Feedback sought for exciting new Melton food industry plans

Rev Kevin Ashby blesses the pies with one of this year's judges, senior townwarden Dinah Hickling EMN-150906-151151001
Rev Kevin Ashby blesses the pies with one of this year's judges, senior townwarden Dinah Hickling EMN-150906-151151001
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Exciting new plans have been put forward to consolidate and build on Melton’s reputation as the nation’s rural capital of food.

A school of rural food could be set up to maintain production skills in the area, a rural food centre established to showcase techniques and events expanded to include new attractions such as an annual Pie Fest national competition for amateur chefs.

These are all ideas being muted by Melton Mowbray Food Partnership, which wants to gather feedback on the development of the local food industry ahead of its meeting next month.

The organisation would welcome comments from large businesses, small producers, customers and foodies on what they would like to see provided in Melton to help build on its prestigious standing in the trade.

Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the food partnership, said: “We have come a long way in 17 years since the formation of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership.

“Now we are hoping these new proposals will take us further forward in establishing Melton as a major production and tourism centre for food.

“We are hoping to get some feedback on these proposals so that together we can set out a strategy to move the industry forward over the coming years.”

One of the main proposals being put forward is a school of rural food where generations of food production skills can be passed on to new people in Melton.

It would incorporate baking, microbreweries, butchery and cheese and dairy disciplines to draw on the excellence of producers in the borough.

The plans are also aimed at building tourism for the area with activities and permanent infrastructure such as the rural food centre, where visitors would be able to access demonstration areas to see pork pies being raised and Stilton cheese prepared, for example.

Other ideas are for a pop-up restaurant to be created, a social enterprise restaurant known as ‘The Melton Pie Rooms’ and a Melton ‘Villandry’ as a national horticultural visitor attraction.

Existing events such as the Melton Food Festival and Artisan Cheese Fair could be enhanced and new ones added to the programme, such as Pie Fest, which could involve a weekend of pie promotions in the town’s hotels, restaurants and cafes and on market stalls, culminating in the finals of a national competition following regional rounds where winners would be judged by BBC local radio stations.

Mr O’Callaghan added: “We would appreciate as much feedback as possible ahead of our meeting in July. This is an important consultation for the future of the food industry in Melton and we want to hear as many opinions as possible.”

Anyone interested in the food partnership proposals can email matthewocall@gmail.com to make a comment and to receive a copy of the strategy proposals.