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All the best: Michele Shirlow on her favourite things

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 04/01/2016

Food guru: Michele Shirlow is promoting local food and drinkand
Food guru: Michele Shirlow is promoting local food and drinkand

The 52 year-old is the chief executive of Food NI and is heavily involved in Northern Ireland's Year of Food And Drink 2016. She lives near Ballygowan with her husband Alex and their daughters, Alex (21) and Nadine (17).

My best moment

It's a really strange one but when the scans were being done when I was expecting my first daughter I swear I heard angels singing. I have a very clear memory of hearing music when I saw her on the screen.

My best song

Anything by The Horslips. When I was at school their music was all we listened to - we also went to see them play at the Ulster Hall, where we bounced around to them. They just produced really good Irish rock music.

My best way to relax

I try to go to spin class at least once a week, if not twice, and find that works for me as time out. The thing that really makes the class is our instructor, who pushes us through the class and has us in stitches. You walk out thinking that if you can survive that then you can survive anything.

My best bit of advice

You can achieve anything you want as long as it's for the greater good. Those words of wisdom were given to me by a lady called Marsha Orr, whom I met on a trade mission to Boston when I was working for Invest NI. She was an entrepreneur and we stayed in touch over the years. She is someone I could always turn to if I had any sort of challenges. It's a very good and very true piece of advice.

My best job

I've been with Food NI now for about seven years. I trained as an accountant originally and worked for Invest NI which was great because I got the chance to travel abroad as well asreally getting to know Northern Ireland.

What I love about my job is working with people who have a collective passion and vision for what they do. They really love their work and aren't just doing it for the money.

My best gift

When I was 40 my husband bought me a red Audi TT and I've loved it ever since - I was the girl zooming around town. Even the girls loved being dropped off at school in it.

My best achievement

Getting Food NI to where it is and creating the Northern Ireland Year Of Food and Drink. We now have 250 members supporting it and we've been working on it since the beginning of 2013. The biggest challenge we've had is lack of knowledge of the food and drink industry here - for example, people don't realise that we export more beef and milk than Scotland and we have now got around 25 drinks companies here.

My best buy

My first house. When I graduated and got a job I bought my first house in Hillsborough and my best friend lived two doors down. We had some great fun in those days.

My best movie

I'm going to say The Sound Of Music because it was the first film I ever saw in the cinema - my parents took me to the local picture house in Portstewart when I was about 10. It just seemed to be such a magical world and I have loved films ever since.

My best book

Paperboy by Tony Macaulay. It's the story of being a paperboy for the Belfast Telegraph in the city in the 1970s and it's written with a great sense of humour.

Belfast Telegraph

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