Outstanding Oatcakes!

Share this with your friends

By Ronnie Kerr

When it comes to scooping fine food awards, novice baker Steven Mitchell can mix it with the very best.

The 14 year old’s awesome oatcakes wowed judges at the Guild of Fine Food's annual Great Taste awards, maintaining a proud family tradition in the showpiece event, dubbed the Oscars of the food world.

The Breadalbane Academy pupil’s success is the latest in an impressive roll call of Great Taste accolades to be won by the Kenmore Bakery, which was started by Steven’s grandparents, Keith and Sheila Mitchell, in 1994.

Steven’s 1-star award was one of four prizes won by the bakery – based in the hamlet of Acharn on Loch Tay’s south shore – where Steven’s mum, Jackie, is also part of the team.

Judges rated Steven’s oatcakes as ‘simply delicious; a food that delivers fantastic flavour’. Only about one in four of entrants achieve a 1-star rating.

Keith and Jackie’s Miller Crunch biscuits and ginger tablet also earned 1-star accolades and their shortbread, praised by judges as ‘outstanding, above and beyond delicious’, scooped a 2-star award.

Judges rated Steven’s oatcakes as ‘simply delicious; a food that delivers fantastic flavour’. Only about one in four of entrants achieve a 1-star rating.

It was a proud day for the family business, where Steven helps out at weekends and during school holidays. The Mitchells have now collected more than 30 of the Great Taste awards, which began the same year as the bakery and are considered to be among the most-coveted in the food industry.

Steven used the family’s previously successful recipe to win his award but, as any failed baker will testify, there’s more to creating great products than simply following sets of instructions – no matter how tried and tested they are.

Says Steven: “I felt pretty proud and excited when I heard I’d won the award. I really enjoy working in the bakery and getting to work with people I know and can learn from.”

The lessons have been learned to great effect. After all, the presence of a distinctive black and gold Great Taste logo in your pantry or kitchen is an almost certain indicator that your taste buds are in for a treat.

This year, more than 500 judges came together at 65 judging days between March and early July. Judging took place at Guild HQ in Dorset and at a judging venue close to Borough Market, London. One, two and three star awards were bestowed in 35 mouthwatering food and drink categories.

There’s been little time for Steven to rest on his laurels since winning the award. During the school holidays, he returned to more routine tasks that included helping to bake, pack and label biscuits, as well as assisting his mum with deliveries.

Now back at school – the same one where, 50 years ago, his grandad became the first boy to take domestic science – Steven has busy weekend schedule, which includes baking bread for the monthly farmers’ market in Aberfeldy, where he also mans the stall.

“I like making bread with grandad for the Sunday market.” says Steven, who has also just completed a stint serving on the Kenmore Bakery stall at Blair Atholl horse trials.

“We’ll bake white, wholemeal, rye, sourdough, oatmeal and mixed grain. We usually make a special too, such as hot cross buns, butteries, morning rolls and Kaiser rolls.

“Grandad shows me how to make them up and he puts them in and out of the oven. I also like to make the oatcakes and both the ginger biscuits.”

With 25th birthday celebrations for the business just around the corner, the future looks bright for the bakery, whose oatcakes and tablet are distributed wholesale throughout Scotland by Dunning-based Ochil Foods. Shops as far apart as Dornoch, in Easter Ross, and Biggar, in Lanarkshire, also stock Kenmore products on their shelves.

“I’d like to work in the bakery when I leave school. I’m hoping when granny and grandad retire, I’ll be able to carry on running it with my mum.”

The business has come a long way since the Mitchells tentatively began making oatcakes, biscuits, shortbread and tablet in a double garage attached to their home. For the Mitchells, their personal journeys have been less arduous than the road to business success: Sheila was born and raised on a farm just outside the village; Keith is a native of Glenlyon.

It’s now more than 40 years since Keith – then a chef – and former receptionist Sheila first met while working at the Kenmore Hotel – where that great Romantic, Robert Burns, scrawled his poem on the chimney breast.

You get a real sense of two people who, quite simply, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. “We like it here very much,” says Sheila, who’s order book this week includes a request for goodies sent from a customer in Ohio.

“Before we set up the business in our own kitchen, we’d always spoken about starting a bakery business. Although Keith was working as a chef when we started, he’d always preferred the bakery side of things.”

The Mitchells dipped their toe in the water by producing an initial batch of 180 shortbread biscuits, which took two weeks to sell. “We thought we were the bee’s knees by the time we’d finished,” recalls Sheila. “It’s seems hard to believe as we’re now cutting around 12,000 every single week.”

Recalling the challenges they faced in those early days, makes Sheila all the more pleased to savour Steven’s success: “We think his oatcakes are great and they’ve gone down well with customers, so we’re really pleased his work has been recognised. Keith and I are getting a bit older and it would be nice to know that the bakery’s going to be in good hands.”

There’s every chance that Sheila’s wish will be granted. Steven, currently in his third year at the Academy, already has an eye on the future, and is gearing up to the next challenge.

I would like to try out new ideas for biscuits,” says Steven, “and continue doing the bread. I also hope to try and learn cake decorating and follow in grandad’s footsteps, making birthday and wedding cakes.”

“I’d like to work in the bakery when I leave school. I’m hoping when granny and grandad retire, I’ll be able to carry on running it with my mum.”


Great Taste is the largest and most trusted accreditation scheme for fine food and drink. It supports, promotes and mentors artisan food producers large and small, who want to supply the UK independent retail sector and overseas stores selling fine food.

Great Taste offers a unique benchmarking and product evaluation service leading to an independent accreditation that encourages confidence and commercial success for small business, generating greater awareness for products locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Since 1994, more than 120,000 products have been put through this robust judging process. Each one is fastidiously blind-tasted by selected chefs, buyers, fine food retailers, restaurateurs, food critics and writers over 60 judging days.

See & Make Comments
Share this with your friends