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MacKenzie’s Bakery from Skye wins first Highland Shortbread Showdown

The judges, winner and runners up in the Highland Shortbread Showdown.

MACKENZIE’S BAKERY from Portree on Skye has won the first Highland Shortbread Showdown. Baker Paul Mackintosh was presented with the trophy at the grand final which took place on Saturday at Inverness Cathedral.

Paul’s winning shortbread was flavoured with salted caramel and sea salt sourced from the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company. It wowed all the judges with head judge Craig Wilson aka The Kilted Chef describing the taste of it as follows: “There’s something lovely when you taste something and it does something to you. All the judges nodded and we had a wee giggle and agreed it really is brilliant. When you add sugar in the right quantity with a little bit of sea salt – it’s an absolutely amazing combination and put a smile on our faces.”

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On being crowned winner of the Highland Shortbread Showdown, Paul said: “It was a fantastic weekend and build up to the final in Inverness. When I saw all the different shortbread presented in Inverness Cathedral, I did not think for a minute we would win!

“It really was amazing to see so many different shortbreads from all over the Highlands, which really does show that it is the home of the shortbread.

“I have a feeling we will be making a lot more shortbread this year and Mara Stewart my go-to shortbread maker in the bakery is very pleased with our accolade.

“I would like to thank all the people behind the scenes, the judges, sponsors and all the contestants who took part and helped make the Highland Shortbread Showdown such a great event. 

“On a personal note, I would like to pay tribute to my fantastic staff, my shop manager Marie Nicolson and to all our loyal customers in Skye. Special mention to my Auntie Mary Flora Clark and my wee granny Joyce Macdonald for passing on the baking skills over the years – I’ve gifted the trophy to them.”

Joint second place was awarded to the Speyside Centre, and Apartment at No 8, both representing the Cairngorms. Third place was awarded to Atholl House on Skye.

Launched by Visit Inverness Loch Ness (VILN), the Highland Shortbread Showdown is a competition for tourism businesses across the Highlands to enter their version of the region’s favourite biscuit for the chance to be crowned the ultimate winner.

On Saturday, the grand final saw winners from each of the region’s eight Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in Inverness and Loch Ness, Moray, Nairn, Skye and Lochalsh, Dornoch, Caithness and Sutherland, Lochaber and the Cairngorms. In all, 63 businesses entered the competition.

The shortlisted shortbread biscuits were judged by four well-known bakers from the Highlands – Kirsten Gilmour (KJ) from KJ’s Bothy Bakery (formerly the Mountain Café); Jeni Iannetta from Bad Girl Bakery; Craig Wilson aka The Kilted Chef; and Steven Traill from Rain Bakery. The Highland Shortbread Showdown was supported by Scotland Food & DrinkGrain and GrindWalker’s Shortbread and Dean’s, as well as support from The Highland Council and Inverness Common Good Fund.

Speaking about the event, which attracted around 800 visitors, Michael Golding, CEO of VILN, said: “What a fantastic final! Huge congratulations to Mackenzie’s Bakery from Skye but also to everybody who took part. There was a great atmosphere at Inverness Cathedral on Saturday with locals and tourists alike coming along to sample the amazing shortbread and try out the other food and drinks vendors from across the Highlands.

Coinciding with the first anniversary of the Highland Food and Drink Trail in Inverness, I hope it shows that Inverness and Loch Ness and the whole of the Highlands is an outstanding destination for great food and drink.”

During the final, which was free to attend, there was also live music from UHI students Ceara Campbell, Lola O’Dorel, Ailsa Black and ‘The Chosen Lonely’ aka Steven Barclay. There were live baking demonstrations for visitors to enjoy, plus a Highland business showcase, treasure hunt and shortbread designing. Food and drink stalls were present  both inside the Cathedral, from Grain and GrindDog Falls BreweryGreat Glen DistilleryHeilan BrewXOKO, Pure BakeryThe Chocolate Place, and outside the Cathedral, from the Highland Food and Drink Trail and Cafe Ness

Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food, Scotland Food & Drink, added: “The Highlands is an area rich with tourism businesses dedicated to enhancing visitor experience by sharing our country’s traditions. This competition brought together some of Scotland’s most rural communities and hard-working talented individuals over a shared love of shortbread. We were really excited to support it.”

A recipe book of all the shortbread recipes that entered the Highland Shortbread Showdown was on sale at the final to raising £765 for Highland Hospice.  The book can still be purchased directly from the Highland Hospice.

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