Belfast Telegraph

Food producers put taste of Northern Ireland on menu at Open

Sodexo chef Fritz Machala highlighting the company’s support for NI food suppliers ahead of the 148th Open at Royal Portrush
Sodexo chef Fritz Machala highlighting the company’s support for NI food suppliers ahead of the 148th Open at Royal Portrush
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Almost a dozen of Northern Ireland's best-loved food producers have secured a place for their products on the prestigious menu at The 148th Open taking place at Royal Portrush this week.

And 1,200 people have been recruited to serve that menu at what is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Of that number, 750 staff have been recruited from around NI.

Among the locally-made products to feature on the menu are butter, fish, ice cream and bakery brands which were chosen by international catering firm Sodexo which has held the contract for the golf competition for 20 years.

They include the North Coast Smokehouse, Abernethy Butter, Ballylisk Dairies, Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Burren Balsamics, Irish Black Butter, Lough Neagh eel, Morelli's Ice cream, Causeway Prime Meats and the French Village Bakery.

Together they will supply up to 77,000 slices of bacon, 28,000 beef burgers, 14,000 fillets of accredited sustainable haddock, 1,000 rolls of butter, 220kg of sliced ham and 200kg of artisan cheese, along with delicacies like dulse and eels.

Armagh cheese producer Ballylisk, run by brothers Mark and Dean Wright, will supply 60kg of its Triple Rose cheese. It is no stranger to catering to elite names and is currently stocked at Fortnum and Mason in London.

Mark Wright said: "It's a marvellous boost for a small producer like Ballylisk to be part of such a wonderful event which will showcase the very best of Northern Ireland to an amazing global audience.

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"It will be tremendous for Northern Ireland and for Ballylisk of Armagh in particular to be part of such a wonderful event."

Abernethy Butter's Allison Abernethy and her team have been working overtime to supply 250kg of butter rolls to the golfing tournament.

She said: "We are very honoured to be supplying to what is one of the biggest events to be held here.

"A lot of work has gone into producing butter for the event. The extra 250kg is three full days' work that we fitted in on top of our other business so we've been extremely busy, working weekends and holidays."

Mrs Abernethy said the deal, which was set up through La Rousse, a leading supplier of gourmet foods, could pave the way for further business, adding: "If you supply a major event and you do well and supply on time you will find that if they're happy they will use you again."

Pat Close, chairman of Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative, which will supply eels to the event, described the opportunity as "an honour".

He said: "We are thrilled to be giving visitors from across the globe the opportunity to taste our award-winning, world class product, right here in Portrush.

"Being included on The Open menu follows on from a tremendous month for this three-star Great Taste Award product, with Smoked Lough Neagh eel recently winning the Artisan Fish Produce Award."

Smoked Lough Neagh eel is one of the few food products from Northern Ireland with protected food name status.

Sodexo says it has been planning its catering service for The Open for over 18 months.

Stephen Frost, an executive head chef for Sodexo's sports and leisure division and a veteran of Open catering, said: "Catering for an event as prestigious and world-famous as The Open is an intensive, almost 24-hour a day, operation that has to run like clockwork over the seven days.

"We'll be serving over 20,000 meals in the private hospitality areas and around 100,000 meals in the public areas."

He said that around 1,500 media and external contractors, as well as security, police and gate staff, will also savour the local menu.

Belfast Telegraph