Top chefs taste for artisan foods in the Mournes

Chefs from several top local restaurants sampled artisan foods in the Castlewellan and Kilkeel areas of Newry and Mourne on a one-day visit organised by Food NI.

They were taking part in latest initiative to strengthen links between local artisans and chefs. Participating were chefs from OX, Saphyre and Fish City in Belfast, Yellow Door in Portadown, Linenhall in Banbridge and Holywood’s Rayenne House.

Also taking part in the latest trip organised by Food NI’s visionary Chefs’ Steering Group were representatives from culinary training programmes at Ulster University and the South Eastern Regional College in Bangor along with five students from the university’s Belfast campus.

The Food NI programme lined up meetings for the chefs at award-winning producers such as Whitewater Brewing Company in Castlewellan, Northern Ireland’s leading independent brewery, Rooney Fish in Kilkeel and its Millbay Oysters on Carlingford Lough.

They were briefed by Whitewater’s founder and managing director Bernard Sloan about the brewery’s processes and its range of beer which have won international brewing and UK Great Taste Awards.

The state-of-the-art brewery now exports to Japan, Singapore and many European markets. It most recently gained a major award at an international craft brewing competition in Budapest.

Andrew Rooney, commercial director of Rooney Fish, Northern Ireland’s leading exporter of fish and shellfish, and the founder of Millbay Oysters, which farms oysters on farms in Carlingford Lough, showed the chefs how to shuck oysters.

Millbay Oysters was last year named supreme champion in the prestigious Blas na h Eireann, Irish National Food Awards, as well as winning the coveted three-stars in the UK Great Taste Awards.

Millbay, now amongst the biggest oyster farms on the island of Ireland, exports to Europe. Rooney also sells crab meat and claws to China.

The group also enjoyed dinner at the Galley restaurant in Annalong which is owned by Aileen Chambers.

Food NI’s Christine Cousins says: “We are immensely grateful for the support artisan businesses are so readily providing to enable chefs to enjoy their products and see how these are being produced.