Article written by Michele Shirlow, featured in the Farm Week 13/04/2017
Our presentation of the very best of local food and drink for the forthcoming RUAS at Balmoral Park is falling into place and I am delighted to reveal that multi-Michelin-starred and 5 out of 5 AA Rosette award-winning chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be headlining our cookery showcase in the Food NI Pavilion on the Saturday, the event’s fourth day.
We are looking forward to welcoming Novelli and our leading Northern Ireland chefs to what will be our biggest-ever showcase of the excellence of local food and drink at Balmoral.
On show will be thousands of local food and drink products, many of them new, from over 100 companies, both large and small and across all sectors. Visitors will have the usual opportunities to talk to producers and sample their products as well as enjoy our new tasting theatre and excellent cookery demonstrations. I hope readers will grasp the opportunity to participate.
Novelli, as many Farm Week readers will be aware, is opening his first restaurant in Ireland in Belfast next year. His new 100-seat restaurant will be at City Quays and will form part of the £25 million Marriott Hotel.
It will be branded as ‘Jean-Christophe Novelli at City Quays’. And it will be tremendous to have such an important international culinary and hospitality brand in Belfast. We will be liaising with Jean-Christophe about using local food and drink as part of our advocacy role on behalf of this hugely important £5 billion industry. It will be an opportunity for us to introduce him to many local producers and to encourage featuring our produce on his menus. Of course Jean has been to Northern Ireland several times and never fails to be impressed with the quality of our chefs and our produce.
The Food NI Pavilion at Balmoral is easily our most important annual showcase. Again we will bring over a host of top food writers from Britain to be part of a superb event which is at the heart of our recently launched Taste the Greatness strategic action plan.
Balmoral Show is a perfect fit for key elements of this strategy such as our commitment to support the development of “a vibrant local market for Northern Ireland food and drink’, promoting “growing awareness of the quality of our produce among Northern Ireland consumers, “more Northern Ireland consumers buying Northern Ireland produce”, and growing globally our reputation as food region. Our longstanding work with international chefs and food writers on behalf of our produce is another important aspect of Food NI’s strategy.
The pavilion is also designed to increase the attractiveness of the sector to employees, entrepreneurs and visitors especially the many thousands of young people who visit the show.
It’s now common – and immensely encouraging – to see groups of both primary and secondary school pupils being briefed by companies in our pavilion. Such involvement encourages young people to consider careers in food and drink. And the industry requires a pipeline of talented young people for careers across a range of careers including production, innovation and sales and marketing.
The show also gives entrepreneurs, in particular, a platform to taste-test new product ideas. And increasing levels of innovation and new business starts are also key elements of our new strategy. The vibrant and progressive industry that we envisage will lead to greater success in international markets and consolidate our reputation, especially in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, as the region to look to for great food and drink.