Christine Cousins, Events Manager for Food NI
BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
It is a little bit varied; I left school at 16 and had already started working in restaurants at 14. I went to Scotland and worked for three months in a hotel, then came back and worked in a beautiful jeweller’s for eight years, still working in restaurants at nights. I realised that I wanted to understand the processes behind the food, and I started with Clandeboye Yoghurt Company, working my way up to production manager. I had always wanted to work for Food NI so I knew I needed more experience and moved to Mash Direct. After gaining several years of experience there, I applied to Food NI and the rest is history.
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?
I organise events that will raise the profile of our members. We attend events throughout the UK and these help the producers meet buyers, support distributors they already have and test new markets. We are just back from the National Ploughing Championships and we are heading to Gifted in Dublin in December. Planning is afoot for the shows for next year and many are in the planning already.
WHEN DID YOU TAKE UP THIS POST?
LinkedIn told me it was two years ago though it feels longer (in a good way).
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
The best part is the travel and the variety of work and the worst part is the paperwork but that comes with most jobs now I guess.
BRIEFLY OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
Thankfully each day is pretty varied; with events, there is a lot of paperwork but also a lot of meetings, making sure everything is in place for each event. This gets me out and about a fair bit and interaction with our members is a real bonus as they are all driven, enthusiastic people and I find them really inspiring as they are so passionate about what they do.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
I think organising the first NI visit to Borough Market in London with our food and drink producers. It was logistically challenging. I met the 40ft lorry at Borough Market at 2.30am in the morning to offload the product. It was fantastic to hear the feedback from consumers and the other traders about the quality of NI food and drink. We all know how fabulous it is, but that kind of recognition is heart-warming. Also, NI winning the Best Food Destination was a remarkable achievement. I felt really proud to be a part of the food industry when this was announced.
BEST THING ABOUT THE LOCAL RETAIL INDUSTRY?
Definitely getting to know the producers and hearing why they do what they do. The food industry is such hard work; I know this firsthand from my days at Clandeboye. It is physically challenging work and can be relentless. I am constantly in awe of the drive and determination of the producers. They do it for the love and pride they have in their products.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
I’m trying to get a bit fitter and I like running, though I’m not good at it. I have to be honest though, I like eating out and relaxing too. I am currently doing Scuba training and hopefully I will get this finished before the winter.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I have done 48 solo skydives and hope to get more done on holiday.