Portadown food firm prospers from strategic focus on local sourcing

Yellow Door shows ‘others how easy it is to grow delicious, healthy food with amazing freshness and flavour that just can’t be bought’
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Yellow Door, one of Northern Ireland’s leading hospitality and food retail, is continuing to grow its outstanding success on initiatives to support the local environment.

Based in Portadown, Yellow Door is also prospering from a strategic focus on sourcing premium local produce and ingredients, including many from its own ‘kitchen garden’ and a host of local suppliers that ensure business virtues such as provenance, heritage and total traceability for consumers here.

Founded by distinguished local chef Simon Dougan, among NI’s best- known culinary ‘stars’, and run with wife Jilly and other family members.

A champion of local food, Jilly has done a huge amount to persuade people here and especially school children to grow more of their own food as well as buying more from local farmers and other producers.

Jilly explains: “I love great food and the people who produce it here! I have been working in speciality food production and supply for many years and have met so many talented and skilled producers committed to quality produce with outstanding taste. We have a vibrant and versatile food and drink industry that deserves our support to ensure continuing profitable and sustainable growth and to promote innovation in new food and drink experiences.

“Producing the tastiest food depends on the freshest ingredients at their absolute peak. We have been growing an increasing amount of our own produce for use in the business since 2006 in our kitchen garden at our home in Co Armagh. It’s an amazing way to enhance the creation of new dishes and foods and to support the wedding, event and corporate catering side of our overall business.”

Yellow Door now grows “an array of salad leaves, all kinds of soft and hardy herbs, edible flowers, rhubarb, soft fruit, and has an orchard yielding apples, plums and pears”, according to Jilly, who is also well-known from her horticulture presentations at the RUAS show at Balmoral Park and other food and farming events.

Jilly continues: “We have learned a lot over the years from our successes and mistakes, but we now know what the tastiest varieties of salad leaves are; that small, sweet cherry tomatoes ripen better than large ones, all-female varieties of cucumbers always have a wonderful flavour, the birds will always try to race us to the ripening fruit and that you can never really depend on the Irish weather!

“We also know that blueberries and garlic are easy to grow and that blackcurrants are wasted on jam when you can use them to make amazing and richly flavoured liqueur. We continually experiment to find new varieties of produce with amazing flavour that will grow well in our climate, such as oyster leaf, and can be used in many of our activities.

“We do grow our food using organic principles. This includes not spraying our fruit trees or any of our crops with chemical pesticides or using artificial fertiliser; on site composting of garden waste, vegetable waste, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea leaves; use of homemade compost, seaweed fertiliser and comfrey and concentrating on promoting and maintaining soil health for great crops.

“Companion planting, crop rotation and biodiversity keep the pests to a minimum. In 2019/2020, for instance, we planted around 250 trees, mostly native woodland varieties dotted through with cobnuts, quinces, medlars and mulberries. We’re very excited to see this develop,” adds Jilly.

The award winning family business also produces raw honey for use in meals, for seasonal hampers and for sale in its cafes and delis especially the popular Deli Market by Yellow Door in the Armagh town. The apiaries are also managed by Jilly.

Her focus is on “showing others how easy it is to grow delicious, healthy food with amazing freshness and flavour that just can’t be bought”.

Yellow Door bakes much of its own breads and cakes and has won a host of awards for its extensive range of products in the influential UK Great Taste Awards. The bakery supplies hotels, restaurants and coffee shops in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Simon’s catering expertise, management skills, willingness to invest time and other resources and dedicated support for the local food and drink industry includes enthusiastic backing for important food initiatives such as Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council’s imaginative Food Heartland promotional scheme and the FoodNI food and drink promotional organisation.

It’s an impressive and progressive business that’s totally engaged in the local community and committed to its long-term wellbeing.