Belfast Telegraph

Top TV chef Valentine brands adults who can't cook a meal 'incomplete'

By Rachel Martin

Top TV chef Valentine Warner has branded adults who cannot cook "incomplete" as he prepares to speak at an event in Belfast today.

Mr Warner, who has made nine television series, including BBC2's What to Eat and The Good Table, said he felt that too many adults did not have the key skill of cooking.

He said: "If you can go to the loo, wash your face or drive a car, then you should cook - go and learn. It's a life skill."

Mr Warner is speaking at the Belfast City Council Focus on Food event at St George's Market. It aims to show food producers, hoteliers and restaurateurs how they can improve their tourist offering.

The chef, food writer and broadcaster declared: "If you can't cook, you're not a grown-up."

Mr Warner has family connections to Co Meath and said he is a frequent visitor to the Emerald Isle. And he praised Northern Ireland for its food culture.

He said: "I visit quite often and I love the food. Peter Hannan sells very delicious meat, you have great butters like Abernethy and you promote yourselves really well. There are brilliant people to talk to - you can't go to Ireland and not end up talking to strangers."

Mr Valentine will be speaking at 11.50am today.

Other speakers including Jilly Dougan of Slow Food NI, an organisation which she says is the "antithesis of fast food". It aims to encourage people to think about the link between environment and food. She believes Northern Ireland needs to shout out more about its culinary delicacies.

She said: "When you go to Italy you're not scrambling around looking for Irish stew, and it's the same with Northern Ireland.

"When people come to Northern Ireland they want an authentic food experience, they don't necessarily want to eat Thai curries.

"We've got to protect and promote our food, things like Lough Neagh eels and our creams and butters, as we've a great dairy industry here, and good fruit and veg.

"You'll hear Americans banging on about grass-fed beef and lamb, but in Northern Ireland almost all the beef and lamb is grass-fed here."

The industry experts will discuss how businesses can make produce more attractive to tourists and retailers.

Other speakers at the event will include Michelin Star chef, restaurateur and author JP McMahon. Mr McMahon is culinary director of the Eat Galway Restaurant Group, and will address the importance of partnership and collaboration in the food industry.

Ewen Venters, chief executive of high-end grocer Fortnum and Mason, who has been described as one of the most influential people in British food, will discuss shifting consumer trends.

His grocery has recently concluded deals with Shortcross Gin in Crossgar and Glenarm Organic Salmon.

Panellists will also include Caroline Wilson of Belfast Food Tours, restaurant critic Joris Minne, Michelin Star restaurateur Michael Deane and Michele Shirlow of Food NI.

Councillor Deirdre Hargey, chairperson of the council's city growth and regeneration committee, said: "The aim of the conference is to see what more can be done to maximize the economic benefit of food tourism, not only for Belfast, but the region as a whole. It will look at the long term development of food tourism in the city, and is designed to promote Belfast's food tourism message.

"It also aims to inspire the industry to collaborate and create new visitor experiences, engage producers, farmers, fishermen, chefs and outlets to better promote the food message to visitors and encourage the use of local produce and enable those in the industry to share experiences, challenges and opportunities," she added.

Last year, the Belfast Focus on Food was attended by more than 300 industry and tourism professionals.

Belfast Telegraph