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Celebrity chefs add culinary clout to Derry’s Foodie Destination bid

02 September 2016

Jean-Christophe Novelli pictured in kitchen A medley of internationally renowned celebrity chefs have thrown their culinary clout behind the campaign which is hotting up to have Derry crowned Ireland’s Foodie Destination 2016 during Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink.

Derry is one of the top ten finalists shortlisted by the Restaurants Association of Ireland for the Foodie Destination title and the only contender from Northern Ireland vying for the gastronomic crown with its ‘LegenDerry and Local’ food offer.

Among the celebrities helping turn up the heat on Derry’s bid is multi award winning Michelin starred chef Jean-Christophe Novelli who was a huge hit with foodie fans during his special guest appearance at the Clipper Race Kitchens organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council as part of the Foyle Maritime Festival in July this year.

Jean-Christophe, the 5 out of 5 AA Rosette and Michelin chef, who is also dubbed “the nation’s favourite French chef” and heads up the Novelli Academy in Hertfordshire, sampled signature dishes at several local restaurants during his recent overnight visit to Derry.

Sending his best wishes to Derry for the Foodie Destination 2016 title, the TV favourite said: “I was surprised at the number of fabulous places to eat offering such high quality produce and believe more recognition should be given to this part of Ireland.”

Former Coronation Street actor Sean Wilson, who played the role of Martin Platt in the long-running TV soap before following his other passion as a trained chef and cheese-maker of distinction, is also urging everyone to get behind Derry before the public vote closes at 12pm next Friday, September 9th.
Sean, who was the celebrity guest chef at Council’s Big Cheese and Beer Expo in Guildhall Square in April this year, said was impressed by the city’s food offer and the restaurant sector’s commitment to using local produce across its menus.

Northern Ireland’s popular celebrity chefs Paul Rankin, who was one of the star attractions at the LegenDerry Food Festival earlier this year; Jenny Bristow, who wowed the crowds with her demos at the Clipper Race Kitchens; and BBC Radio Ulster’s Paula McIntyre – a stalwart of the city’s food festivals – have also come out in support of Derry’s sizzling bid for culinary glory.

Mary Blake, Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Tourism Development Officer and organiser of the Foodie Destinations bid, said it was great to get international recognition for Derry and thanked Tourism NI and Food NI for their support in bringing celebrity chefs to the city during NI Year of Food and Drink 2016.

The winning destination will be decided by online public voting (50%) and the results of the judges’ visit (50%), which included Derry this week. The ten finalists are Derry, The Burren (2015 Foodie Towns winner), Boyne Valley, Cong, Kilkenny, Loop Head, Dublin Coastal Villages (Howth, Malahide, Skerries), Monaghan, Sligo and Leitrim. Voting continues at www.foodiedestinations.ie until 12pm on Friday, September 9th.
What the Chefs said…

“Having been to Northern Ireland many times, my most recent visit being to Derry, I was surprised at the number of fabulous places to eat offering such high quality produce.  There a distinct lack of culinary awards given to the establishments and more recognition should be given to this part of Ireland.”
- Jean-Christophe Novelli (5 out of 5 AA Rosette and Michelin chef)

“I have always been passionate about food and that is definitely something I have in common with foodies in Derry. I had a great time at the Big Cheese and Beer event in April when I got a chance to meet many of the local food ambassadors - chefs, restaurateurs, artisan food producers and craft beer brewers. There is no doubt that Derry deserves to be Foodie Destination 2016 and I would urge everyone to help the city win the title by voting for Derry before September 9th!"
- Sean Wilson (Former Coronation Street actor turned chef and cheese-maker)

“With 2016 being the Year of Food and Drink throughout Northern Ireland, the City of Derry has totally captured the imagination of the community through their prestigious events such as the Clipper Race Kitchens which brought to an audience both young and old awareness of the best of the local produce. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the festival events, cooking and promoting prime produce. It was a delight for me to return a few weeks later to film at the iconic Peace Bridge with the Guildhall and Walled City as a backdrop to continue and support the enthusiasm of the city.”
- Jenny Bristow (Good Food Ambassador, TV Cook and Author)

"Derry is a unique food destination - world class chefs cook great food using the bountiful larder that surrounds them - fish from the lough, meat and dairy from lush pastures and stunning vegetables that benefit from nutrient rich soil reclaimed from the sea. Some of the best food and local drink I've had in the past year has been served to me in the city.  Please get behind the Foodie Destination nomination and vote for the city. Derry was runner up last year - help bring it home this year!”
 - Paula McIntyre (BBC Radio Ulster Chef and Presenter)

“As a foodie destination Derry is definitely on a roll. Great hospitality, fab restaurants, world class local produce, fun food festivals…oh and did I mention great hospitality?!”
- Paul Rankin (TV Chef and Presenter)

“We have the best local food produce in Ireland, the restaurant scene is getting massive in Derry and it’s also great that the city currently has the Best Restaurant in Ulster 2016 which was awarded to Browns by the Restaurants Association of Ireland. Particularly given the development in the city’s food offer over the past year since Derry was runner-up in Foodie Towns, I think this could be our year!”
- Ian Orr (Chef Patron at Browns, Best Restaurant in Ulster 2016)

“Wherever I go to foodie destinations nationally I have found a shift in the conversation in terms of what is happening in Derry and the inquisitiveness from key players. The Foodie Destination title is one that everybody can own and feel part of; it can be shared back into the establishments so that customers and visitors will get an enhanced experience.”
-Brian McDermott (‘The No Salt Chef’, RTE, BBC Radio Foyle)

“Our food offer has come of age. We have the best chefs, the best restaurants, artisan producers and suppliers, many of whom have sprung up during the last ten years. Our geographical location bordering Donegal is one of our biggest strengths and we have a very strong Irish food heritage story to tell the world.”
-Emmett McCourt (‘Feast or Famine’ Author and Chef, Irish Food Heritage Project)