Welsh restaurateurs and caterers are set to play a crucial role in a new food strategy between now and 2020, launched by the Welsh Assembly Government last week.
The strategy document, called Food for Wales, Food from Wales, sets an overall direction for food policy in Wales, taking into account issues such as how to balance food production with the environment; how to make high-quality Welsh produce more identifiable; and how to cope with increased demand on food supply due to a growing world population.
The strategy also calls for more public and private initiatives to support and encourage more new food and drink businesses, and recognises the role tourism has to play in promoting Welsh food. A 2005 VisitWales study found that visitors on short breaks to Wales spend 18.7% of their holiday budget on food and drink.
Speaking to Caterer, Simon Wright, owner of Y Polyn restaurant near Camarthen and Wales's True Taste Champion 2010-11, welcomed the new strategy: "It is very wide and addresses all the major issues we face as far as food is concerned in the next decade. From that point of view it is really welcome, because those things can't be ignored," he said.
"Our [restaurateurs] fate is intimately bound up with food in Wales as a whole. If you have a quality restaurant in Wales, then you are reliant on the quality of the produce that is available. It is very important for restaurants in Wales to have a distinctive product which speaks of its locality."
Speaking at the launch of the strategy, Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said: "Government alone cannot make this strategy a success. There is already an enviable record of partnership working in the Welsh food and drink sector - it is my firm belief that through continued co-operation the industry has a bright future."
A delivery plan for the strategy will be developed in early 2011.
Restaurants that showcase Welsh food
Le Gallois-y-Cymro, Cardiff (Grady Atkins)
Ynyshir Hall, Eglwysfach, Machynlleth (Shane Hughes)
Tan-y-Foel Country House Hotel, Betws-y-Coed (Janet Pitman)
Crown at Whitebrook (James Sommerin)
Carlton Riverside, Llanwrtyd Wells (Mary-Ann Gilchrist)
YPolyn, Nantgaredig, Carmarthern (Simon Wright)
Simon Wright to open Llanelli restaurant
Simon Wright is set to open a new restaurant in a Grade II-listed former industrial building on the Llanelli waterfront in May 2011.
He is joined in the venture by Wales rugby stars, outside-half Stephen Jones and scrum-half Dwayne Peel, and construction company owner Robert Williams.
"We hope it will be among the best restaurants in Wales and it will have a huge emphasis on Welsh produce," Wright said.
He added that the co-owners eventually hoped to create a chef training facility in the building, which is a 19th-century property that previously supplied hydraulic power to the docks. A head chef for the venture will be named shortly.