Flavours of the Foyle Festival: Something fishy in Derry this weekend

Mayor Elisha McCallion at the launch of Flavours of the Foyle, with John Pollock and Kevin Wilson, Lough's Agency, Louise Millsopp, DARD, and Mary Blake, Derry City Council. (Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)
Mayor Elisha McCallion at the launch of Flavours of the Foyle, with John Pollock and Kevin Wilson, Lough's Agency, Louise Millsopp, DARD, and Mary Blake, Derry City Council. (Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Derry will be hosting a ‘Who’s Who’ of celebrity chefs as the annual Flavours of the Foyle Festival reels in the crowds for a two-day summer seafood spectacular this weekend.

Top TV chef Paul Rankin is looking forward to “sharing and celebrating” some of the world’s best seafood at the event, which is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the Guildhall Square on Saturday July 25th and Sunday July 26th.

Last year the event, which promotes the wealth of local seafood and food provenance, attracted thousands of visitors and numbers are set to grow.

Guildhall Square will be transformed into a ‘Theatre of Food’ kitchen from noon each day where Rankin and other top chefs, including BBC’s resident Chef Paula McIntyre and RTE’s Brian McDermott, will be demonstrating their culinary flair using local seafood alongside other fresh ingredients.

Speaking ahead of the event Rankin, whose live cooking demo takes place at 4.30pm on Saturday, said: “It’s always a pleasure to meet the local restaurateurs and producers who will be there on the day and, it’s guaranteed to be great craic so don’t miss it!”

Organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council, with financial assistance from the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme (DARD & Invest NI) and the Loughs Agency, an estimated 20,000 visitors will pour into the city to sample the finest locally sourced seafood this year.

The Mayor, Councillor Elisha McCallion, guaranteed a huge welcome for the many locals and visitors arriving to soak up the family atmosphere at the festivities on Saturday and Sunday.

Cllr. McCallion said: “Flavours of the Foyle has become the prime showcase for our locally sourced seafood. Twelve live cookery stations each day will feature the region’s top chefs, offering delicious fish dishes to try and buy in the festival marquee.

“With so much happening both days at the Festival, this event is without doubt a seafood spectacular. Next year will be Northern Ireland Year of Food 2016 and Derry is very much leading the way in terms of food tourism. The Flavours of the Foyle Festival is another excellent example of how well we are positioned on the international food map.”

Award-winning Derry chef Emmett McCourt, who has been involved with the Festival since its inception five years ago, believes the popular event can get everyone hooked on fish!

Still savouring his recent international success at the Gourmand World Cookery Book Awards in China with his publication, ‘Feast or Famine’, the cultural food ambassador will be bringing some Asian surprises to his demo on Saturday at 2.30pm, when festival-goers will be able to savour such exotic delights as squid on a stick and Starfish lollipops!

Emmet believes people are becoming more adventurous in their culinary tastes, but he will also be serving up fayre for more traditional palates - willick suppers anyone?!

A host of other talented local chefs from leading restaurants across the north west will also be working their magic with seafood during the event. These include Ian Orr, Irish Chef of the Year 2013 and Derek Creagh, Irish Chef of the Year 2015.

Local food producers taking part in the Festival include Donegal Prime Fish, North Cape Seafoods, Lough Neagh Eels, Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil and Abernethy Butter.

Mary Blake, Tourism Development Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said she is delighted to see so many local restaurants taking part this year.

Another one of the big highlights of the Festival is the Flavours of the Foyle Seafood Trail running from July 25th – August 2nd in 19 restaurants across the city.

Featuring businesses across the city and district, foodies are invited to sample the finest, freshest fish on offer as part of ‘Fish is the Dish!’ Seafood Trail.

And there is lots on offer for your small fry also! A wide range of family friendly activities will be available to keep the children entertained while the seafood festival is in full swing, making this a must visit event of the summer season.

As well as the Mayor’s Family Fun Day in the Guildhall on Saturday from 12pm-4pm, make sure to check out the sea creatures in the Loughs Agency ‘Touch Tank’, post a selfie with Spreya the mermaid, enjoy fishy face painting, storytelling, arts and crafts and get up close and personal with a giant but very approachable whale taking up temporary residence around the Guildhall! And did we mention that friendly basking shark?

Flavours of the Foyle celebrates the best of all that is ‘caught here not brought here’.

For further information on festival events, visit www.flavoursofthefoyle.com.... You’ll be hooked!