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Derry pipped at the post in ‘phenomenal’ Foodie Destination campaign

22 September 2016

Derry City and Strabane District Council has pledged to build on Derry’s successes as a rising food tourism destination after narrowly missing out to Boyne Valley as Ireland’s top Foodie Destination 2016.

For the second year in a row, Derry was announced as the Foodie Destinations runner-up, proving themselves again to be one of the top foodie destinations in Ireland.  The Council-led ‘LegenDerry and Local’ bid was one of the ten top finalists shortlisted in this year’s search by the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

Derry was the only Northern Ireland contender for the hotly-pursued award, with the other nine finalists including last year’s winner, The Burren in Co Clare, who claimed second runner-up in this year’s competition, Boyne Valley, Cong, Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan, The Loop Peninsula, Kilkenny and Dublin Coastal Villages (Dublin, Malahide & Skerries).

Congratulating the winning destination and thanking all those who worked so hard on the bid to secure Foodie Destination status, including everyone who took part in the crucial online public vote, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Hilary McClintock, said the campaign had been a fantastic showcase for local food provenance and culinary talent which further raised the profile of the city’s “unstoppable” food tourism offer.

Mayor McClintock said: “Food tourism represents one third of all visitor spend and, with this being Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, we have taken our Foodie Destination offering to an even higher level. For the second successive year, our campaign has been an excellent opportunity to showcase the city’s award-winning local food provenance.

“While we may not have taken the top spot in this year’s competition, we will build on the extremely positive feedback from the judges who awarded us runner-up spot for the second successive year, and continue to strive to offer world class visitor experiences.”

Mary Blake, Council’s Tourism Development Manager, who organised the Derry bid, also congratulated the winning destination, Boyne Valley, for their “outstanding” work. Expressing how proud she was of Derry’s efforts, she said it was a “phenomenal campaign” which had engaged the collaborative support of local restaurateurs, chefs and producers championing the LegenDerry “natural larder” from freshly caught fish to artisan cheese, bread, patisserie, meat and craft beer.

“We were delighted to be one of the top ten finalists from more than 30 applications. We poured a lot of information into our application, turned up the heat with a sizzling suppliers’ showcase, and then stirred up a robust online campaign to get our foodies voting for Derry,” she recalled.

As well as thanking Tourism NI, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) NI Regional Food Programme, Loughs Agency and Food NI for their support including bringing world renowned chefs to the city during NI Year of Food and Drink 2016, the local Tourism Development Manager thanked all the private sector organisations, restaurateurs, chefs, producers and suppliers who got behind the very active social media campaign encouraging the public to vote for Derry on the Foodie Destinations website.

She also thanked the public for their support with the all-important voting which accounted for 50% of the overall score, with the other 50% scored by the judges after visiting all ten final destinations to assess their applications.

She continued: “It was also great to have the international support of celebrity chefs like Jean-Christophe Novelli who experienced our local food provenance during his visit to the city in July to take part in Clipper Race Kitchens as part of the Foyle Martime Festival. We were also delighted to have the support of award-winning chefs including Paul Rankin, Sean Wilson, Paula McIntyre, Jenny Bristow, Ian Orr, Emmett McCourt, Brian McDermott and a host of other local talent.”


Mary Blake, who attended the announcement of the winning Foodie Destination in Doolin, Co Clare, on Wednesday evening, said it was a great opportunity to meet representatives from the other nine destinations and get feedback on Derry’s bid, which highlighted innovative food tourism projects, product development, social enterprises and educational programmes.

She indicated that Council would be keen to explore possible future partnerships and food tours linking Derry with other prime destinations across the country. “We will also be looking to visit the winning destination and invite representatives to Derry to look at networking opportunities. We really do believe we have taste and would like to invite foodie visitors up to judge for themselves.”

Aoife Carrigy, chairperson, Irish Food Writers Guild and Foodie Destinations judge stated: “The Foodie Destinations Award is an important testament to just how far Ireland has come in developing an authentic, unique and sustainable food culture. It is also a timely recognition of the dedicated graft of so many far-sighted local communities in order to claim their place in that developing food culture, and make it their own for the generations to come.

She continued: “For many of those communities, such as the city of Derry who are this year’s runners-up, this emerging food culture is a vital opportunity to re-imagine the identity of their community, for visitors but also for themselves. What is striking about so many of these communities is the clear-sightedness of their ambition, exemplified by this year’s winners, the Boyne Valley Food Series. They represent an Ireland that is ready to reclaim our food culture of today, of yesterday and of tomorrow, and to bring that to a world stage.”

Each Foodie Destinations finalist received a trophy while the top five destinations were presented with a certificate. Boyne Valley and Derry also received an engraved Newbridge Silverware plaque for their achievements.

Local Councillor John Boyle, who also attended the announcement in Doolin, congratulated all those involved in supporting Derry for the top foodie title and said he looked forward to welcoming a new influx of visitors eager to sample the city’s finest local produce and hospitality.

Michele Shirlow, Chief Executive of Food NI and Board member of Tourism NI, also paid tribute to all the hard work by the chefs, producers and suppliers working in close partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council to showcase “great local food”, adding: “The city has been transformed into the ‘must visit  food tourism destination in Ireland.”

For further information on local food tourism initiatives including Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Slow Food Festival taking place on October 8th & 9th 2016, visit www.derrystrabane.com/food