MICHELIN-starred chef Tom Kitchin’s Bonnie Badger and a hotel saved from closure by the community are helping lead a showcase of East Lothian fare at the first Gullane Food and Drink Festival starting next week.

The Bonnie Badger and the Watchman Hotel are among businesses putting on special events, with restaurants offering drop-in cookery demos using local ingredients, and farm tours will highlight sustainable, environmentally-friendly food production.

Community groups, pubs and cafes have joined forces to back the festival, while the Watchman Hotel said it comes as it is investing in the future with its own trainee programme aimed at young people who have left school and are considering a career in hospitality.

A local consortium of businesspeople, without a background in hospitality, invested to avoid losing the local hotel that had been earmarked for development as residential flats.


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Karen Chapman, Watchman director, said there are also plans to further tap into the golf tourism sector.

“The Covid pandemic has held the nation in a vice-like grip, and right from the start, when we took over in February 2021, we were forced to navigate a difficult, challenging and ever-changing situation,” Ms Chapman said. “It was a sharp learning curve for us all.

“But we have weathered the Covid perfect storm and look forward to a year with renewed confidence. Bookings from golfing groups for this year are strong and next year is also shaping up well.”

HeraldScotland: Karen Chapman of the WatchmanKaren Chapman of the Watchman

She added: “We were resilient, we invested in refurbishing the premises, investing in qualified, motivated staff and delivered on our ambition to source as much locally as possible, be that food suppliers or staff

“We want to be at the heart of the Gullane community, which is why we have joined community groups, pubs and cafes to back the food and drink festival.”

Louise Pickering, festival founder and owner of the Cherish Tearoom in Gullane, said: “The Watchman Hotel, and many other local businesses, have embraced the community spirit at the heart of the Gullane Food and Drink Festival.

“It has been a challenging 18 months for businesses in the area, but now we look to the future with renewed hope and a determination to grow and come back stronger than ever.”

Ms Pickering also said: “This is our community’s way of fighting back, bringing people together from across the village. This festival will not only celebrate the area’s excellent food and drink, but also underline the resilience and community spirit local people have demonstrated in the face of the Covid pandemic.

“We have been working hard to secure a diverse selection of producers for the festival and we are sure visitors won’t be disappointed by the excellent food and drink on offer from across the county and beyond.”


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James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The Gullane Food and Drink Festival is an opportunity to showcase the amazing larder East Lothian has to offer as well as educate visitors on the tremendous work being done by this community.

“Scotland’s food and drink producers have a brilliant story to tell around locally sourced, sustainable food production, and this is a great chance for the community of Gullane to tell theirs.

“This is another great step forward on Scotland’s food tourism journey.”

East Lothian constituency MSP Paul McLennan and South Scotland region MSPs Craig Hoy and Martin Whitfield, said in a statement: “This festival will be a fantastic boost for the Gullane community and it is heartening to see local businesses, farmers and community groups teaming up to celebrate the area’s food and drink.

"It also shines a spotlight on the importance of community spirit, people working together for the common good. We are sure the festival will attract visitors from far and wide.”