15th Oct 2007
A butcher, a baker, a fisherman, a miller, a dairy farmer and a famous cook were amongst those commended by top Irish chefs for their outstanding contribution to Irish food, in the 2007 Euro-toques/Cavan Crystal Hotel Food Awards at the Westin Hotel Dublin today.
The annual event is sponsored by the Cavan Crystal Hotel and this years awards were presented by Cavan Euro-toques chef, cookbook author and TV personality Neven Maguire.
Speaking on behalf of Euro-toques, Founder member Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House commented: We cannot do our job as cooks without top quality ingredients and recognising and promoting the people who provide these is central to what Euro-toques is all about. We are delighted to have here today a group of people who have championed traditional and local products and production methods and have carried on and developed their businesses in the face of great challenges.
One of our gravest concerns in recent years has been the shutting down of small abattoirs right across the country, so we are delighted to recognise today a butcher who has continued to raise, slaughter and sell his own animals on his own premises – this is the true meaning of traceability. We also see the depletion of native fish stocks as one of the major food threats currently and are therefore awarding a fisherman who has taken a special interest in conservation. All these people contribute in a small, but vital way, to ensuring a viable and diverse food supply into the future.
Awards were presented to five outstanding food producers/suppliers:
- Glenilen Dairy, Drimoleague, West Cork
Recognised for diversifying a traditional dairy farm into production of quality dairy-based products, including traditional country butter, clotted cream and yoghurt, as well as a range of cheesecakes, mousses and desserts
- Michael McGrath Butcher, Lismore, Co. Waterford
A fourth generation butcher recognised for maintaining traditional methods, above all for retaining their on-premises abattoir and slaughtering their own cattle, as well as providing a slaughtering service for local farmers
- Flahavans Mills, Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford
The well-known producer of Flahavans Oats, recognised for maintaining high production standards in keeping with traditional methods and environmental concerns.
- Terry Butterly, Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co. Louth
A fisherman for 35 years, Terry Butterly now processes seafood for supply to some of the top restaurants on the east coast. He was recognised for his special interest in conservation and the service he provides in informing chefs about the seasonality and availability of fish.
- Dittys Home Bakery, Castledawson, Northern Ireland
A third generation bakery producing traditional Ulster breads, using ingredients from local artisan suppliers. Recognised for promoting regional diversity and developing new artisan produce.
A sixth and final award, for Special Contribution to the Irish food scene, went to Darina Allen, owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School, for her role in providing an extremely high standard of culinary education, her involvement in the farmers markets and artisan food movement, and her tireless work to enhance the standard and reputation of Irish food. The award was accepted by her brother Tom OConnell on her behalf.
I am delighted to present these awards, award-winning Euro-toques chef Neven Maguire commented at todays event,Recognising and promoting local suppliers is central to what I do as a chef. Their passion and enthusiasm makes my job of producing good food so much easier.
Representatives of the main food bodies, top chefs, producers and media gathered in the wonderful surrounding of the Westins Banking Hall for a Champagne Reception and awards ceremony, followed by lunch prepared by Euro-toques chef Darrin Parrish. Each award winner was presented with a specially commissioned engraved award piece by Cavan Crystal Design. Siobhan Smyth, General Manager of Cavan Crystal Hotel who sponsor the awards commented: The Cavan Crystal Hotel is delighted to be associated with this event, which commends high standards and quality, elements which are central to our philosophy. Excellent food is central to our offering at the hotel and is based on the same integrity of sourcing and commitment to quality which today is all about.
These awards are unique in that nominations are made by the Euro-toques members and winners are then carefully selected by the Euro-toques Food Committee, made up of chefs from all over the country. Therefore, these awards give producers recognition from the top industry chefs and cooks in the country.
For further information, please contact Ruth Hegarty on 01-6779995
INFORMATION FOR THE EDITOR
Euro-toques, The European Community of Cooks, was established in 1986 in Brussels as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group addressing the concerns of Europes top chefs and cooks about food quality and the future of food.
Euro-toques Ireland was founded by Myrtle Allen the same year and now has almost 200 member cooks/chefs including Derry Clarke of LEcrivain, Ross Lewis of Chapter One, Guillaume Le Brun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House, Paul Flynn of the Tannery and Neven Maguire of NcNean Bistro.
Additional Comment from Myrtle Allen:
The Eurotoques movement started in Brussels in 1986. At that time the E.U. was passing laws that, to many of the great chefs of Europe, would certainly bring a deterioration to the quality of the food, their finest dishes and to the culinary heritage of Europe. I refer to mass production, increased outputs of plants and animals, artificial additives, colourings etc. So the great chefs of the time…… Bocuse, Roger Verge, the Troisgros brothers, from France, Marchesi from Italy and so on, round the E.C. started the organisation to defend the food of Europe. M. Jacques Delors afforded us lobbying rights in the parliament.
Alan & Valerie Kingston of Glenilen farm were well-placed to become top quality Irish food producers. Alan comes from a long line of dairy farmers in west Cork while Valerie also grew up on a family farm where they were nearly self-sufficient. She studied food Science. & Technology at UCC, worked with Dairygold in R& D for 4 years and then spent 2 years in West Africa on a dairy development project. She returned to Ireland in 1997, married Alan the same year, and joined him at the family farm. Milk was in plentiful supply, but the farm was relatively small and it was increasingly difficult to make a good living. They knew that they would need to diversify or seek outside employment. Experimentation began in the kitchen, with Valerie making fromage frais as she had made it in west Africa. They then acquired a milk separator to produce their own cream, and also started making yoghurt. Alan attended a Rural Farm Enterprise course run by Teagasc.
Initially they sold the products at Bantry country market, and gradually progressed to farmers markets, and then to building a dedicated dairy at the farm in 2002 and expanding into retails sales… Production takes place next door to the milking parlour, so their own mild is pumped straight in for transformation into any of the products; which now include cheesecakes, mousses, farmhouse butter, clotted cream, double cream, fromage frais, and yoghurt. This premises has already been outgrown and a new much larger premises is currently under construction.
Glenilen dairy now has 7 full time staff and three drivers on the road delivering to shops all over the country. Recently they have undertaken a feasibility study on generating hydro power from the Ilen river, which runs through their farm, and are looking at the prospect of producing their own green energy to power their production.
Alan & Valerie Kingston received a 2007 Euro-toques Cavan Crystal Hotel Food Award in recognition of their success at diversifying a traditional family farm business into a thriving artisan food business, based on the use of excellent local raw materials. The Euro-toques Food Committee particularly commended the quality of their traditional farmhouse butter, natural yoghurt and cream, made in the old style. This is the kind of initiative, entrepreneurialism and vision which is needed to allow viable farming to continue, keep rural communities alive and ensure the supply of excellent Irish produce.
Glenilen Farm, Drimoleague, West Cork www.glenilen.com
Tel: 028 31179
MICHAEL MCGRATH BUTCHER
Michael McGraths grandfathers family were butchers in Cappoquinn. His grandfather came to Lismore in 1900 and set-up a butcher shop, in the exact spot where it remains today. Michaels son John, who now works in the shop, is the fourth generation on the premises. Michael himself started doing jobs in the shop as a child, so has essentially been there for 50 years. He left school in 1965 and spent a few years on the family farm before starting work full-time in the shop in 1970.
Traditionally they would have been beef and lamb butchers and this is still very much their area of specialisation. The McGraths buy in young cattle to fatten on their own farm and slaughter themselves. They also slaughter lamb. The abattoir behind the shop has been there from the beginning and is one of the very few around the country which survive today. A new slaughterhouse was built on the premises in 1992 to meet EU standards.
Michael McGrath has seen huge changes over the years. According to him; the supermarkets altered everything, but luckily we stuck with it. We have old, loyal customers who never went away, never changed.
In terms of product, where once they were traditional beef and lamb butchers, buying in only bacon, twenty years ago they started buying in pork and now also buy in chickens from Cappoquinn. They still butcher in the old way and sell they old style cuts – but, according to Michael, can cut in the modern way if they are asked. This might include trimming a rack of lamb in the French style or boning out legs of lamb. A major part of their business is providing the important service to local farmers of slaughtering the animals, and butchering them for freezing. They sell only fresh meats and have no cooked products – therefore avoiding many of the problems from the health authorities that come into play when there is risk of cross-contamination.
A nominating Euro-toques chef described Michael McGrath as a brilliant traditional butcher, selling well-hung meat from his own farm and abattoir.
The disappearance of small abattoirs and the challenges facing small butchers due to increased legislation and bureaucracy over recent years is an issue of grave concern to Euro-toques, and local butchers are consistently identified by member chefs as their most valued suppliers. Euro-toques recognised and commended Michael McGrath for carrying on this vital trade which is so central to Irelands food heritage and held him up as an example of something which needs to be recognised and protected.
Michael McGrath Butchers, Main Street, Lismore, Co. Waterford
Tel: 058 54350
Flahavans of Kilmacthomas have been milling oats for over 200 years in much the same way that they do today. There has been an oats mill at Kilmacthomas since the late 1700s. The Flahavan family took over around 1880 and were descendants of the original owners. In fact the present Flahavans are the sixth consecutive generation to run the mill and Flahavans is one of the oldest private family-owned food companies in Ireland.
Originally the power for the mill came from the nearby river Mahon which at one time also powered four other millsbetween its source in the Comeragh Mountains and joining the sea at Bonmahon. Flahavans have lately re harnessed the water from the original mill stream of the river Mahon to generate a proportion of the electricity to power the mill. More dramatically they have also lately started to use the chaff or outer shell of the oats, previously thought to be a useless by-product, burning it in specially adapted furnaces to generate steam needed for drying the oats, steaming the pinhead oatmeal, drying the flakes and also heating the mill premises and offices. Therefore Flahavans oats are milled in an exceptionally environmentally friendly manner. In addition the packaging of their new range, with its distinctive retro feel derived from an original Flahavan design from the 1940s, is made using recycled paper.
Flahavans brands are resonant of tradition and integrity, with a range of totally natural locally grown cereals. Although they have grown to be a large company, their range of oats and cereals to be found on almost every supermarket and shop shelf and employing 45 people, they have maintained traditional production methods and high level of quality. Flahavans is Irelands most efficient oat mill and sources all its raw materials from an approved panel of local growers. It is also involved in growing and processing a distinctive Irish oat variety called Barra. Theirs is a naturally pure product, additive and preservative free. Their most recent launch is a range of certified organic porridge oats, meeting growing consumer demands for a healthy product grown guaranteed to be without pesticides and genetically modified elements.
Euro-toques commended Flahavans Mills for growing a successful consumer brand while maintaining integrity and tradition, producing an excellent quality product and being mindful of the environment.
John Flahavan, Flahavans Mills, Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford www.flahavans.ie
TERRY BUTTERLY, COASTGUARD SEAFOODS
Terry Butterly was a full-time fisherman for 35 years, operating his own trawler off the East coast. Around 1990 business got very bad and Terry decided to make the move to smaller boats, concentrating on fishing lobster and crab. During this time, he smoked salmon as a hobby and began to find that restaurants were asking him for the product. He then began to realise he could do better by processing and adding value to a product which it had become very difficult to make a living from. So he called in the EHO to check out his premises and began smoking and filleting fish and processing crab. The business built slowly and gradually, from a turnover of about 50k a year in the early days to about 300k annually now. The business is managed, run and worked solely by Terry and his wife Martina. Initially, when they began processing, they contracted out their boats and pots, but eventually sold them as the processing took up their time completely.
However, having fished for so long Terry knows exactly where all the fish comes from and, in his own words, knowsall the tricks of the trade, which ensures that he can identify the freshest, highest quality fish to provide to his customers. He can identify, for example, several different types of prawns coming from different areas of the coast, and is able to tell chefs where they have come from, what the quality will be like, what the meat to shell ratio is etc.
Coastguard Seafoods is based in Annagassan, Co. Louth and services an areas stretching roughly from Newry to Greystones. Amongst their clients are top Euro-toques restaurants like Bang Café, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, LEcrivain and Chapter One. But Terry is not known simply for supplying top quality fresh seafood; he has been recognised by his Euro-toques customers for the additional and important service he provides by giving information to chefs about the seasonality and availability of fish. Terry has recognised the great importance of these issues in his industry and believes it will take quite some time for many stocks to recover their previous numbers through the quota system. In the meantime, he delivers his fish personally and tries to speak to the chefs about what they should be putting on the menu, what is widely available in the particular period, but what would be better left alone.
One Euro-toques chef commented he is a highly committed and takes a keen interest in conservation. He offers more than just a product, but provides chefs with essential information about seasonality and availability of fish, and this is central to how Euro-toques chefs operate. And it is for this special contribution that Terry Butterly of Coastguard Seafoods has commended with a Euro-toques/Cavan Crystal Hotel Food Award.
Terry Butterly, Coastguard Seafoods, Harbour Road, Annagassan, Co. Louth
Tel: 086 8558609/042 9372527
DITTYS HOME BAKERY
Dittys of Castledawson is a thriving 3rd generation bakery which is committed to promoting Irelands unique bakery tradition, placing an emphasis on local ingredients and artisan producers throughout Ireland. The business, now run by Robert Ditty and his wife Helen along with their nephew, was started by Roberts father in 1963, and has survived very difficult times in Northern Ireland. Robert obtained a degree in Fine Art, but always worked from time to time in the bakery. During his studies he took a gap year and gained experience working in patisseries and boulangeries in the North of France. He returned to Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles and eventually joined the family business full-time when his art studio in Castledawson was destroyed by a bomb.
Robert himself comments that during this time Northern Ireland was something of a backwater and somewhat cut-off from what was happening in the rest of the world, so he tried to do exciting things in the shop. However, this relative isolation may also have been something of a blessing in that in some sense the region escaped some of the effects of globalisation and its diversity was protected. Robert re-examined what they were doing and recognised that Ulster had its own range of ethnic breads which many people had forgotten. He made a conscious decision to concentrate on these and to protect their regional diversity.
Therefore, if you visit Dittys Bakery in Castledawson, or their newer branch in Magherafelt, you will find a range of traditional Northern Irish breads, such as soda farls, potato farls and pancakes, made by hand and baked on griddles freshly each morning.
However, Robert rightly acknowledges that these traditional breads do not keep or travel well – you have to come up to Ulster if you want to have the real thing – so he also expanded into niche markets to develop his business. This led to the development of their renowned range of oatcakes and biscuits found in delis throughout the country.
Dittys famous Traditional & Smoked Oatcakes are a credit to Dittys close relationship with traditional smokehouses, organic dairies and local farmers. Keen to continue innovation, growth & artisan partnership, Dittys has recently launched a cheese oatcake made with Gubbeen Irish Farmhouse cheese from Schull, Co. Cork.
Dittys is also a member of the The Artisan Bakers of Northern Ireland, group of independent craft bakers committed to producing authentic and unique Northern Irish breads, cakes and biscuits.
Dittys Home Bakery was recognised by Euro-toques for its important work in protecting regional diversity and traditional production methods, for developing quality Irish products and for working in partnership with other quality artisan producers.
Robert & Helen Ditty, Dittys Home Bakery & Coffee Shop, 44 Main Street, Castledawson, Northern Ireland BT45 8AB www.dittysbakery.com
Tel. 028 79 468243
The recipient of this years Special Contribution is a cook, teacher, food writer, newspaper columnist, cookbook author and one time television presenter. She could also be described as an activist, lobbyist and campaigner. On top of all this she owns and runs Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co. Cork, along with its organic farm and gardens.
Ballymaloe Cookery School was established in 1983 and Darina Allen soon became Irelands most famous cook, presenting eight series of her cookery programme Simply Delicious, which introduced Irish home cooks to a wealth of simple recipes from home and abroad, based on the use of top quality ingredients. The programmes were accompanied by a series of best-selling cookery books authored by Darina. Her later books, including Irish Traditional Cooking, A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School and Ballymaloe Seasons are amongst the best culinary publications this country has seen, promoting the important concepts of seasonal and local sourcing of ingredients.
Over the years the Ballymaloe Cookery School has gained international renown. As well as a range of short courses for the avid cook, the school offers a highly recognised 12 week professional certificate course. One high profile Euro-toques chef commented that graduates of this course are in a league of their own in terms of their knowledge and ability and at Slowfoods Terra Madre last year, renowned Californian chef Alice Waters said that she would be happy to employ anyone who had qualified in Darinas school – high praise indeed. Also highly commendable are the series of Forgotten Skills course now offered at Ballymaloe, including subjects such as How to keep a few chickens in the garden, How to keep Bees and have your own honey, How to cure a pig in a day and home butchery. The school is situated on organic gardens and farm, where Aberdeen Angus, Jersey and Kerry Cattle, Pigs and free-range poultry are raised.
Amongst many other things Darina Allen is a prominent member of the Slowfood movement, a long-time member of Euro-toques, a trustee of the Irish Organic Centre and a patron of Irish Seedsavers. She sits on the TASTE Council of Bord Bia and the Artisan Forum of the FSAI. She is the chair of Midleton Farmers Market, was involved in setting up some of Irelands first Farmers markets and works tirelessly on an on-going basis to assist with the setting up and development of new markets. She is also vigorously opposed to the growing of GM crops in Ireland. She is a tireless ambassador for Irish food at home and abroad and her energy and commitment knows no bounds.
The industry is indebted to Darina Allen for all that she is done in protecting and enhancing the standard of Irish food and the Irish culinary scene.
Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry. Midleton. Co. Cork
021 4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie