Malton has come a long way in the last decade or so. What was once a sleepy market town is now one of the North’s leading foodie destinations, brimming with mouthwatering monthly markets and flavour-packed festivals and events.
Home to a growing number of up-and-coming independent businesses – everything from butchers and bakers to macaroon makers – it’s a place to treat your tastebuds to something new and celebrate everything that’s great about local food.
The chap responsible for the town’s tasty resurgence is Tom Naylor-Leyland. As director of Visit Malton, it’s his job to keep the town’s social calendar as packed and as buzzing as can be – and this means making sure there’s plenty to do, talk about and eat.
As we head into autumn – a season of abundance when it comes to fresh, homegrown produce – I catch up with him to find out more about his story and what’s happening in his beloved foodie town as the leaves turn brown…
JL: Have you always been a foodie?
TNL: My first jobs were all in food, so I suppose I caught the bug young. After I left school, I was a butler at Dukes Hotel in London. I was on room service duty, which saw me deliver hundreds of breakfast trays! After that, I worked for chef Sally Clarke behind the counter at her fab deli in London.
JL: Tell us about your connection to Malton…
TNL: My family has owned property in the town since 1713. My mum grew up in the North East – she’s a proud Geordie – so this part of the world has always had a special place in my heart.
JL: How and when did Malton’s transition into a foodie destination begin?
TNL: Malton’s always been a lovely place to live, but over the last few years we’ve just been promoting it in a different way. It’s now all about the food. The idea came about when I was living in London. I’d go to Borough Market and find that people were shouting about how great Yorkshire produce was. I thought, why are you doing it here? Why not in Yorkshire? I decided I’d give it a shot, so I moved home, kicked off the first Malton Food Lovers Festival and here we are today. That was a decade ago!
JL: How do you feel about Malton’s reputation as ‘Yorkshire’s Food Capital’?
TNL: It was actually the late – and very great – chef, Antonio Carluccio, who first called it that. He visited the town when we were launching our first Malton Food Lovers Festival and we haven’t looked back since.
JL: For food fans who are yet to visit, what can they expect to find in Malton?
TNL: What’s great about Malton is that it’s now a foodie destination all year round. Although we’re best-known for our festivals, there’s plenty to discover no matter what time of week or year you visit. I’d recommend taking a class at our cookery school, or paying Talbot Yard Food Court a visit – it’s home to six amazing artisan producers. We’ve also launched special Malton Food Tours, which give visitors a chance to go behind the scenes at some of our best-loved venues.
JL: There’s a great feeling of community in Malton – would you agree?
TNL: Absolutely and I think that the new events and food shops have really helped create that feeling. Many of our events are run by volunteers and that really does create an amazing atmosphere. Helping to build a strong foodie community here is genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with.
JL: How important is celebrating local food to you?
TNL: It’s our whole ethos. Malton is home to so many fantastic producers; people who make everything from baked goods and charcuterie treats, to coffee, beer, gin and gelato. We also have access to the finest grouse, pheasant, partridge, venison, rabbit, hare, rare breed cattle and pigs. Our lobster and crab come straight from the Yorkshire coast. There’s so much to discover.
JL: What kind of food do you like to eat at home?
TNL: I adore fish, seafood and sushi. But I also have an affection for street food. There’s just something really inviting about the smells, the sounds and the immediacy of it all. At home, I’m a bit like a monk from Monday to Friday, then a bit like Elvis in his final years once the weekend arrives.
JL: When you’re not working, what does life look like?
TNL: Family life is busy. My wife, Alice, and I have three kids, so going to work feels like going on holiday sometimes! When I do have free time, I turn to music. I’m a frustrated boogie-woogie piano player and love writing country music.
JL: What are your hopes for Malton’s future?
TNL: In the last five years, 26 new food and drink businesses, including a wood-fired pizza restaurant, a gin distillery, a vegetarian and vegan deli and an award-winning brewery, have opened their doors in Malton. I hope we welcome even more producers to the town as the next five years roll on. With the addition of our brand new coaching inn, The Talbot, I also hope more and more people will choose to stay a while. A day is never enough in my book – there’s so much to explore!
WHAT’S ON THIS AUTUMN/WINTER…
Saturday 7 September – Malton Harvest Food Festival
A free celebration of all that is good and tasty this time of year. Expect a harvest of game, seafood, wild and foraged veg, soft fruit, autumnal bakes and more. Set across Malton’s Market Place, with chef demos, over 100 stalls, family entertainment, live music, talks and tastings.
Saturday 12 October and Saturday 9 November – Malton Monthly Food Market
Think 35 specialist food stalls selling fresher-than-fresh produce and the finest street food. Held on the second Saturday of the month, they give food-lovers and amateur cooks the chance to shop and eat local. Free entry and parking.
Saturday 7 December and Sunday 8 December – Malton Christmas Food and Gift Market
The town’s popular monthly food market – with added sparkle. The festive version promises the finest Christmassy produce, alongside spectacular gift stalls, seasonal live music and entertainment. Enjoy figgy puddings, prepared turkeys and geese, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, cheeseboards, mince pie gelato and more.