BBC Taste North with Trish Deseine

Well done BBC on the exceptional Taste North initiative last week, the highlight of which was Trish Deseine’s splendid Doorstep Cooking television show.

This focus on local food and drink will have helped immensely to increase awareness of the taste, quality, wholesomeness and safety of the very wide variety of products readily available here.

I am sure that Trish’s series for BBC Northern Ireland and Home – Recipes from Ireland, her superb cookbook will encourage more people across the province to look closely at what local produce offers for meals and snacks.

It’s a book that honours the plain cooking of her Co. Antrim childhood on a beef farm, and the plentiful benefits of the Irish larder.

This beautifully illustrated book is recognition, too, of the great progress of our cuisine in recent years by producers and, of course, by the many talented chefs in restaurants across Northern Ireland.

A native of Ballyclare, Trish is a widely respected food writer with a string of cookbooks and television shows that have gained international acclaim especially in France, her home for 30 years.

What we are all working towards in the local food industry is to establish Northern Ireland as global culinary centre of excellence using our outstandingly wholesome, nutritious and tasty food and drink. Year of Food and Drink 2016 will enable us to lift this important campaign to a new level.

Trish is among a developing cluster of leading food writers who recognise what’s happening in food and drink here and are contributing to its success through award winning cookbooks, television and radio shows and reviews in international newspapers and high-end magazines.

Others championing local food include Portadown native James McIntosh, probably the best known name in European food in China and author of cookbooks which have been acclaimed in the annual Gourmand awards, BBC chef Paula MacIntyre from Limavady, author of the exceptional Down to Earth cookbook, Noel McMeel’s Irish Pantry is a delight and Londonderry’s Emmet McCourt, author of the award winning Feast or Famine, who recently carried the banner for local food and drink to the very heart of Chicago.

All four have been assisting smaller companies in bringing their products to market and in creating greater awareness among consumers of the provenance and versatility of our food and drink.

The support for our food and drink from highly regarded UK writers like MasterChef judge Charles Campion, Diana Henry and Xanthe Clay, two of the Daily Telegraph’s most influential writers, is also immensely encouraging. They are regular visitors to Northern Ireland and will be especially welcome during Year of Food and Drink. Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland and Invest NI are also funding visits by international food and drink writers to local food companies and restaurants for meetings with producers and chefs. The outcome of these visits is extensive coverage of our food and culinary culture in influential newspapers and specialist magazines abroad.

My colleagues in Farm Week also deserve great credit for the platform provided weekly for artisan and smaller producers. The newspaper is playing a tremendously important role in helping artisan and smaller enterprises to raise their profile among its readers.

Our role in Food NI is to harness the support of our friends, here and abroad, to promote Northern Ireland as a centre of outstandingly tasty and wholesome food and drink and a destination offering quality and original menus created by highly innovative chefs. It’s about our telling our story at home to those who haven’t heard it before and abroad to those who are key influencers and trend setters.

There are benefits from this imaginative campaign for everyone in Northern Ireland in the shape of greater sales here and abroad of our food and drink, which could mean more employment opportunities, as well as a significant increase in tourism revenue.

This is what Year of Food and Drink is all about. And this is why it’s worthy of the support of everyone here.