It’s official: Chocolate and cheese aren’t good - they’re great!
Irish chocolate, cheese and whiskey among winners in 2020 Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards
It’s official: chocolate and cheese aren’t just good, but when made locally and sustainably or produced using traditional methods, the chances are they’re great, according to Kristin Jensen, chairperson of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG), who was speaking at today’s annual IFWG Food Awards.
“In considering this year’s award winners, we identified a fantastic company producing Fairtrade chocolate sustainably in Cork, along with a wonderful cheesemaker, also in Cork, who has dedicated much of her life to the betterment of Ireland’s food culture. The Guild was so impressed by their work, their standards of excellence and their contribution to our food industry that we have singled them both out for an IFWG Award, one of the highest accolades in the Irish food honours list,” said Kristin.
Cork’s reputation as a centre of food excellence received an even bigger boost, with three of the eight IFWG Awards going to the rebel county this year. The awards, now in their 26th year, celebrate excellence and recognise indigenous food producers and organisations that help to create and maintain Ireland’s outstanding reputation in food and drink.
The winners of the 2020 IFWG Food Awards are:
“These awards highlight the incredible work of small, independent Irish food producers and organisations at a time when supporting local, home-grown industries has never been more relevant or important,” said Kristin Jensen.
“We are fortunate in Ireland to have an abundance of locally produced food and drink produce of the highest quality. Today we are honouring the innovative and dedicated exemplars of our industry who represent so much of what is great about the food and drink industry. In addition to taste, quality and continually achieving standards of excellence, sustainability is a crucial determinant when it comes to nominating and voting for our winners. And while the issue of sustainability has only really dominated the headlines in recent years, it has always been an integral part of our awards process. Over the course of the IFWG Awards’ 26-year history, we have consistently looked to reward those operating sustainable businesses, so this is not just a passing trend.”
The IFWG paid tribute to Bord Bia for its support of the awards and its tireless work on the home and export markets to promote and develop the Irish food industry. Una Fitzgibbon, Bord Bia’s Director of Marketing, said: “Consumers are actively seeking out new food experiences and research by our consumer and market insight centre, Bord Bia Thinking House, has shown that the majority of Irish shoppers have a real appetite to buy locally sourced, high-quality food and drink products. This is good news for the many small to medium producers who underpin the wider local community and the image of Ireland as a provider of innovative and sustainable food. The IFWG Awards are an opportunity to pay tribute to these artisan producers and recognise the important contribution they make to the Irish economy.”
The Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards were hosted at The Marker, with a lunch devised and prepared by executive chef Gareth Mullins, who incorporated the produce of each winner into a six-course menu.
The IFWG Food Awards are unique, as no one can enter themselves or their product into the awards and no company knows it has been nominated or shortlisted for an award. The Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body. The exception to this is the Community Food Award, for which the Guild invites nominations every year from the general public as well as their own members.
Lunch menu devised by Gareth Mullins executive head chef at The Marker and incorporating the 2020 award-winning produce. :
About the Winners
Frank Hederman for Hederman Hot Smoked Irish Salmon: Food Award
Established in 1982, Belvelly Smoke House is still the only authentic timber smokehouse in Ireland. For nearly four decades now, Frank has been supplying chefs such as Rick Stein and food halls such as Fortnum & Mason. His long association with Selfridges was the catalyst for Hederman’s Hot Smoked Salmon, which he developed when the store needed a new product to celebrate the 4th of July for American visitors. Succulent and smoky, Hederman Hot Smoked Salmon – with or without Kashmiri chillies – has become another bestseller, either just as it is or in ‘Hederman’s crush’, a luscious salad of hot smoked fish, crème fraîche and horseradish sold through a network of farmers markets.
From modest beginnings, Frank Hederman and his wife Caroline have built up a sophisticated business employing six full-time staff and an Irish brand that is sought after throughout Europe and North America. At Christmastime, staff numbers double in order to satisfy the insatiable demand online, in their showcase shop at the English Market, and with corporate and wholesale buyers throughout Europe. Hederman cold smoked salmon – wild or organically farmed in Ireland – remains the ultimate Irish product for any discerning smoked salmon buyer. However, their hot smoked method has given this innovative product a refined edge that comes only with the care and attention to detail to be found at Belvelly Smoke House.
Shine’s Seafood for Shine’s Wild Irish Tuna: Food Award
John and Marianne Shine, together with their three daughters, Ciara, Erin and Darragh, have lived and worked in Killybegs for most of their lives. Ciara had once asked her parents, ‘Why can't we get tuna loins in glass jars in Ireland like we used to eat on holidays in San Sebastian?’
This question led to John and Marianne’s next business venture, because John, a fisherman for over 30 years, and Marianne, who worked for a Basque fishing company based in Killybegs, both knew the answer. The amazing tuna that Ciara had talked about buying in Spain was, in fact, wild Irish albacore tuna that had been caught off the south-west coast of Ireland but then exported to markets in France and Spain. John used his contacts in the fishing industry to source the Irish-caught albacore tuna and bought the best of their catch.
Having done his research he realised that there was no facility in Ireland to process and pack the albacore to the required high standard, so the fish caught off the Irish coast are delivered directly to a specialised factory in the Basque Country, where it is hand-filleted and hand-packed in olive oil-filled jars and tins. Now a thriving family business, the Shine’s Seafood retail and food services range is available in over 900 locations all over Ireland, from supermarkets and delis to restaurants and hotels. The Shine family would like to acknowledge the enormous help they received from SuperValu, BIM and Bord Bia in setting up their business.
Inch House Traditional Black Pudding: Food Award
In the old days when a farming family killed a pig, nothing went to waste. In the case of Máirín Byrne’s grandmother, Mary Ryan, she always used the pig’s fresh blood to make a delicious black pudding to feed her family. She passed on the recipe to Máirín’s mother, Nora Egan, who added it to the menu in their award-winning country house and restaurant, Inch House in Co. Tipperary.
Such was the demand for the black pudding that it soon developed into a business of its own, which Máirín now runs as a standalone enterprise. Inch House Traditional Black Pudding is one of the few fresh pig’s blood puddings available in Ireland, since many of those available are made with powdered blood for convenience and a longer shelf life. Apart from having an outstanding flavour and texture, the pudding stands out on the shelf thanks to its unusual square shape.
Inch House Black Pudding is an authentic Irish artisan product, hand-made to a recipe that has been unchanged for at least four generations and made from as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. It is totally natural, containing no MSG, stabilisers, emulsifiers or any artificial flavourings or preservatives. Inch House Black Pudding is good for you too because it is naturally high in iron. Happily for coeliacs, Máirín also makes a gluten-free version and there’s an excellent white pudding in the range too. The entire product range is available through wholesale and retail outlets for both the catering industry and food lovers nationwide.
Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey: Irish Drink Award
Whiskey-making has been part of the Teeling family history since 1782, when Walter Teeling set up a small distillery on Marrowbone Lane in Dublin 8. Brothers Jack and Stephen Teeling are the sons of Walter’s descendant, John Teeling, the man who revitalised the Irish whiskey industry in 1987 when he set up the first new distillery in Ireland for nearly a century. In 2012 Jack and Stephen relaunched their family brand and started Dublin’s first new distillery in over 125 years. In 2015 they opened the doors of Teeling Whiskey Distillery in Newmarket in the heart of the Liberties, literally a stone’s throw from Marrowbone Lane.
The brothers now produce a number of highly innovative, award-winning cask-finished whiskeys, most recently Teeling Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, for which they are receiving the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Irish Drink Award. Made from a 50/50 mix of malted and unmalted barley, it has been matured in virgin oak, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. It’s the first new pot still whiskey to be produced in Dublin for nearly 50 years. According to Alex Chasko, Teeling’s master distiller, the whiskey’s nose delivers aromas of hibiscus flowers, honeycomb, white grapes and citrus, while on the palate you get hints of lychees, white pepper, warm roasted peaches and baked biscuits. The finish is complex for such a young whiskey, nicely dry with hints of spice and roasted almonds.
Joyce Timmins: Outstanding Contribution to Irish Food Award
Meals in Irish hospitals don’t get rave reviews from their patients, but three years ago, expectant mothers in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital lucked out when Joyce Timmins joined the staff there as executive chef.
Joyce trained in Cathal Brugha Street, where Kevin Thornton was one of her teachers, and she subsequently worked in two two-starred Michelin restaurants: Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin. There followed a stint as pastry chef in the Killarney Park Hotel and nine years as head chef at the Expresso Bar Café in Ballsbridge. After her daughter Lily was born Joyce took a career break, retuning to the workforce as part of the Kylemore Services Group.
She was part of KSG’s Food Development team when she saw an advertisement for executive chef in the Rotunda and, spurred by her sister’s recent dreadful experience with hospital food, she successfully applied for it. Within weeks she had turned the perception of that hospital’s food on its head. Out went processed food and in came fresh ingredients. Many of the meals, including breakfast, began to be cooked to order and, crucially, food was no longer kept drying out in mobile hot boxes in a central kitchen for hours before being wheeled to the wards. Instead, the food was plated up adjacent to the wards and delivered to patients within minutes. Joyce has since moved on from the Rotunda and has brought her kitchen revolution to the Marymount Care Centre in Lucan.
Falling Fruit Ireland: Community Food Award
Falling Fruit Ireland was established to harvest the seasonal glut of local fruit such as eating and cooking apples, pears, plums and various nuts found throughout the Dublin area and countrywide.
Set up in 2015 by Bernie Brannick, her light bulb moment was sparked by an organisation in the UK called Abundance Manchester that has a similar remit. Here in Ireland, hundreds of fruit trees go unpicked every year. There is surplus and unpicked fruit everywhere: in private gardens, the grounds of mansions, in backyards, church grounds, private businesses, abandoned orchards, public authority housing, parks and green spaces.
Falling Fruit Ireland organises teams of volunteers to pick some of this surplus fruit and distribute it to local charities and other good causes. Bernie and her team first liaise with FoodCloud and other charities to facilitate the distribution of the free fruit. Then Bernie obtains permission to pick ¬– the first share goes to the owner, the second share to the charity and volunteers are of course rewarded with fresh fruit too. When there is an abundance of fruit, Falling Fruit Ireland always encourages people to eat it, juice it, cook with it, freeze it or make jams and preserves. Falling Fruit Ireland is dedicated to the prevention of food waste and aims to reduce our carbon footprint by encouraging the use of local food and supporting more local growing, cultivation and harvesting. Falling Fruit Ireland also carries out a bread rescue project in Dublin on a daily basis, directing perfectly good bread to charities.
Exploding Tree: Environmental Award
Canadian-born chocolatier Allison Roberts and her husband Justin arrived in Clonakilty in West Cork, ‘blown by summer winds’, she says, in 1988. Since then, by dint of her dedication to her craft, her Exploding Tree brand of chocolate has become famous for its ethical and environmental standards.
Committed to crafting with only 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar, almost ten years ago Allison also made the somewhat painstaking switch to buying only 100% biodegradable, low-carbon and sustainably manufactured packaging. Today, she is proud to only use packaging that can be composted or recycled. Their new range of bars uses an outer sleeve made from post-agricultural waste and an inner sleeve made from plant-based cellulose, while the boxes are made from post-consumer recycled card.
Allison is happy to share her knowledge in this area for anyone who is working to implement a similar sustainable solution. Exploding Tree also does its best to keep its carbon footprint down. Nobody flies when overland travel or a ferry is an option, which means overseas trade shows are generally out, and both the business and family choose not to have a car: all their deliveries are made by bicycle or post.
Jeffa Gill: Lifetime Achievement Award
Becoming a trailblazing, multi-award-winning cheese maker was the last thing on Jeffa Gill’s mind when she stumbled on a small abandoned farm in West Cork in 1973. Although she had come from a farming background in Worcestershire, as a teenager she had fled the English countryside for the brighter lights of 1960s Dublin and a job as a clothes designer in the fashion industry. But seeing that smallholding in Durrus, which had no electricity or running water, kick-started her dormant farming genes and she quit her job and moved to Coomkeen on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in West Cork.
In 1979, inspired by a cheese-making manual she had bought, Jeffa started experimenting with cheese-making on the Rayburn stove in her kitchen. Her traditionally made, semi-soft, pink rind-washed discs turned out to be delicious. Still made by hand to her original 1979 recipe, Durrus Cheese has a natural rind that is developed slowly by washing it with cultures specific to Coomkeen’s dairy.
Today the business is multi-generational, as Jeffa’s daughter, Sarah Hennessy, joined the family business three years ago and is now the company’s manager. There are five cheeses in their range: the original Durrus, Durrus Mini, Durrus Óg, Dunmanus, a pressed semi-hard seasonal cheese, and the newly introduced smoked Durrus. The Irish Food Writers’ Guild is proud to present Jeffa, who is also a founding member of CAIS (the Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers), with our Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Ireland’s farmhouse cheese community and food culture.
Links of Interest
Not the full Irish - Katy McGuinness explores the true origins of 'Irish' foods.
The Irish Food Writers’ Guild is grateful to the Herbert Park Hotel for their ongoing generosity in hosting our regular meetings in their excellent facilities.
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