibitors, exciting activities for the whole family, as well as the speycasting tournament, there really is something for everyone on the Friday and Saturday.  It’s also an opportunity to celebrate, educate and build greater awareness of this iconic species, which not only plays a vital role in our rivers, is a huge contributor to the economy as a food product, international export and visitor attraction.”

Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Scotland’s Salmon Festival, through our National Programme. Scotland is the perfect stage for events and the festival team have brought together another strong programme, celebrating the Atlantic salmon’s heritage and cultural significance to Scotland. With events ranging from cookery demonstrations to the speycasting tournament, film screenings, children’s activities, public lectures and talks, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.”

Scotland’s Salmon Festival has been organised in partnership with the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, Inverness Angling Club, Marine Harvest, cbec eco-engineering, and supported by EventScotland - part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, Highland Council, Inverness Common Good Fund, Culligran Estate, the Drumossie Hotel, Ness Castle Lodges, SSE, Tomatin Distillery, Graham’s of Inverness and The Scottish Ghillie.

For more information about the festival, visit www.scotlandsalmonfestival.org

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