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Great Taste roadshow visits Belfast to celebrate Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink

Amy Brice

Jamie Hamilton of Baronscourt Estate, with his Wild Sika Venison French Rack

Jamie Hamilton of Baronscourt Estate, with his Wild Sika Venison French Rack

Great Taste will judge Northern Irish entries on home soil this year at Belfast Metropolitan College’s Titanic Quarter Campus from Tuesday 7 June – Friday 10 June 2016. Invited to Belfast by Invest Northern Ireland, to take part in Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016, the world’s most coveted blind-tasted food awards will form part of a 12-month celebration of quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the country’s food and drink industry. 

This comes after an impressive year for Northern Ireland in 2015, when 150 of its products scooped those coveted Great Taste stars, with 124 achieving a 1-star, 23 getting a 2-star and three exceptional products being deemed worthy of a 3-star accolade. This select group of 3-star winning products included Baronscourt Estate’s Wild Sika Venison French Rack, Dale Farm Ltd’s Fivemiletown Ballyoak smoked brie and a Brown Soda Loaf by McErlain's Bakery Ltd, all of which now proudly carry the unmistakable gold and black Great Taste logo.

With 33% of all spend by visitors to the country going on food and drink, Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink is a celebration of this growing success story, bringing together the government, private sector, education, farmers and retail to develop the industry and inspire the next generation. 2016 has already seen an uplift in Great Taste entries from Northern Ireland, with 138 companies entering 712 products this year, compared with 109 companies entering 554 products in 2015.

With a whole host of experts lined up to blind taste the Northern Irish entries, including esteemed food critic, Charles Campion, BBC Radio 2’s Nigel Barden, Michelin star chef Michael Deane, multi-award winning chef Danny Millar, and many more chefs, buyers, restaurateurs and writers, the Great Taste roadshow is set to put the spotlight firmly on Northern Ireland’s diverse and innovative food and drink producers.

John Farrand, Managing Director of the Guild of Fine Food, organisers of Great Taste, explains;

“Our judges were treated to a fantastic variety of products when we last visited Belfast in 2014, so we’re very excited to be bringing the Great Taste roadshow back to Northern Ireland’s capital this year. Our roadshows have proved to be hugely successful in raising the profile of Great Taste, the winning producers and the location itself as a top food destination, and we are delighted to be playing our part in such a big year for food in Northern Ireland. Shining a light on the very best the country has to offer is at the heart Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, and of course this is what Great Taste is all about. We look forward to uncovering some more hidden gems in Belfast and bringing them to a worldwide audience which we know is eager to source from the list of Great Taste stars.”

John Hood, Director of Food & Tourism at Invest Northern Ireland, adds;

“As the benchmark for fine food in the UK and Ireland, Great Taste has played an important role in uncovering new stars in recent years and bringing these products to a wider audience. There’s a fantastic momentum behind the development of food and drink in Northern Ireland right now, which can be seen in the big increase in Great Taste entries this year, so we’re very excited about welcoming the judges to Belfast and seeing which products come out on top. During Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink, this week of judging is an undoubted highlight, as we showcase the very best of our food and drink to the world, with anticipation then building towards the announcement of our winners in August.”

The judging process draws to a close in July and the award-winning products will be announced in August.

More information on Great Taste can be found at www.greattasteawards.co.uk.

For more information about The Guild of Fine Food visit www.gff.co.uk