City could benefit from food tourism boost

Derry could benefit from an influx of tourists visiting the city to sample our local culinary delicacies, local councillors were told this week.

Local chef and businessman Emmett McCourt made the comment as he briefed members of Derry City Council’s development committee on how to use the city’s food history as a tourism driver.

Mr McCourt, from the Irish Food Heritage Project, is planning to launch a book and app called ‘Feast or Famine,’ a history of food in the north west, early next year.

The local chef said Derry has a unique food history which has been largely unexplored to date. “I have always thought we have underrated our food heritage. It is an untapped market,” he said.

He also said the story of food in the north west could be used to attract tourists. “Derry has a rich food heritage and food history that has travelled with the Irish diaspora and that is a big target audience for us. My objective is to showcase the area as a food tourism destination.

“There is already interest in America. The Getty family, who founded Gettysburgh, and whose lineage included JP Getty, were Scots Irish who left here in the 1790s and the McCain family, of frozen food fame, also came from this area,” he said.

Mr McCourt also said the city’s native foods, including Doherty’s mince and black pudding. could also be used to attract tourists to the area. He added that ten groups from America are due to visit the city next year.

SDLP councillor Martin Reilly welcomed the presentation and called on Council officer to support Mr McCourt’s efforts to attract funding. “There is no doubt that one thing we hear time and again from visitors to the city is the quality of our local cuisine. It is very interesting to hear about groups coming from the US to visit the city,” he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Elisha McCallion wished Mr McCourt well with the launch of his book and app.

“Derry people are very proud of our cuisine and it is certainly an untapped resource. Perhaps we could look at ways of getting young people in schools involved in exploring our own food history, both in terms of health eating and in getting young people interested in the story of where they came from,” she said.