Belfast Telegraph

Chef Derek Patterson catered for royalty and Secretaries of State

Derek Patterson
Derek Patterson
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Derek Patterson made his name working in restaurants around the world before returning home to Northern Ireland and joining the family business in the mid-1990s.

His father Desi had acquired The Plough in 1981 while area manager for Calor Kosangas, at the time when interest rates were 21% and his only asset was a house valued at £40,000.

He paid £69,000 for The Plough, which had a small lounge, a narrow public bar and old Aga scullery kitchen.

Derek's mother Muriel quit her job as personal secretary to industrialist Leslie Mackey to start work in The Plough's kitchen, developing a menu which included homemade wheaten bread and open prawn sandwiches.

The business later evolved to include its Simply Seafood Restaurant as well as Bar Retro and a bistro.

Derek (right) studied cookery at Lisburn Tech and before travelling abroad, working in restaurants from Switzerland to Bermuda.

One Swiss location had a live lobster tank - a feature that inspired him to have his own in the Plough's Simply Seafood. While in London, Derek worked in Dickens Inn in St Catherine's Dock, a venue which included a wine bar, pub lunch venue and specialised restaurant.

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A stint working in America also taught him how to make money from catering.

But it was while he worked as a chef in Switzerland that Derek discovered oysters farmed in Northern Ireland were popular on menus across Europe yet no one was eating them back home.

With the desire to bring oysters to plates in restaurants here, Derek created a festival on his return along with fellow Hillsborough local, Sean Hall, which would bring people together, celebrate diversity, drive food and drink to the fore and allow people to appreciate our heritage. The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival was born and attracted an international audience who travelled to the village to compete in the ever-popular World Oyster Eating Championship, which created Guinness World Records.

Given its prime position close to Hillsborough Castle, the Plough often catered for royalty and resident Secretaries of State.

Derek returned home in 1997 and for 22 years invested time and energy into his portfolio of award-winning pubs and restaurants. He will be remembered as a man always ahead of the game with a passion that helped put Northern Ireland on the food tourism map.

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