Derry chef’s food heritage journey set to boost tourist numbers in NW

Award-winning chef and lecturer at North West Regional College, Derry, Emmett McCourt, who's book 'Feast or Famine' goes on the shelves in June this year. 2803JM56
Award-winning chef and lecturer at North West Regional College, Derry, Emmett McCourt, who's book 'Feast or Famine' goes on the shelves in June this year. 2803JM56

A Derry chef who’s undertaking what looks set to be one of the biggest food projects Ireland’s ever seen says there’s huge untapped potential for Derry and the North West to become a food tourism destination.

Emmett McCourt, who lectures in the North West Regional College, is poised to publish his book ‘Feast or Famine’ in June. The book is part of the Irish Food Heritage Project, which the local chef has been spearheading. The internationally trained cook also revealed that US tourism companies have expressed interest in bringing visitors here to explore the food history of Derry and Donegal with more than 60 tourists already confirmed for stays in the coming months.

“This could be a great boost for the local economy,” Emmett told the Journal. “It’s a massive untapped market.”

Emmett, who’s worked in Michelin starred restaurants in France as well as a number of luxury cruise liners, says to date research for his book has uncovered staggering information about the culinary history of the North West.

“We’ve discovered that the famous McCain family, who are known all over the world for their frozen fries and chips, actually left from the North West. The food history from these parts is unbelievable. Down through the years, the Irish have been famed for travelling and settling all over the world but no-one’s really explored properly what fuelled them.

“The hash brown, for instance, came from the Irish ‘boxty’ potato recipe which came from these shores as well.”

Emmett, who in the course of an extensive career has cooked for famous names including Tom Cruise and Eddie Murphy says his book has also been a personal journey of discovery. He remained tightlipped about a “massive family discovery” which has also been unearthed in the course of investigations for his book and will be revealed in the weeks ahead. For an in depth piece on Emmett, his inspirations and how food has taken him around the world, see Sunday’s Journal.