Emmett hoping to be North's first '˜Food Champion'

An award winning local chef and food author says he believes the North West has the potential to be the food capital of Ireland.

Friday, 13th May 2016, 12:00 pm

Emmett McCourt, author of ‘Feast or Famine’ and a lecturer at the North West Regional College, will find out in the coming days if he has been successful in his bid to become a Failte Ireland food champion for this area. He will be the first person from the North to be awarded the title if he’s successful.

Emmett’s book ‘Feast or Famine’ about traditional cooking here, has gained him international acclaim. He has also revealed plans for a second publication.

“Really with the next book we want to explore what happened when the Irish would have landed in America,” says Emmett. “We’ll look at how the Irish connected with other cultures in terms of food and the impact that our food and exports had in America. For example, Derry always had a great presence in the US. If we take Tirconnail whiskey, which was brewed here in the city, we know there were ads to reflect that in the Yankee Stadium. There’s a huge history there and it’s something we’re really excited about looking into.”

While thinking about his book, Emmett is kept busy attending the many food events in Derry and Donegal on a weekly basis. The local chef says he believes that when it comes to celebrating food heritage, there is no border in the North West.

“Where we’re situated geographically is an exceptional place when it comes to being an area for food tourism,” he says.

“I’m delighted to have been someone who has consistently worked over a number of years to bring that forward. This is all about collaboration and I don’t see any reason why particularly in respect to the Wild Atlantic Way we can’t be viewed as one great region for food.”

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness echoed Emmett’s views as he appealed for local people to vote for the Derry born chef to become Food Champion.

“This is another opportunity to create a first for Derry by helping to have Emmett appointed Fáilte Ireland’s first Food Champion from the North. If successful this would be a tremendous opportunity for Emmett to champion cross border co-operation with regards to Food Tourism. As 2016 is designated the Year of Food and Drink there is no better person as Food Champion of the North West, to promote the extension of the Wild Atlantic Way through Donegal to Derry and all along the North Coast,” said Mr. McGuinness.

As he nervously awaits the outcome of the Food Champion process, Emmett is preparing for a book signing at the Balmoral show and a second print run of his hugely successful book.

“It’s been very busy but it’s all positive,” he says.

“I want to thank everybody who has supported me this far. Particularly everyone who has voted for me, the Deputy First Minister, Brenda Stevenson, Guildhall Press and Garbhan Downey.”