Chef Michael Deane brings Northern Ireland food to Thailand
Michelin-starred Northern Ireland chef Michael Deane has returned from a one-man mission to bring the best of the region's cuisine to Thailand.
The Lisburn-based chef is just back from a week as a chef-in-residence at St Regis Bangkok, one of the country's top hotels.
Acclaimed by the five-star hotel as an "Irish culinary legend", Mr Deane cooked alongside a team of 95 top Bangkok chefs for five nights.
Using ingredients such as Glenarm salmon, Portavogie scallops, Lough Neagh eels, Young Buck cheese, Yardsman lager and Peter Hannon's sugar pit beef ribs, the team crafted a seven-course tasting menu in which guests were treated to the very best of Northern Ireland food.
Before service began, Michael asked diners, including 20 Thai food writers, what they knew about Northern Ireland food.
He said: "They didn't know a lot - basically the only thing they knew about here was Guinness and shellfish."
Michael said the event highlighted Northern Ireland food in a way which tourist boards couldn't.
He said: "I hate the thought of Northern Ireland food being promoted while holding up a picture of the Giant's Causeway, a pint of Guinness and a potato.
"I have been asked by quangos to cook for these people for £20 a head, yet the people who came were willing to pay up to £170 a head. You can't showcase Northern Ireland well if you are only going to give them one glass of wine and a £20 a head menu.
"I love Northern Ireland, the chefs and the restaurants and I think there definitely needs to be more money set aside for food promotion."
Mr Deane said the menu impressed the audience so much that one man who left Belfast 20 years ago was overcome with emotion when he saw how far Northern Ireland food had come.
"He remembered the gammon, the pineapple on top and the overcooked chips," he said. "I've got quite used to PR over the years, but I haven't seen people get that excited talking about salmon and rhubarb and potato bread and whiskey before.
"We cooked everything from scratch, right down to chopping the rhubarb and marinating the salmon, so it was quite a challenge."
Michael Deane is the latest in a series of Michelin-starred chefs to work in residence at the hotel. French chef Bruno Oger carried out a four-day residency last month.
Diners were charged £170 for the most expensive seven courses option, which included wine, while the cheapest menu set diners back around £90.
Mr Deane said he plans to return to Bangkok, where he will run a "farm to table experience". He also plans to travel to Dubai later this year, where he will cook at one of the most expensive luxury hotels in the world.
He said he was pleased by the response he had received in Thailand and said he plans to run similar events again.
However, he added that spending 18-20 hours a day in the kitchen was challenging and that he would need someone younger to go, perhaps hinting at young protegee Danni Barry, who won Deanes back its Michelin Star as head chef at Eipic.
He said he could not afford to send the young chef out for a full four month residency, but said he would consider her for a shorter period.
Deane hinted at the possibility of a Dubai restaurant in the future. However, he said he wanted to work on building his profile in the Middle East first.
Northern Ireland's longest standing Michelin starred chef runs several high-end restaurants in Belfast, including Eipic, Meat Locker, Love Fish, Deli Bistro, Deli Vincafe, Deanes at Queen's and Deane and Decano.