Euro-toques/Cavan Crystal 2006 Food Awards presented by Rachel Allen

13th Nov 2006

At the Westin Hotel Dublin today Irelands top Chefs organisation, Euro-toques, honoured five food producers and individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the standard and quality of food available in Ireland today. The nnual event is sponsored by Cavan Crystal Design and the Cavan Crystal Hotel. This years awards were presented by Rachel Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School and RTE Television.

Welcoming guests at the event Commissioner-General of Euro-toques Ireland Martin Dwyer commented: These annual awards are central to what Euro-toques is all about. Our aim is to protect and promote small artisan producers. These awards are a way of recognising some of the best and showing our gratitude to them for providing us with the raw materials we need to produce excellent food. Mr. Dwyer stressed the difficulties faced by many small food producers and appealed to the authorities to recognise traditional and artisan methods of food production and to ensure legislation takes account of them.

Three of todays awards went to small food producers for the excellent standard of their products; they were Glebe Brethan cheese from Tiernan Family Farm in Dunleer, Co. Louth, Ariosa Coffee Company in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, and Born Free Chickens, a joint venture between two free range organic chickens producers, Paul Crotty in Dunmore East, Co. Waterford and Dan & JJ Ahern in Dungourney, Co. Cork. Two further commendations were awarded to individuals for their contribution to the Irish food scene; the first to Louis Smith, a culinary arts lecturer at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and self-educated mushroom expert, who has shared his vast knowledge and passion for Irish edible mushrooms with many chefs, and the second to Veronica Steele of Milleens cheese, who is thought of as the mother of Irish Farmhouse cheese. Veronica began producing Milleens in the Seventies when no other Irish farmhouse cheese was available and taught many of Irelands top cheese producers the art of cheese-making.

We have plenty to be proud of in terms of Irish food today, Rachel Allen said when presenting todays awards, but we would never have reached this point without the tireless determination of a small group of passionate people. These annual awards recognise those who have paved the way and those who continue to work to ensure the availability of excellent food.

Representatives of the main food bodies, top chefs, producers and media gathered for the champagne reception and award ceremony, followed by a lunch prepared by Euro-toques chef Darrin Parrish. Each award winner was presented with a specially commissioned engraved award piece from Cavan Crystal Design. Siobhan Smyth, General Manager of the Cavan Crystal Hotel who sponsor the awards along with Cavan Crystal Design, commented; We join with Euro-toques today in commending the high standards and special contribution of the five award winners. We are delighted to be able to support this event.

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 and now has almost 200 members including Darina Allen, Neven Maguire, Derry Clarke of LEcrivain, Ross Lewis Of Chapter One and Guillaume LeBrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

AWARD RECIPIENTS

Louis Smith

Louis Smith is a lecturer in Culinary Arts in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). He was first introduced to fresh wild forest mushrooms while gaining work experience as a chef in hotels in northern Europe where they were always on the menu in Autumn and Louis would go to the forest with friends to pick Ceps and Chanterelle. Returning to Ireland, Louis found fresh wild mushrooms were not available to buy and spent many years seeking out edible varieties in forests and woodlands throughout the country. At first he sought the two mushrooms he knew, cep and chanterelle, but as he did not immediately find these he kept searching and trying new varieties resulting in a great knowledge of the wide selection of edible mushrooms available in Irish woodlands. He has studied them passionately and developed a detailed and scientific approach to identifying them.

In 1995 Louis obtained an internal research grant in GMIT to study wild edible mushrooms growing in the west of Ireland. During this period he also gained further knowledge from research in Finland. By this point he had found and eaten over 30 varieties of edible mushroom including many ceps and chanterelle. Louis also gained a first class honours B.A in Education with a dissertation on wild edible forest mushrooms of Ireland. At this time Louis also began taking Euro-toques and other groups on annual mushroom hunts. He also knew where to find edible mushrooms in large quantities and encouraged some Galway chefs to put them on their menus. At the same time he developed recipes utilising the mushrooms with his students in GMIT.

Louis sits on the Working Group on Edible Forest Fungi, a group of mycologists (or mushroom experts) brought together by the National council for Forest Research (Cofort). Louis is currently being sponsored by Cofort to write a book about wild edible forest mushrooms of Ireland and is dedicated to the aim of educating people in Ireland about the wild mushrooms available here. Central to this is the preservation of forests where they grow. Looking to the future Louis hopes, through the Working Group, to promote growth of wild mushrooms and encourage their harvesting and sale in local markets and restaurants.

For enquires, contact Louis on 091 790638 (Home), 091 742317 (Work) or 087 9372309

Ariosa Coffee Company

Michael Kelly, of the Ariosa Coffee Company, first developed his interest in coffee while working in cafes of New York and Sydney, where people were serious and passionate about their coffee. While in Sydney he approached the speciality roaster supplying the café where he worked and learned about roasting and blending their Italian head roaster. In 2003 he bought a coffee roaster and returned home to Ashbourne to begin roasting his won coffee and selling in farmers markets.

On a visit to Ariosas premises in March, Euro-toques chefs were hugely impressed by Michaels passion for coffee and his extensive knowledge of different coffee varieties and blends, roasting methods, and most of all his dedication to ethical sourcing of coffee. The Ariosa Coffee Company bypasses the coffee commodities market to buy the highest grade beans directly from worlds best growers in South America, Africa and Indonesia. Michael then applies a traditional, slow approach to roasting, ensuring that the distinctiveness of each type of bean is accentuated by the process. The beans are rested to fully develop the flavour then packaged in simple and sophisticated bags in whatever quantity is required. Michael sells several single origin coffees, as well as four of his own specialty blends; Achill, Blasket, Iona and Sherkin, which is decaffeinated using a chemical free method.

Ariosa has recently been certified as an organic roaster by the Organic Trust

Contact Ariosa Coffee Company on 01 8353078 or info@ariosacoffee.com

Or see http://www.ariosacoffee.com

Glebe Brethan Cheese

The Tiernan family have had their dairy farm in Dunleer, Co. Louth for four generations, but in recent years found it increasingly difficult to make a good living from the farm. Having upgraded the herd with pedigree Montbeliarde stock to enhance the quality of the milk, they found that producing top quality premium milk did not earn an equitable price. On a recent trip to the Besancon area of France, David & Mairead Tiernan were impressed by the passion of farmers and cheesemakers alike and inspired to do something to add value to their high quality milk and revive their livelihood on the farm. After spending some time researching cheesemaking in France, and sourcing both equipment and a young cheesemaker called Julien, they converted the old dairy and began producing cheese on their farm in 2004.

What the Tiernans have achieved in the space of the two years since is truly astounding. David Tiernan is now producing the fabulous Comté-style Glebe Brethan, a raw milk cheese produced entirely from the milk of the Tiernans own Montbeliarde cows which graze openly on pastures in the summer and are fed on cereals grown on the farm by Davids brother Pat, ensuring the Tiernans know exactly what goes into the cheese in every step of its production. The cheese is produced in the traditional way in copper vats and each wheel weighs about 45kg. The wheels are hand-turned and salted producing a natural rind. It can be eaten after 4 months maturing, at which point it is mellow, fruity and creamy, or can be matured for longer (up to a maximum of 30 months) to develop its aromatic nutty and spicy flavours.

Contact the Tiernans on 041 6851157 or maireadtiernan@eircom.net

Born Free Chickens

Born Free Chickens is a marketing and distribution partnership formed between two producers of Organic Free range chickens, Paul Crotty in Dunmore East, co. Waterford and brothers Dan & JJ Ahern in Dungourney in Co. Cork.

Each converted their farm to organic in the late 1990s due to concerns about sprays being used on crops and because their ethos leaned very much towards organic. Costs on the conventional farms were high and profits were very low. They decided to convert completely to the organic system and sell direct, hopefully bringing a little more of the profit from their products into their own pockets. They now produce high quality chickens, which are importantly both organic and free range, and fed on organic grain grown on their own farms or from on organic mill in Baltinglass. Having converted to the organic, neither would ever go back.

Both producers saw huge potential for expanding their organic chicken, but there were many stumbling blocks to doing so on their own. The financial investment was high, there was a lot of risk and there were major time and logistical problems. Both were engaged full-time in running their individual farms and did not have the time to spare to invest in marketing and distribution. So in 2002, they came together to market their free range organic chickens under the Born Free brand.

They now sell their chickens directly to restaurants and retail outlets throughout Dublin and the east and south coasts as far as west cork. Their chickens even get as far as Leitrim. They have their own delivery van and do their own marketing and sales. When they started off working together in 2002 they produced an average of 250 birds a week between them. Four years later that number has risen to between 900-1000 per week.

Born Free Chickens are recognised by some of the top chefs in the country as being an excellent product and these producers are to be highly commended for not only producing a top quality food, but for their foresight in working together to take on a difficult market.

Contact Born Free Chickens:

Waterford (Paul Crotty) 087 2792613

Cork (JJ Ahern) 086 8285605 or (Dan Ahern) 086 1659258.

Veronica Steele

Originally from Dublin, Veronica married Norman Steele, settled in West Cork, and began producing cheese in 1976. In her own words, her idea came to her because there was nothing to eat: nothing interesting. The Steeles bought a farm and a cow named Brisket who produced three gallons of milk a day. Obtaining some leaflets from the Department of Agriculture and a very useful book by John Ehle called Cheese and Wines of England and France with notes on Irish Whiskey, Veronica began experimenting with cheese-making.

At first, reminiscing on the great cheddar cheese once available in the old shop in Castletownbere, before it became a supermarket, Veronica made cheddar cheeses. After two years, her husband Norman suggested she try a soft cheese and, after some further experimentation, Milleens was born. Milleens made its restaurant debut in the Blue Bull restaurant in Sneem, where it was discovered by Declan Ryan of Arbutus Lodge and later Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe. Both put it on their menus and Milleens sprung onto the market as the one and only Irish Farmhouse Cheese.

In 1978 Veronica confided in Declan Ryan that her dream was to see a genuine regional cheese industry in Ireland within the twenty years. Only eight years later Veronica wrote; Milleens is no longer lonely as a cloud but forms a nucleus for the whole industry…A generation of new cheeses has developed in its wake.

But this did not happen by accident. Throughout the seventies, Veronicas home was open to anyone who wanted to learn cheese-making. She taught many of Irelands foremost farmhouse cheesemakers how to make cheese. Sometimes she charged them £10 for the day, including lunch, but mostly she did it for free.

Ireland now has a selection of high quality artisan and farmhouse cheeses to rival almost any country and new ones are appearing all the time. This movement was truly pioneered by Veronica Steele and Milleens is thought of as the cheese where the story of modern Irish farmhouse cheese making begins.

Milleens is still a family business, the cheese now being produced by Veronica and Normans son Quinlan Steele.

Contact Milleens on 027 74079 or milleens@eircom.net

Or see http://www.milleenscheese.com

ENDS

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