Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Relatively Speaking: Jilly and Simon Dougan

Simon Dougan owns the Yellow Door Deli and has won a three-star Great Taste Award for his beef and smoked mash pie. His wife, Jilly is part of the team which picked up seven three-star awards for Hannan Meats. They live near Gilford

Food lovers Simon and Jilly Dougan
Food lovers Simon and Jilly Dougan

Name: Simon Dougan

Age: 42

Occupation: Managing director, Yellow Door Deli

Relationship: Husband of Jilly

Jilly was a supplier of mine when I had my first restaurant in Gilford. At the time she had Moyallon Foods. She invited me as a customer to go to a Chefs and Cooks Association dinner at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. That was back in 1997.

I did think she was nice, but I nearly missed my chance because a few people phoned her after that asking her to go to the dinner, but, thankfully, she stuck with taking me. I always joke that marriage didn't get me any discount though!

I suppose what drew us together in the first place is what we're still passionate about too. We both really love food and country life.

We have a polytunnel and a vegetable garden and we like nothing better than pottering around there together in our spare time.

Spare time isn't something we have a lot of, though. She would say one of her biggest gripes is that I'm never there, or that I'm always late home.

Saturdays off are very rare indeed and in summer, I'm always flat out doing wedding and corporate events.

We have never gone into business together because we both have quite different management styles.

Jilly is quite gentle, whereas when I'm in the middle of a busy service, I don't have time to say please and thank you. That said, she's certainly no pushover and she's very good at getting her point across.

She is a great sounding board for me and I really value her opinion.

She has such a fantastic palate and her knowledge of food is encyclopaediac.

I'll often ask her what she thinks about the way forward for the business. We're a good team in that respect.

Her one fault is her untidiness. She's a hoarder and she leaves stuff all over the place and I just come along and sweep it all up.

That's probably what she'll say she can't stand about me.

--

Name: Jilly Dougan

Age: 44

Occupation: Sales and marketing, Hannan Meats

Relationship: Wife of Simon

When I asked Simon to that dinner, I thought he was cute, but not in a conscious way. I tended to go for older men and I certainly wouldn't have dreamt of getting involved with a customer.

I don't know that he had to convince me to go out with him that night.

That was mostly down to Smirnoff but we do have a huge common interest in food and farming and shooting.

He also has lovely wee twinkly eyes and he's charming and kind. It doesn't hurt that he's a fantastic cook either.

I had my own business for 18 years and working together wouldn't have been an option. We were both already established and I'm not sure if it would work if we were married and working together.

It's better for our relationship that we keep them separate, I think.

It means we're not bringing home any tensions or problems and we can just hang out together in the garden and make yummy food.

Simon gets annoyed with my untidiness, but I get annoyed with his reaction to my untidiness. My other bugbear is his time-keeping.

He'll ring and say 'I'll be home in an hour' and then he finally arrives four hours later. He just loses track of time and I wish he would just say to go ahead and eat without him.

It is difficult to get time off when you work in catering and we do like to get away in January if we can for a week's skiing. That's a great way to totally clear your head. It didn't happen this year though with all the Great Taste events.

We also both love shooting clays and game. It's my birthday soon and Simon's present to me was a gun.

He's also arranged for us to go to a restaurant somewhere in France where you have to fill out an online form about why you want to eat there.

He's told me to pack a nice dress. I can't wait!

Grandmothers' baking heritage

Simon Dougan gained experience in London, first as a waiter at the Waldorf and then cooking posh lunches for business executives. He also spent time travelling around Europe in a van

His culinary interests were stirred by those of his grandmothers, who were great bakers.

He opened his first Yellow Door eaterie in Gilford, later moving to Portadown with further outlets in Lisburn and Belfast and a catering operation for events and weddings.

Jilly sources local produce like Glenarm organic salmon, Cashel Blue cheese or Moyallon bacon.

She also looks after their own herbs and vegetables grown in the family home's polytunnel and tends their own bee colony.

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