2012 EirGrid Euro-Toques Food Awards announced, as Euro-Toques chefs say, ‘Irish Farmers..WE WANT YOU’

28th May 2012

PRESS RELEASE, Monday, 28 May 2012

 Chefs seek Local Farmers for ‘No Strings Attached’ relationship, maybe more…..

 Taste Top of the Agenda as Chefs tell Irish Farmers;

“We want your produce and we’re willing to well pay for it”

at the 2012 EirGrid Euro-toques Food Awards

 Ella McSweeney was the host at today’s Euro-toques Food Awards, sponsored by EirGrid. The awards, honouring Irish farmers and food producers, were announced at a reception in Residence Club on St. Stephen’s Green this afternoon.

Euro-toques used the occasion to call on small and medium Irish farms to supply the restaurant trade, saying their chefs are willing to pay for quality. Around 70% of food purchased by Euro-toques chefs is of Irish originbut they want more.  They say that more farmers could supply direct to market and that such farmers need to be taken more seriously and can have a significant place in Irish agriculture.

We believe there is great potential for ordinary Irish farmers to supply restaurants, in combination with other direct markets, and get a better price for their product. We have seen many farmers, like two of the award winners here today, do this successfully”, Says Ruth Hegarty, Secretary-General of Euro-toques Ireland

“Farmers who choose to supply direct need to be taken more seriously. They are normal farmers who care about what they do and want to continue farming. They are just looking at alternative ways of making it viable. It is a legitimate business model and it can work. Irish restaurants can provide a platform to help them”.

Two such farmers honoured at today’s awards are:

  • Ronan Byrne, AKA The Friendly Farmer from Athenry, Co. Galway who took over his family’s 35 acre beef farm and now directly markets a range of meats, primarily his Pasture Chickens for which he won the Euro-toques award, and
  • David Burns of Richmount Farm in Co. Longford who grows Sweetcorn, in season for just 6 weeks a year. After a ‘bad experience’ trying to sell to a large retailer, he now sells direct, mainly to restaurants, and his corn is much sought after by chefs.

Two further Producer awards were presented today to:

  • Anna Leveque of Triskel Cheese who produces a range of French-style soft goats cheese from locally sourced milk in Portlaw, Co. Waterford, and
  • Manus McGonagle of Quality Sea Veg who hand-harvests seaweed on the Donegal coast. This award also included a Special Acknowledgement for Dr. Prannie Rhatigan from County Sligo, author of Irish Seaweed Kitchen, for her promotion of culinary use of Irish seaweed.

A Special Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Food was made to former chef and founding member of Euro-toques Ireland, Gerry Galvin of Oughterard, Co. Galway for his contribution to the development of an Irish cuisine and to the education and training of many other chefs.

The EirGrid Euro-toques Food Awards are unique in that each potential recipient must be nominated by a Euro-toques member chef. The Euro-toques Food Council, made up of 10 chefs from all over Ireland, then tastes, investigates and carries out visits before choosing winners each year. All of today’s winners have products with outstanding taste and quality, which are produced or harvested with consideration for the environment and local food traditions.

Euro-toques Ireland has 180 Chef-owner and Head chef members, representing 150 restaurant kitchens and the approximately 2,200 chefs on their staff, all of whom are committed to quality local and seasonal food sourcing. A survey of members carried last week showed they collectively serve almost 200,000 meals a week and have a combined food buying power of over €100m per year. When asked how much of what they buy is of Irish origin, members estimated they were buying on average 68% Irish goods.  Those members who have actual figures for spend on Irish goods could show an average of 73% of food purchases were Irish.

But they say they would like to buy even more Irish produce and struggle to get certain items that could be produced here. The main items that Euro-toques chefs said they would like to source locally but cannot get are: poultry products, specifically poultry from small-scale outdoor/free range systems, free range and rare breed pork, and various varieties of vegetables, herbs and salads. Even different potato varieties, suited to specific culinary uses, are difficult to source commercially in Ireland.

“What we are looking for is taste and quality, and we know we can get this from Irish farms and food producers. Today’s winners are all meeting a demand that is out there from chefs, and consumers”.

Said Gearoid Lynch, Chef/Proprietor of the Olde Post Inn in County Cavan and current President of Euro-toques Ireland, speaking at today’s reception.

“We are inviting Irish farmers into our kitchens. Tell us what you have, ask us what we are looking for, work together with us. For Euro-toques, chef and producer are in an equal partnership. Our message to Irish farmers today is this: We can give you a market for your produce and we will pay you a fair price for quality.”

This is the third year that EirGrid has sponsored the Euro-toques Food Awards.  As operator of the national electricity transmission system, EirGrid engages with the farming community on a regular basis.  Indeed, it could not carry out its function without the co-operation of the farming community across whose lands much of the electricity transmission system is located.

“We share the same values as Euro-toques, fostering job creation and indigenous rural enterprise development”, Said Dermot Byrne, CEO EirGrid, “EirGrid congratulates all the winners of this year’s Food Awards and commends Euro-toques for its ongoing commitment to enhancing Ireland’s culinary heritage”.

Award recipients took part in a photo call on O’Connell Street this morning and received their awards from the Euro-toques chefs in the ceremony hosted by Ella McSweeney in Residence Club in St. Stephen’s Green this afternoon. Canapés featuring the winning food products were created for the event by Residence chefs and Euro-toques members Graham Neville & Peter Everett.

ENDS

(FURTHER DETAILS ON AWARD RECIPIENTS BELOW)

For more information please contact Ruth Hegarty on 085 8520760 or ruth@euro-toques.ie

Follow the event on Twitter: @eurotoquesirl #etfoodawards

See PHOTOS at http://www.facebook.com/eurotoquesireland/photos 

About Euro-Toques:

Euro-toques – the European Community of Chefs – was established in Brussels in 1986 by the top chefs in the region. Their purpose was to form a network of chefs committed to quality local food sourcing and to be a voice for the industry to protect Europe’s traditional foods and culinary heritage.

Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House was one of the founding members and went on to found Euro-toques Ireland the same year. Euro-toques Ireland lobbies on a variety of food policy issues and is heavily involved in education, focussing on food education for children and skills training for chefs, in addition to organising food-related events and activities for both industry and the public.

www.euro-toques.ie

About EirGrid:

EirGrid plc is a leading Irish energy business, dedicated to the provision of transmission and market services for the benefit of electricity consumers. It is a state-owned commercial company.

EirGrid is committed to delivering high quality services to all customers, including generators, suppliers and consumers across the high voltage electricity system and via the efficient operation of the wholesale power market. It puts in place the grid infrastructure needed to support competition in energy, to promote economic growth, to facilitate more renewable energy, and to provide essential services.

About the EirGrid Euro-toques Food Awards:

The Euro-toques Food Awards have been in existence since 1996. Their purpose is for Euro-toques chefs to identify the very best food being produced in Ireland for the benefit of fellow chefs and consumers, and above all the producers themselves, who are often very small operators. In doing this they seek to highlight foods and production methods that may be in danger of being lost and to promote people who were producing food of the very highest quality and, above all, the best taste. Producers are nominated by Euro-Toques member chefs who use their produce on their menu. The Euro-toques Food Council made up of 10 chefs from across Ireland carry out tastings, investigations and visits before choosing 5 winners each year.

The awards have been sponsored by EirGrid since 2010.

__________________________________________________________________________________

2012 Food Award Recipient Profiles (Detailed profiles on individual recipients are available on request)

The Friendly Farmer

What?             Pasture Chickens, reared by the Friendly Farmer. He also produces free range pigs, turkey and geese at Christmas, ducks seasonally and some beef.

Who?              Ronan Byrne, farming the 35 acres which once belonged to his grandparents

Where?           Knockbrack, Athenry, Co. Galway

The produce is available to buy:

CONSUMERS: Buy it direct from the farm, at Farmers Markets in Galway and Moycullen, from selected retailers including McGeough’s Butchers, Oughterard or order online at http://thefriendlyfarmer.blogspot.com/

                        CHEFS: Order direct from Ronan Byrne

Contact            Ronan Byrne 087 620 3765  thefriendlyfarmer@gmail.com T: @thefriendlyfarmer

Nominated By:           JP McMahon of Cava Restaurant Galway and John Coffey of Thyme Restaurant, Athlone

The Friendly Farmer AKA Ronan Byrne, farms 35 acres outside Athenry in Galway. It is a traditional mixed farm (pigs, beef cattle, seasonal turkeys, geese, ducks), but the main focus is on pasture-reared chickens for which he received today’s award. Ronan grew up on the farm and pursued studies in Agri-business & Marketing, spending some time working away from the farm in finance, marketing and promotions, before ultimately being drawn back to farming. In 2007 he had the opportunity to manage a large-scale dairy farm in Poland and during his two and a half years there he pondered how he could make the family farm viable. He finally realised that he wanted to produce good quality food for the local market and decided to focus on chicken. Returning to Athenry, he established himself as The Friendly Farmer in 2007.

He produces 115 hubbard chickens a week in a grass based system where they entire flock has easy outdoor access. These are sold direct from the farm, online, and in Galway and Moycullen Farmers markets. He also sells to a number of good restaurants in Galway, Roscommon, Athlone and even one in Donegal.

In a blind taste test Euro-toques chefs commended the taste and quality of his chickens. Chickens of this kind are highly sought after by Euro-toques chefs and demand far outweighs supply. This is precisely the kind of product they are looking for.

DAVID BURNS, RICHMOUNT FARM

What?             Sweetcorn, plain and simple

Who?              David Burns, originally a dairy farmer

Where?                Richmount Farm, Carrickboy, Co. Longford

Available to order direct from David Burns

When?             The sweetcorn is in season from September to mid-late October.

Contact                David Burns 087 8316688 dwb@iol.ie      Twitter: @dwb154

Nominated by:            Ross Lewis of Chapter One Restaurant, Dublin and Gary O’Hanlon of Viewmount House, Longford

David Burns of Richmount Farm in Carrickboy, Co. Longford was a dairy farmer for 30 years. In the latter years of his dairying (from which he has now retired) he produced intensively for winter milk and therefore began growing his own crop of maize for fodder. He continues to grow maize fodder for other farmers, and his crop even feeds the gorillas and elepahnts at Dublin Zoo.

About 9 years ago, it was suggested to him that he might also trying growing sweetcorn. The first crop grew successfully and was met with huge enthusiasm from neighbours and friends, which spurred David on to sow it again the following year. Having sold into a supermarket chain for one season, which was a “very bad experience”, David decided to go direct to market. He and his wide Martina began selling at farmers markets around Dublin and were assisted by chef Gary O’Hanlon of Viewmount House who made a sweetcorn soup for them to sell. At Dun Laoghaire Farmers Market they were discovered by another chef, Ross Lewis of Chapter One, who convinced them to supply him direct and their business took on a new direction, primarily supplying restaurants. They now have a waiting list of chefs interested in buying their corn during the short 6-8 week season on Sept/Oct and David envisages all of the 2012 crop will go to restaurants – who pay 3 times the price the supermarket was paying. His USP is that he picks the corn in the afternoon and delivers it to the chef that evening. “With sweetcorn”, he says, “Freshness is everything”.

Euro-toques commended David Burns for taking the brave step of diversifying his farm activity and taking his produce direct to market, and for supplying chefs with a fresh seasonal Irish ingredient in peak condition.

TRISKEL GOATS CHEESE

What?             Range of Hand-ladled French-style soft goats cheeses and a semi-hard cow’s cheese, made with locally sourced milk

Who?              Cheeses are all hand-made by Anna Leveque, originally from Brittany

Where?                Made in Portlaw, Co. Waterford

Available to buy

FOR CHEFS: Supplied direct to local restaurants and via La Rousse Foods & Sheridans.

FOR CONSUMERS: Available at Sheridans outlets, including Ardkeen Stores, in the English Market at On the Pig’s Back and in Ballymaloe Cookery School shop. It is also available at Farmer’s Markets in Midleton, Mahon Point, Kinsale, Mallow and Douglas.

Contact                Anna Leveque triskelcheese@hotmail.com 086 0744534

Nominated by:            Michael Quinn of Waterford Castle

Triskel Cheeses are made by Breton woman Anna Leveque in a small production unit at her home in Portlaw, Co. Waterford.

She spent much of her youth on her grandparents dairy farm in Brittany and went on to study agriculture in France. During her studies she worked on job placement for 6 months with Teagasc in Kildalton College and returned to work there when her studies were completed. During this time she had the chance to work with many Irish goat farmers and later she also spent time with a number of Irish cheesemakers. Finally, in 2009, her long term interest in and passion for dairying and cheese-making culminated in her setting up her own production unit. After much experimentation Triskel Cheese was born, and it was not long before chefs and food-lovers began to discover Anna’s wonderful range of French style soft goats cheeses.

The 3 Triskel Goats cheeses (Pyramid, Crottin & Bouche) are made from milk sourced from a goat farm in Camolin, Co. Wexford and the curds are hand-ladled into the moulds in the typical French way. She also produces a semi-hard cow’s cheese, Gwenned, using milk sourced locally in Kilmeaden.

Euro-toques recognised Triskel Cheeses as a unique style in the Irish cheese repertoire, both subtle and distinctive in taste and of excellent quality. They singled it out as an outstanding Irish product, handmade using traditional methods and locally sourced raw materials.

Anna & her partner Philip Little, an apple farmer from Portlaw, attended the awards with their 10 day old first baby, Lucie.

Quality Sea Veg

What?             Quality Sea Veg – a range of hand-harvested & air-dried seaweed products.

Who?              Manus McGonagle, who has harvested seaweed on the Donegal coast since he was a child

Where?                       Burtonport, Co. Donegal

Available to order via the website www.qualityseaveg.ie  or by phone 074 9542159

Contact                       Manus McGonagle 074 9542159 qualityseaveg@eircom.net

Nominated by: Kelan McMichael of Rathmullan House

Manus McGonagle, from Burtonport Co. Donegal, spent many summers in his childhood collecting Dulse and Carrageen seaweeds on the rocky Donegal shoreline with his father, who did this as a summer occupation throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s. They would dry the seaweed on rocks and sell it to local shops. Both seaweeds were popular in the locality at the time, the Dulse as a snack and Carrageen for use in desserts and as a traditional cough remedy. But Manus also felt there was greater potential there; to harvest a greater variety of seaweeds, all year round, and sell them further afield. Having qualified as an engineer he eventually returned to Donegal and established Quality Sea Veg, his purpose to harvest the best Sea Vegetables from the pristine Atlantic waters off the Donegal coast to meet an increasing demands in Ireland and overseas. While his purpose built modern factory uses up to date technologies, all the seaweeds are hand-harvested in the traditional way, with Manus and one other full-time harvester wading waist deep in the cold Atlantic waters or climbing slippery rock slopes to cut the seaweed. They now harvest 10 varieties commercially and, as well as online and retails sales in Ireland, have distributors in the UK and Germany and customers in many other countries.

Euro-Toques wish to recognise Manus McGonagle of Quality Sea Veg with a 2012 EirGrid/Euro-toques food award for an outstanding indigenous Irish product which is true to the traditions of his native coastal Donegal and exploits a natural resource in a way which is sustainable to produce a nutritious and useful product

As part of this award, Euro-toques also gave a SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT to Dr. Prannie Rhatigan, author of Irish Seaweed Kitchen, for her contribution to reviving the culinary use of seaweed in Ireland. Prannie is a medical doctor who grew up on the West Coast of Ireland and throughout her childhood she was aware of the culinary uses and health properties of seaweed. She spent several years researching her book, which contains her own recipes along with some from Ireland’s top chefs.

SPECIAL AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO IRISH FOOD

Gerry Galvin, Oughterard, Co. Galway

Former chef & restaurant owner, food writer, poet, novelist

Gerry Galvin, originally from Drumcollogher Co. Limerick, is a chef and former owner of renowned restaurants The Vintage in Kinsale (opened 1974) and Drimcong House in Moycullen. Co. Galway (opened 1984), together with his wife Marie. He is also a food writer, poet and novelist. He wrote two cookery books, Drimcong Food Affair (1992) and Everyday Gourmet (1997) and has edited and contributed to a range of food publications. In 2010 he brought out a collection of poems entitled ‘No Recipe’ and last year published his debut novel ‘Killer a la Carte’.

Gerry was a founder of Euro-toques Ireland, along with Mytle Allen of Ballymaloe House, and previously the organisation’s Commissioner-General (President). He was also a founding member of the Kinsale Food Circle and Kinsale Gourmet Festival, Ireland’s first food-focussed festival.

Within the industry Gerry Galvin is recognised as being one of the central contributors to the creation of a distinctive Irish cuisine and restaurant scene, and was a significant influence on the many chefs who trained under him and ate in his restaurants.

He was recognised with a Special Award from Euro-toques today for his very significant contribution to the Irish food scene and to the education of Irish chefs.

Gerry, now retired as a chef, lives in Oughterard, Co. Galway with his wife Marie. He is working on his second novel.

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