In the latest instalment of Amazing Food & Drink, we sit down with celebrity chef proprietor, Danny Millar, to talk about the value of local produce. Joining Danny in the recently-opened Stock Kitchen & Bar in Belfast’s historic St. George’s Market, viewers are treated to insights from the household name recognisable from regular appearances on hit BBC productions Saturday Kitchen and the Great British Menu.
“I’m absolutely blessed to have this amazing food on my doorstep. It’s an absolute joy to walk down to the market to hand select the vegetables and fish we decide to cook that day,” says Danny, highlighting the beautiful Victorian market building which currently houses Stock Kitchen & Bar.
According to the chef, the importance of local produce is central to Belfast’s burgeoning food scene. “This is about telling people we are from Belfast, and this is what we have – some of the best fish in the world, for example. To be able to promote that is amazing,” he shares. “Our roots are based in classic French cuisine, and to be a good cook you need that technique. However, you need that produce as well.”
Ireland is rapidly emerging as a European hotspot for locally sourced, artisan foods. Danny points to local cheesemakers, bread producers, organic farmers and shellfish farms as leading the way “with honesty”. The chef suggests that these local suppliers represented a real opportunity to make food that he wants to eat – people with pride for their home city and the historic St. George’s market.
When pressed on the process behind designing his menus, Danny argues that it represents one of the true joys of cooking: “Being able to walk down to the market, we speak to traders every week. Because we are closer to the northern hemisphere, for example, our tomatoes are only in season now. Similarly, broad beans and artichokes are coming into season right now.”
Relying on local produce does not come without its complications, however. Previous weeks, for example, haven’t been ideal for fishing, with fishermen pointing to adverse weather conditions for their poor catch. “It really is a gamble,” says Danny, “the fishermen are casting their nets in and hoping for the best. As a chef, you have to respect that and use the whole fish – the head, the trimmings, everything – to make the stock. In any good kitchen, you need a good stock.”