Chef Paula McIntyre is leading the search for the best potato dishes that Northern Ireland has to offer in the inaugural Mighty Spud Awards 2016.
The awards are part of an ongoing campaign to support the NI potato industry, while also recognising excellence in the hospitality sector.
There will be four nomination categories - Mightiest Chip, Mightiest Mash, Mightiest Potato Innovation and Mightiest Healthy Potato Dish.
Food outlets including restaurants, pubs and takeaways and their customers have four weeks to nominate a potato creation that they believe should be hailed as mighty.
Following the closing deadline, Paula along with Food NI’s Michele Shirlow, Angus Wilson (Wilson’s Country Potatoes) and Michael McKillop (Glens of Antrim Potatoes), owners of two of Northern Ireland’s top potato brands, will form an expert panel to shortlist entries and crown one winner in each of the four categories.
At the launch of the Mighty Spud Awards, Paula McIntyre, chef, said: “The Mighty Spud Awards is a fantastic initiative developed by a group of Northern Ireland’s hard-working potato growers, processors and packers. The group continue to work tirelessly to shine a light on the healthiness, versatility and value of potatoes.
“The campaign focuses on hailing the potato as mighty, not humble. And what better way to do that than showcase the culinary talent that exists in Northern Ireland. The spud is more than just a bit on the side - whether it is triple cooked chips, creamy champ or decadent potato gratin, it is impossible to imagine mealtimes without it.”
Nominations are now open and entries can be made via www.mightyspud.com/awards Entries will close at 12 noon on Monday 15 February. Following the nomination process, entries will be shortlisted for tasting and four winners will be announced. Join the conversation on Twitter @MightyNotHumble.
Judge #1 Paula McIntyre
Paula McIntyre, Chef
Having trained in Culinary Arts at the prestigious Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, USA, Paula McIntyre returned to Northern Ireland in 1998, working as Head Chef in several establishments including Ghan House in Carlingford and Fontana in Holywood. In autumn 2001 Paula was given her own TV series on BBC 2 NI called “Taste for Adventure”. A regular contributor to Radio Ulster, Paula developed her own series “McIntyre Magic” which broadcast on Saturday Mornings and was commissioned three times. Since 2004 Paula has been hosting the cooking slot on Radio Ulster’s weekly “Saturday Magazine” show with John Toal. She contributes regularly to BBC NI news, Talkback and The Nolan Show, in addition to various papers including the Irish News, Newsletter and Belfast Telegraph. She currently writes a weekly column in Farming Life.
Paula lectures in catering on the Professional Cookery programme in Northern Regional College. Additionally she specialises in fine dining and catering and has worked as chef demonstrator and live cookery theatre host for the past few years with FoodNI. She is a judge for the Hotel and Catering Review’s Gold Medal Awards, the Restaurant Association of Ireland and the 2014 Great Taste Awards. Paula’s first book “A Kitchen Year” was published in 2008 by Gill and Macmillan. Her second book “Down to Earth” cookbook was published in autumn 2015.
Judge #2 Angus Wilson
Angus Wilson, Director, Wilson’s Country Potatoes
Angus Wilson started the Wilson Potato business from the family farm in 1980s and since then the business has grown from strength to strength. A company which is passionate about potatoes now employs over 100 staff in the six acre site in County Armagh. Wilson’s Country is one of the leading potato brands in Ireland.
Judge #3 Michael McKillop
Michael McKillop, Director, Glens of Antrim Potatoes
Michael McKillop is the director of Glens of Antrim Potatoes, a potato processing company based in Co Antrim. Owned by the McKillop family since 1972, Glens of Antrim supplies most major supermarkets and many smaller retailers across Ireland and the UK. An avid supporter of local spuds, Michael is an active member in both the Northern Ireland Potato Festival organising committee and the Northern Ireland Stakeholder Potato Promotion Group.
Judge #4 Michele Shirlow
Michele Shirlow, CEO, Food NI
The driving force behind the creation of Food NI, Michele is a graduate of Edinburgh University, post graduate of University of Ulster and the Irish Management Institute and a qualified accountant. Motivated by her experience of working overseas Michele was inspired to work with the agri food sector to enhance the reputation of the region. She raised £1m funding from the private sector to run the ‘Northern Ireland Good Food is in our Nature’ television campaign. Along with the founding directors she started Food NI 6 years ago with just 6 members; today there are almost 300 members who work together at events like World Police, Fire Games and Balmoral Food Pavilion to put forward a positive message about food from Northern Ireland. Michele was appointed as a Director of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board now Tourism Northern Ireland from 1st January 2014, she was instrumental in securing support for Open Farm Weekend at its formation. Michele is a key influencer behind Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016.