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Clipper Race Kitchens hailed a sizzling success

18 July 2016

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Hilary McClintock, has praised the “incredible success” of the Clipper Race Kitchens which attracted in excess of 20,000 participants to Ebrington Square for the four-day food celebration as part of the wider Foyle Maritime Festival.

Ald. McClintock congratulated all the local and visiting chefs, restaurants, suppliers and producers who took part in the flagship culinary showcase organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council in association with Food NI from July 14-17, supported by Tourism NI, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) NI Agri Food Programme and the Loughs Agency through the Sustainable Development Programme.

Also praising the council team involved in organising Clipper Race Kitchens and thanking the thousands of visitors who flocked to the family-friendly event in both rain and sunshine, the Mayor said it was a wonderful celebration of the best local food provenance, seafood produce - through the Flavours of the Foyle showcase - and culinary talent that the North West and wider region has to offer.

Ald. McClintock added: “I had the pleasure of visiting the Clipper Race Kitchens to sample the fantastic local produce, watch the live cookery demonstrations and soak up the festival atmosphere as well as meeting the local and visiting celebrity chefs including Jean-Christophe Novelli who was completely bowled over by the quality of the produce and cuisine on show, and the warmth of the hospitality which our city is famous for as an international tourism destination.”

Mary Blake, Council’s Tourism Development Officer and main organiser of Clipper Race Kitchens, said it had been an “incredible success” in the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016 calendar.

“We are delighted to have the support of so many businesses - restaurants, suppliers, producers and chefs – in getting the message out to ‘support local’ and, this latest food event, which attracted 37,000 visitors to Ebrington, has proved what we already knew - that we’ve got taste!”

Jean-Christophe Novelli, the 5 out of 5 AA Rosette and Michelin award winning chef, lived up to his title as “the nation’s favourite French chef”, when he conducted a whistle-stop tour of the city’s best known eateries including Browns – winner of Best Restaurant in Ulster 2016 – as well as wowing the crowds with a series of live cookery demos featuring local produce including freshly caught seafood from Donegal Prime Fish.

Speaking afterwards, Novelli said he had been greatly impressed by the reception he received during his visit to the city, especially the “spirit of the people” he had met, and hoped to return in the near future.

Other well-known local chefs - all household names - who performed cookery demos at the event included Ian Orr of Browns (Irish Chef of the Year 2013), Derek Creagh of Harry’s (Irish Chef of the Year 2015), Jenny Bristow, Paula McIntyre, Emmett McCourt, Brian McDermott, the ‘No Salt Chef’ who also compered, and Noel McMeel (Lough Erne Resort), who cooked for the world’s leaders when the G8 Summit was held in Co. Fermanagh in 2013.

Event ambassador Brian McDermott also cooked live at the event with Clipper Race crew members, while local chefs including Stephen Forbes from Pier 59, Johnny Heaney from the Sooty Olive, Colman O’Driscoll from the Everglades Hotel and Noel Ward from the White Horse Hotel, also showcased their foodie flair on the main stage.

Kevin and Julie Hickey of Tamnagh Foods – who were among the many artisan producers with stands in the Clipper Race Food Pavilion  said they were delighted to be involved in the event during which they met customers from across the world including Miami, Perth, Isle of Wight, Liverpool and Dublin.

“It has been a great opportunity to be able to tell our food story to the many visitors who came from far and wide. We have had fantastic feedback about our cheese range and we would be more than delighted to come back to the next event,” said the award-making cheese, granola and chutney makers based in Park, Co Derry.

‘Feast or Famine’ World Gourmand Award cookery book author and chef Emmett McCourt, whose Irish Food Heritage project was based in the Clipper Race Food Village during the four-day event and also closed the event with a magical demo featuring wild sea trout, said: “It is great to see our local food being celebrated, especially during Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016, and puts our cuisine in its rightful place in western Europe; our food really has come of age!”
Michele Shirlow, Tourism NI Board member and CEO of Food NI, also praised the success of the “hugely impressive” Foyle Maritime Festival, especially for food and drink producers from the North West and further afield.

She continued: “The food and drink offerings from local producers and the cookery demonstrations were excellent and proved extremely popular with festival-goers. Derry really has got its food and drink act together, and we’ve been delighted to work closely with Mary Blake and the talented council team in harnessing the marketing potential of Year of Food and Drink including the Walled City and Ebrington markets.

“The Clipper Kitchens hosted the splendid celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. The festival also saw an innovative collaboration between an artisan food producer, Glastry Farm Ice Cream, and Niche Drinks in Derry - an international distiller of The Quiet Man Irish Whiskey and Irish cream liqueurs - in the launch of the new St Brendan’s Irish Cream Liqueur flavoured ice cream which proved tremendously popular with festival-goers.

“They’ve embraced Year of Food and Drink with real passion and brought great energy to an impressive programme of events in the city and wider region. The Foyle Maritime Festival is now firmly established as among the biggest and most successful and we’re delighted to be involved.”

Clipper Race Kitchens also provided a feast of entertainment for little gourmands including dancing mermaids, singing chefs, pirates and children’s arts and crafts as well as water boats, jungle playground and chairoplanes, not forgetting the giant table and chairs which also proved to be a focal point for visitors to Ebrington.