Artisan food firm creates new jobs

Nick and Michelle Lestas. INBM12-15
Nick and Michelle Lestas. INBM12-15

A Ballymoney artisan food company is creating new jobs thanks to their expanding business which has just opened three stores in Belfast’s Queen’s Arcade.

Gourmet food firm Good Food and Wine Company is based in Drumaheglis and this week opened a food hall, tea house and brew bar in its city centre base, opposite the famous Lunn’s jewellers.

The Good Food and Wine Company, Drumaheglis, Ballymoney. INBM12-15 S

The Good Food and Wine Company, Drumaheglis, Ballymoney. INBM12-15 S

Husband and wife team Michelle and Nick Lestas run the operation which has its headquarters at the Glenstall Road site and can boast Knightsbridge store Harrods as its very first customer.

Nick told the Times: “We have wonderful food products here in Northern Ireland but the problem is that we can’t get them out there because we are too small, large companies don’t want to know. Small artisan producers can’t give enough volume of products to customers such as Harrods.

“That’s where Good Food and Wine Company comes in.

“We bring together a very strong artisan product under one brand. We may work with four different producers but we own the recipes and ingredients. We buy from the artisans under licence. That way we can achieve the volume.”

With years of specialist consultancy work under their belts, Nick and Michelle Lestas have vast experience in working with food producers, organising trade missions and working with buyers in different parts of the world.

The development kitchen in Drumaheglis is tsaffed by five full-time workers with at least another five full-time jobs being created with the opening in Belfast’s

Queen’s Arcade.

“We ran a pop-up shop in Belfast City Airport and then another for eight weeks in Victoria Square in Belfast.

“They were very successful and customers on social media were telling us that they loved the opportunity of buying local, quality produce.

“That gave us the condfidence to set up the Queen’s Arcade project.

“We have a food hall, a tea house and a brew bar. 85% of our stock comes from Northern Ireland and the remaining 15% from the south of Ireland.”

Good Food and Wine Company now has its products on the shelves of Titanic Belfast as well as concessions in Enniskillen, Coleraine

and Derry.

And the Ballymoney headquarters is still central to the expansion plans, as Nick continued: “The whole operation is linked through the development kitchen in Ballymoney.

“We are setting up a food academy so that small food artisans working in their kitchens or on their farms can make the move to the next stage by linking up with, for example, Loughery College.

“Ballymoney is a key element is what we are trying to do here.”