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Top chefs whisk up support for Derry Foodie Towns bid

30 September 2015

A medley of award-winning local celebrity chefs have thrown their culinary weight behind the campaign to have Derry crowned Ireland’s food capital – and the public’s votes will prove vital over the next two days.

Derry City and Strabane District Council is leading the campaign to whisk up support for Derry to become Foodie Town of Ireland 2015, with free online voting until Friday, October 2nd at www.foodietowns.ie

Derry is the only NI finalist in the prestigious competition run by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which has nine destinations in the Republic vying for the honours, including Kinsale, Howth, Sligo and West Cork.

The Foodie Town of Ireland award recognises a destination that actively promotes itself through promotional activities such as food festivals, gourmet trails or farmers’ markets as well as great dining experiences.

With the winner to be decided 50% on public votes and 50% on the judges’ scores, Derry’s top chefs are urging people to get clicking for the city before voting closes on Friday at 5pm.

Ian Orr, of Brown’s and Brown’s in Town restaurants, believes Derry has all the winning ingredients for the Foodie Town title with its passion for culinary success and food provenance.

According to Ian, who was named Irish Chef of the Year 2013 by food writer Georgina Campbell: “Derry has the best food produce in the whole of the country. We have great suppliers, great food and a great town. It’s obvious when people come to Derry that it’s because we have such a wide selection of restaurants and we are passionate about using local produce.”

Emmett McCourt, who was recently appointed Food Ambassador for NI by Tourism Ireland after his ‘Feast or Famine’ cook book was judged best in the world at an awards ceremony in China, said: “Derry has it all in terms of its food, food heritage and culture. Our modern restaurants are up there with the best in the world and our award-winning chefs are some of the best in Ireland. 

“We have great local suppliers and produce. Bordering Donegal gives us a competitive edge and with 2016 designated as Northern Ireland’s Year of Food, we are in a unique position for Derry to lead the way.”

Sean Harrigan, head chef and owner of Sooty Olive restaurant and Green Octopus café, said winning the competition would be a “massive acknowledgement for all the hospitality industry staff, producers and suppliers who have worked relentlessly to put Derry and the region on the culinary map”.

“The progress we have all made in the past 15 years has been greater than any other region, from having a very small restaurant scene to where we are now, with award-winning chefs, restaurants, hotels and producers popping up all the time alongside our fantastic craft beer companies.”

Paula McIntyre, BBC Radio Ulster’s Saturday Magazine resident chef, believes dining out in Derry has never been better or more imaginative.

“The restaurant, café, brewing, artisan production and street food scene has injected such an exciting vibe to the city. People from outside the city talk of going there for a food experience in the same way as they refer to Dublin or London. The pride and support this unique place shows for its food businesses has really set it apart.  The festivals run by the Council, are world class with young and old embracing the wonderful cooking and produce. The change in the city in the past five years has been breath-taking.”

Jane McClenaghan, who also has regular cookery and nutrition slots on radio, also believes Derry is leading the way when it comes to good restaurants, cool cafes and innovative chefs.

“As a native of Derry, it is brilliant to see how much the city has changed in recent years, both cityside and Waterside.  Festivals like Flavours of the Foyle have helped highlight the fact that we produce some of the very best food.

“From farm to fork, we are rightfully proud of the food we produce. Creamy, local Donneybrewer butter (straight from my uncle's farm), fresh fish from Lough Foyle and some of the best farm shops on the island of Ireland, this is a city with a healthy appetite for great food. Whether you are a local or a tourist, Derry is a tasty city to hang out in.”

To vote for Derry to become Foodie Town of Ireland 2015, click here http://www.foodietowns.ie/city/derry/