17th Nov 2008
Top chefs called on the catering industry to look towards quality local producers and think about the real cost of cheap food, at the 12th annual Euro-toques Food Awards in the Westin Hotel Dublin today, sponsored by Taste Festivals Ireland. This is the first time that the awards have been sponsored by Taste Festival Ireland, the organisers of Taste of Dublin and Taste of Cork the ultimate summer food and drink events.
Speaking at the event Euro-toques Commissioner-General Lorcan Cribbin, who is also Head Chef at Dublins Bang Cafe, said that is was understandable that people would look for the cheaper options in these difficult times, but thatit makes more sense than ever to look towards quality, local food which can often represent better value. The catering industry should try to lead the way in choosing quality over quantity and providing wholesome, responsibly produced food to consumers.
Each year the Euro-toques chefs nominate and select a small number of outstanding food producers who provide an excellent product or service to chefs and consumers.
These producers manage to combine the best of artisan, traditional and natural methods with the modern demands of food production. They take into account concerns like environmental impact, animal welfare and sustainability. What they do is all about quality and taste. These people are to be commended and respected. They raise the bar for all food producers and indeed for chefs; said Cribbin.
Todays awards, which were hosted Senator David Norris, included:
· Bakers of the Waterford Blaa
Four bakers, M&D Bakery and Hickeys in Waterford City, Harneys of Kilmacow and Barrons of Cappoquinn, were recognised for preservation of a traditional regional product, the Waterford Blaa; a white yeast bread roll unique to Waterford City and surrounds and produced there since the 1600s.
· McGeoughs Butchers of Oughterard, Co. Galway
James McGeough was recognised for developing and producing top quality cured meats, such as his air-dried Connemara lamb, which take artisan expertise learned abroad and apply them to local Irish ingredients.
· Cloonacool Arctic Charr
This small family run fish farm in South County Sligo was recognised for producing a native fish in a way which is sustainable and respectful to the environment and natural conditions of the fish.
The inaugural Taste Festivals Excellence Award for an outstanding consumer product went to Green Saffron, spice specialists based in Midleton, Co. Cork. Green Saffron source high quality spices direct from small plantations in India on a regular basis to ensure they are as fresh as possible. Their clever ideas include providing simple authentic recipes with all their spice blends and holding Curry Nights to show people how to deal with the spices. Their conscientious attitude includes their own self-imposed Carbon off-set tax, which sees them putting a percentage of profits into schemes to off-set the carbon from the journey of their spices from India.
We are very excited to be involved with this event and to announce this partnership with the Euro-toques, commented Avril Bannerton, MD of Taste Festivals Ireland; we have worked closely with Euro-toques chefs on the Taste events and we are delighted with the opportunity to help them recognise the producers and suppliers who make their work possible.
A fifth Special Contribution awards was given to Henry ONeill, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, for his key role in establishing Euro-toques in Ireland and lobbying on behalf of small restaurants for the past 21 years.
Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food was in attendance to present the recipients with their awards.
These awards make waves among all people interested in the best of fresh local GM-free food commented the Minister, Today the vision of Euro-toques becomes a reality. Congratulations to each unique award winner and thanks to the judges and all involved for helping Ireland the Food Island achieve the highest standards internationally
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, and featuring the wining produce. Each award winner was presented with an award plaque and will receive honorary membership of Euro-toques Ireland. They will also have the opportunity of promoting their award-winning product at an exhibitors stand at Taste 2009.
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.
Hosting the awards in the Westin today, Senator Norris has this to say: I am delighted to take part in the Eurotoques Awards. Good healthy and enjoyable food is part of the healthy enjoyment of human life. Ireland always had the best raw materials and natural ingredients, to my mind its only in recent years that we have made full use of this resource.
For further information, please contact Ruth Hegarty on 01-6779995
INFORMATION FOR THE EDITOR
Taste Festivals Ireland
Held in June each year since its launch in 2006, Taste Festivals are a celebration of the most outstanding names in food and drink. City based, in unique locations, Taste brings together the citys best restaurants, food personalities, and speciality food and drinks producers. Bringing unparalleled culinary experience to over 45,000 visitors, there is no other food event like this in Ireland.
Features include celebrity chefs live cookery demonstrations, tutored wine tastings, and the opportunity to enjoy the signature dishes of the most prestigious restaurants, as well sampling from the carefully selected exhibitors and finest producers complimented by live entertainment!
Taste of Dublin Thurs 11- Sun 14 June
Taste of Cork Fri 26- Sun 28 June
Tickets on already sale from www.tastefestivals.ie or 0818 300 30 and Ticketmaster.
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.
TASTE FESTIVALS IRELAND/EURO-TOQUES FOOD AWARDS 2008
AWARD RECIPIENT INFORMATION
The Blaa, famous in the Deise County, and relatively unknown outside it, is a small white yeast bread roll, recognizable by its characteristic square shape and dusting of flour on top. It is traditionally produced and sold in Waterford City and the surrounding area and it comes in either soft or crusty variety, consumers being firmly dedicated to either the one or the other. It is eaten mainly for breakfast and up until lunchtime, and is apparently consumed by a third of Waterfords population every day.
There is some speculation about the history of the Blaa, but the Bakers themselves say it has its origin in the arrival of the Huguenots in the late 17th century, originally being produced from bits of dough left over when they made French bread. They gained popularity when Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice used them to feed the poor of Waterford, from his own bakery in Mount Sion.
Still made in the traditional way, the lean dough of the blaa contains only flour, yeast, salt and water, and needs long slow proving to develop the flavour. Being free from any preservatives or fat to keep it soft, the Blaa has a very short shelf life, is best eaten by lunchtime, and does not travel well – it therefore defies the universalising effect of the modern food industry and remains truly, and perhaps uniquely, regional.
Up to 10 years ago, 9 bakeries remained in the city that produced the Waterford Blaa. Today three of these remain, producing approximately 12,000 blaas daily for the city and surrounding area, while a fourth, Barrons Bakery, produces the blaa along with a range of other traditional breads over in Cappoquinn. Today these four bakeries were recognised for carrying on this important Waterford tradition and for continuing to produce the Blaa in the traditional way, without attempting to extend the self-life or commercialise their product.
However, having seen what a source of pride and patriotism the Blaa is to the people of Waterford – to the extent that several websites and blogs, including Mad Blaa.com and the Daily Blaa, are dedicated to it – we suspect these bakers could be putting themselves in grave danger if they ever gave it up.
The Hickeys have been running their bakery on Barrack Street in Waterford for 51 years. But Phelans Bakery stood on the same sight for about 40 years before that, so that the Blaa has been made on the premises for the best part of 100 years.
Hickeys is a small family business, initially run by Toby Hickey and now by his son Brian. They produce about 4,000 soft blaas a day which they deliver and sell in Waterford City and County.
Barrons Bakery started baking bread in Cappoquin in 1887. Today it is still with the same family, now being run by Esther Barron, and they continue use the same Scotch Brick Ovens to bake their breads in the traditional way. The Waterford Blaa is amongst their traditional offerings.
Harneys Bakery, which is ironically located in Kilmacow, Co. Kilkenny, but is only about 5 miles from Waterford, has been in existence for 200 years. It stayed in the Harney family right up until about 5 years ago, when it was taken over by Nickie Grace, who had been a baker there for 18 years, and his brother Paul. At Harneys they produce the Crusty Blaa, which is sold mainly into Waterford City.
Michael & Dermot Walsh of M&D Bakery are third generation bakers and both graduates from Kevin St National Bakery School. The have been making bread at their premises on Mount Sion Avenue in Waterford City for the past 22 years, including their famous soft blaas. So synonymous are they with this native Waterford bread roll, that Dermot is known locally as Blaa Walsh and many people dont even know his first name.
James McGeough spent 6 years training and working in Germany, where he obtained a German Masters Degree in Butchery, before returning in 1990 to join the family business.James began to experiment using the skills and inspiration he gained in Germany, producing various types of sausages and German-style meats such as Kassler, smoked bacon which he gave an Irish twist by using turf in the smoking process. His work over the years in developing German, Swiss & Italian inspired products, using the best of local Irish ingredients, has resulted in the cured, air-dried and smoked meats which he has now literally become famous for; most notably his air-dried Irish pork, lamb and beef. In addition James produces excellent Salamis, and he continues to experiment and develop new products.
The production of the air-dried and smoked meat products takes around six months. The meat is cured in local herbs, garlic, juniper berries, mint, lemon, orange and cloves which takes over five weeks. The meat is turned every second day to ensure moisture and flavour in each piece. Following the curing period, the meat is hung and air-dried for 5-6 months. In true artisan style, there is no fixed period; James will only know it is ready when he tests it.
Finally, after drying, the meat is smoked for one day using beech chips which gives McGeoughs meat products their unique and distinctive taste. Each piece of beef or lamb is handled 67 times in the production process and loses 64% of its weight in the drying.
McGeoughs now have a purpose-built EU approved manufacturing unit, dedicated to producing their cured meats. James has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the science behind the process, and the strict requirements in terms of hygiene and traceability, and visits Germany and Switzerland on a regular basis to develop his skills and learn from his mentors there. He is deeply passionate about what he does and committed to constantly improving and being the best.
James McGeough is one of our truly inspirational artisan producers, in the way he has adapted the traditions and expertise he learned abroad, made use of the best of Irish ingredients, and combined artisan skills with scientific knowledge, to produce a product of the highest standard which is distinctly and proudly Irish.
CLOONACOOL ARCTIC CHARR
Having trained in Sligo IT in Food Science and Environmental Science Bill Carty always wanted to return to his small family farm in Cloonacool, South County Sligo, and somehow make a living from producing fresh and healthy food. He eventually got the idea of growing Arctic Charr, a native fish deep lake fish, which survives in only the cleanest waters and is now classified as endangered in the wild.
Cloonacool Arctic Charr was founded in 2005 and combines the best modern sustainable technology with the purest elements of nature to keep the fish as close to its natural environment as possible.
Produced on a farm at the foot of the Ox Mountains the fish are fed with natural spring water, filtered through Sligo limestone. Nothing is added to the process but organic meal feed and oxygen – no chemicals, antibiotics, or colourings of any kind. Waste is filtered through natural reed beds. As the Charr takes 2-3 years to grow, the Cartys are only now starting to really see the fruits of their labour.
Euro-toques recognises Cloonacool Arctic Charr for the responsible and sustainable farming of a native Irish fish breed, something which is essential at a time where we need to protect fish stocks and safeguard our lakes & seas.The farm employs good science, along knowledge and appreciation of nature, to give us a native Irish product of excellence.
TASTE FESTIVALS EXCELLENCE AWARD
Green Saffron is an exotic Irish company if ever there was one. Behind it lie 2 families; one an extended family in India; the other made up of their relatives who have found their way to East Cork, and a group of dedicated individuals in Midleton, who have developed a business that is destined to become synonymous with spices in Ireland.
Green Saffron, who think of themselves as Spice Specialists, source the highest quality spices direct from small plantations in India, bringing them frequently in small shipments to ensure their freshness. On a weekly basis they are ground and blended according to authentic family recipes. Green Saffron sells these blends along with simple, easy-to-follow recipes, allowing consumers to produce authentic and flavoursome Indian meals. They also sell top quality individual ground and whole spices with all the full flavour and freshness that spices should have.
The philosophy behind Green Saffron is that taste and flavour should be the basis of everything we eat, and far from trying to promote exclusively Indian or Asian dishes, they believe their spices should add an extra flavour dimension and variety to the excellent local ingredients available in Ireland and even to our traditional dishes – apparently they make an excellent Christmas Pudding! Having started life in Farmers Markets and listened to the feedback of the Irish consumer, Green Saffron has developed a unique offering. Euro-toques and Taste Festivals were impressed by initiatives like their Curry Nights, where they teach consumers how to cook with their spices and treat them to a convivial and tasty meal, and their very own Carbon Off-set tax, where they will plough a percentage of their profits into initiatives to off-set the inevitable carbon from transport of their spices from India.
Many chefs who have tried them have been shocked to discover that the spices they have been using are nothing like the real thing, and consumers have been impressed by how simple their blends make it to produce authentic Indian meals.
Green Saffron was recognised for a Product and Service of excellent standards, with a responsible philosophy and innovative marketing.
SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION AWARD
From time to time Euro-toques decides to honour an individual, or indeed an organisation, who has made an outstanding contribution to the state of Irish food today or to Irish food culture.
This year, the Special Contribution award went to Henry ONeill, current Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland and one time Secretary of Euro-toques Ireland.
Having commenced a career in hospitality almost 50 years ago when he took over the family licensed premises and later having run his own restaurant, Henris in Lucan, Henry had a keen understanding of the challenges facing the small restaurateur and a passion for good food.
He joined the Restaurants Association of Ireland and eventually became its President in 1983. When they decided to appoint a Chief Executive in 1987, Henry took up the position, one he has held ever since – and is due to retire from very shortly.
When Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House became founding member of Euro-toques, Henry was instrumental in assisting her to establish the Irish branch and acted as Secretary of Euro-toques Ireland for 11 years. He was active in Euro-toques at both national and international level and later assisted in the establishment of a full-time Euro-toques executive in Ireland.
Over the years Henry has lobbied relentlessly on behalf of restaurants, successfully campaigning to reduce the VAT rate on restaurant meals and to establish the Special Restaurant Licensing system, amongst many other things.
He has been a passionate advocate of developing a stronger dining culture in Ireland and a distinctive vernacular food culture. He has spearheaded initiatives to develop food tourism and support local producers, long before such ideas became as trendy and popular as they are today.
Euro-toques and Taste Festivals Ireland honoured Henry ONeill with their Special Contribution Food Award for his key role in establishing Euro-toques in Ireland, for his work on behalf of the restaurant industry generally, and for his outstanding contribution to the restaurant and food culture of Ireland.