Hospitality business from Mid and East Antrim have been learning the secrets to success from Ireland’s Foodie Destination 2018 winner Kilkenny.
Mid and East Antrim was one of three entrants from NI and received highly commended in the competition, organised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI).
The competition looks at what destinations lead the way with food festivals, gourmet trails or farmers markets, as well as great dining experiences for locals and visitors alike.
The council’s Food and Drink Network was launched in 2017 and with over 60 businesses now involved, it aims to get agri-food businesses working together to promote the sector as not only somewhere for ‘foodies’ to get fresh, local, high quality produce but also to open doors for them to bag contracts to grow their businesses.
Local agri-food businesses were taken to explore what makes Kilkenny such a vibrant food and hospitality destination. It has a huge array of foodie offerings, from local producer food festivals, farmers markets, food trails, cookery schools and a number of Michelin star dining experiences that regularly receive critical acclaim and national attention.
The visit allowed producers from the borough learn about how Kilkenny businesses from the hospitality sector collaborate with their local council, and gain insight into best practice, innovation in artisan food production, food tourism and destination development.
Ald Robin Cherry MBE is a local producer and is part of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Food Network: “This is a fantastic opportunity to learn from the success of the Foodie Destinations competition. The agri-food industry has been a key cog in the economic wheel for this area for decades and the fact that it is continuing to evolve in this dynamic way is really exciting. I’m also pleased to see the council take such an integral role in developing this sector to secure it for generations to come.”
Portia Woods of Toast the Coast Food Tours & Experiences: “It is has been insightful spending just this short time to study innovation, collaboration and the linking a food offerings within a destination area. Having actively participated in the Food and Drink Network since 2017 it has been a vital aspect to my business. Learnings taken have refocused the opportunities to collaborate with other like-minded businesses across the council area by networking, attending and developing hand in hand with the support of the network.”
The network is free to join and meets monthly at themed workshops, featuring the food industry’s top specialist speakers, who reveal the tricks of the trade to take businesses from strength to strength.
The initiative is part funded by DAERA under the NI Regional Food Programme.