Wendy Barrie and The Scottish Food Guide

We've met Wendy Barrie before in this column. That was in a feature about Slow Food Scotland. Despite it having been in existence since 2002, I have to confess I knew little about her core business, the Scottish Food Guide. This lady has many strings to her bow.

So it was back to Aberdour. This time I was determined to learn more of her story, and quite a story it is. At school, a lot of options presented themselves. An application to study law was accepted; however, a summer spent observing proceedings in the Scottish courts put her off. So what next?

Food had always been a hobby. The idea of a year studying catering at Queen Margaret College (as it then was) seemed a reasonable idea as a stop gap. In fact she stayed for the full course, being blessed with some great teachers, and spending four hours a day in the kitchen. It is a matter of regret that QMC in those days awarded only a diploma as opposed to a degree. Wendy feels that this hampered her in the early years.

I suspect that in fact it spurred her on, as a run through her career details leaves you breathless. There was teaching and recipe development and food styling and food hygiene. All of this lead to working as chief inspector for the now defunct Taste of Scotland. Travelling the length and breadth of Scotland left her with a bulging contact book and increased respect for the wonderful food producers whom she encountered.

She founded the Scottish Food Guide in 2002. Not only did it cover restaurants, but, uniquely at that time, it featured producers. There are now just over 140  members in total. That may not seem a large number. Why is this? Put simply, Wendy is very choosy. High standards are insisted on. There is a written charter, and would be members are closely vetted. Arable agriculture is required to be sustainable, ethical and traditional, with minimum use of pesticides. For livestock production, strict attention is paid to what the animals are fed, and the conditions in which they are kept.

Back in 2002, shouting about the provenance of food was much less common in restaurants than it is now. That is something which is integral to the Charter. Cooking from scratch, unsurprisingly, is mandatory: but so is cooking with enthusiasm and passion for their customers. And, of course, seasonal and local sourcing of ingredients comes into it as well. About 20% of applicants are turned down.

What, then, are the advantages of membership? It might be said that acccess to Wendy's terrific website and blog could be worth it alone, but there's much more. In addition there are special member offers and, perhaps most importantly, year round support, marketing and promotion. The majority of members are small family run businesses. Many, if not all, have been grateful for Wendy's wise words over the phone, as well as the passionate interest she takes when she comes to call.

My advice? Find out more about the Scottish Food Guide. If you're a consumer, your taste buds will benefit; if you're a cook, you'll find new ideas; and if you're in business, find out what Wendy can do for you.


  1. Pat M on 19th June 2024 at 6:17 pm

    I hadn’t heard of The Scottish Food Guide. The website looks really interesting so I’ve bookmarked it. Thanks Tom.

    • Tom Johnston on 20th June 2024 at 11:26 am

      Every day’s a school day, Pat.

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