The days of cheap food and drink are over in Northern Ireland says chef Danny Millar
The days of cheap food and drink are over in Northern Ireland, one of the province's top chefs has said.
Danny Millar (43), who runs three restaurants including Balloo House at Killinchy in Co Down, said producers here need "better returns for their commitment and to enable them to invest in new products".
And he said he hoped the Year of Food and Drink 2016 would be a success.
"I hope that one of the legacies of this important campaign will be greater business for local producers from shoppers as well as restaurants and hotels," he said.
"There also needs to be a greater recognition that the days of cheap food and drink in both retail and hospitality sectors are over."
Mr Millar also reiterated concerns from the industry over cutting the level of Vat in order to compete with the lower rate in the Republic.
"Efforts to boost food and drink and tourism would also benefit substantially from action on Vat and current licensing laws," he said.
"Bringing Vat here into line with the 9% in the Republic, I believe, would help improve margins and encourage greater investment in the facilities that tourists in particular expect.
"It could also mean better returns for food and drink producers.
"Overall, I believe, a reduction in Vat and more liberal licensing laws would benefit the economy and employment here. The current licensing laws are also in need of review."
Mr Millar owns and operates a number of restaurants in Northern Ireland with business partner Ronan Sweeney, as well as Balloo House at Killinchy, they have The Poacher's Pocket at Lisbane, and The Parson's Nose in Hillsborough.
And he attributes much of the success of his businesses down to the top quality produce he uses.
"Why wouldn't we use local ingredients? It's why I love what I do. We have super ingredients on our doorstep, world class produce from fantastic farmers and fisherman going out in all sorts of weather and for not much money.
"Quality producers are mostly within easy reach of all three of our restaurants. Our fertile soils provide great grass-fed beef, dairy and lamb as well as superb vegetables and fruit.
"Strangford and Ballycastle are a source of wonderfully fresh and tasty seafood, scallops, prawns, oysters, lobsters and mussels, from pristine waters.
"We've a great relationship with many local suppliers who regularly talk to us about their products and new ideas. A good example of this is the Farmageddon brewery, just down the road from the Poacher's Pocket, in Comber."
Mr Millar's comments about revamping Northern Ireland's licensing laws come just a week after industry body Hospitality Ulster launched its own 'petition of concern' against outdated licensing laws.
The industry body - which represents pubs, hotels and restaurants - is demanding Stormont revamps "outdated" laws here.