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Matthew Fort - Great British Menu judge joins the Lancashire food revolution

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 July 2016

Matthew Fort

Matthew Fort

Archant

It’s about time Lancashire was placed firmly on the culinary map says TV’s Matthew Fort as a campaign is launched to promote our fine food. Emma Mayoh reports

Lancashire Hotpot Lancashire Hotpot

‘It is time for Lancastrians to take action,’ declares the broadcaster and food writer Matthew Fort with a floruish. ‘Today, people look for so much more from their food.’

The judge of BBC TV’s Great British Menu series adds: ‘It’s time for Lancashire food and drink to build a brand and to move forward. ’

Around 40 of the county’s most respected food producers, chefs, retailers, butchers and growers gathered at Brockholes Conference Centre in Preston determined to do just that.

Matthew has strong emotional links with the county – he went to Lancaster University, his father was the MP for Clitheroe and he wrote a book about Lancashire food with Paul Heathcote – so who better to chair this inaugural event, organised and led by Marketing Lancashire?

Matthew Fort and Nigel Haworth Matthew Fort and Nigel Haworth

‘Lancashire is a place where there has always been artisan producers. We have been doing so much good for such a long time,’ he says.

‘And there is such diversity too. Great British Menu has become such a great promoter of regions. People like Lisa Allen and Nigel Haworth at Northcote have all hugely supported Lancashire produce on the programme. And there are so many others who also do this.

‘There is always something new, always something fresh. It’s time for businesses to stand shoulder to shoulder.

‘Lancashire needs to promote the things that happen here, are grown here, can be experienced and tasted nowhere else in the country. Revealing the unexpected about the county will give Lancashire standout appeal.’

River Lune Wild Salmon
Just cooked, Southport Potted Shrimps and Samphire, Ponzu and Elderflower, Warm Pikelets River Lune Wild Salmon Just cooked, Southport Potted Shrimps and Samphire, Ponzu and Elderflower, Warm Pikelets

‘It’s no longer about two-for-ones. Supermarkets don’t have the control they used to exert. People want better and they will be looking for a reason to buy Lancashire produce, eat at Lancashire restaurants and buy in Lancashire shops.

‘This is a critical time for the future of food in this beautiful county. And we are perfectly poised to take that opportunity.’

Like Matthew, Lancashire Life needs no persuading that this county has some of the best food and drink and we will support the campaign by continuing to showcase it every month.

From the produce that springs from the soil to the animals raised in our lush pastures, there is no denying our impact on the food and drink industry. It’s something we’ve always known but now is the time to let the rest of the UK in on the secret.

The aim of this marketing campaign is to spread the word that there really is more to Lancashire than pies and black pudding (as lovely at they can be).

Food and drink producers are now working together to show those south of the Watford Gap that something as seemingly simple as Lancashire hotpot can grace the menus of Michelin starred establishments.

The dish, taken to a new level by food champion Nigel Haworth, has even become the subject of an academic study at Liverpool John Moores University.

Food and is certainly is of major importance to our local economy, helping to draw in visitors who spend £734 million in a year. That figure has grown by £129 million over the last six years. The sector also supports an estimated 12,937 jobs.

Therefore you’d expect those 40 food and drink delegates at the launch to be eager to answer the rallying call. And they didn’t disappoint.

They included Cinzia and Maurizio Bocchi of La Locanda in Gisburn, current holders of the Taste Lancashire Tourism Award 2015, who are keen to be involved – so much so they are already planning to sell Lancashire produce back in their native Italy.

‘We feel very strongly about using locally sourced food in our restaurant,’ says Maurizio. ‘As Italians we have chosen to live and work in this beautiful part of England, full of amazing producers and strong heritage businesses that are unique to Lancashire.

‘We support Taste Lancashire and look forward to being part of the campaigns and opportunities that bring more national and international recognition to Lancashire.’

Although the Taste Lancashire campaign is in its early stages, there are already grand plans for pop-up restaurants in London, with one at the House of Lords, Lancashire-focused farmers’ markets in the capital and plans to lobby Westminster to get people to pay more attention to what is happening in the north’s food sector.

There are also proposals for holiday and short break packages to help visitors experience many different food and drink establishments and producers. It is also hoped there could be a YouTube channel dedicated to Lancashire food.

The campaign was welcomed by many of the movers and shakers at the event including coffee roaster and tea merchant Ian Steel of Lancaster’s J Atkinson and Co, Craig and Nicola Wilkinson from the Bay Horse Inn at Ellel, chef Paul Rowley, of Rowley’s Catering and the Ascroft family who grow produce in Tarleton. The plans were also hailed by Steven Smith, chef proprietor at the highly decorated Freemasons at Wiswell.

‘From my point of view, we already have all the good stuff going on,’ he says. ‘But now it’s time to promote it so that more people know about us. I quickly offered to support a pop-up restaurant in London, not just because it’s something I’ve been looking at doing for a while, but because it’s what we need to be doing.

‘We have a lot to be proud of - now it is our time to take action.’

Who are your food and drink heroes and those people whose stories deserve to be told? Drop a line to emma.mayoh@archant.co.uk.

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