Honouring Good Food Ireland's International Ambassadors
The Good Food Ireland family does an enormous amount of work to raise Ireland’s gourmet profile. With every visitor to Ireland who enjoys an Irish ingredient led experience at a Good Food Ireland member business, the word on Irish food spreads further afield. With every mouthful of regional cuisine, our culinary image is enhanced.
Every member business in our network plays its part in increasing awareness of our local foods and produce. The Good Food Ireland touring map pinpoints to visitors exactly where they can find the best local food experiences throughout the island of Ireland. In the ten years since the launch of Good Food Ireland, some members have gone a step further toward making an impact, in freely giving of their time to represent Ireland at various Good Food Ireland events at home and abroad. On Tuesday 1st November, at our inaugural touRRoir conference on food, tourism and culture, we honoured this group of people.
Who are they and what do they do? Let us introduce our recently honoured International Ambassadors!
Sean Kelly, Kelly’s of Newport. This Mayo man has done much to secure Ireland’s reputation as a producer of great Irish meats. His butcher’s shop in Newport is the hub of the town, a place where discerning shoppers come for meats that have been processed in Kelly’s own small abattoir out the back, and Sean’s award winning black and white puddings. This man’s black puddings are so good, they even impressed French pudding makers! In 2010, Sean was the first man in Ireland to become a Knight of the Boudin Noir (black pudding) from the Knights of the Boudin Noir in Normandy. That’s going some!
Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell of Ballymaloe Cookery School. This brother and sister need no introduction! The pair founded the now world famous cookery school together over thirty years ago, establishing a direct connection for students between the produce of the locality and the kitchen.
Darina and Rory combine a busy teaching schedule at the school with continuous promotion of Irish food at home and abroad. Both are successful tv cookery presenters and authors. Rory is an award winning educator and leading Irish food expert. Darina is one of Ireland’s major voices for Irish food producers, Chairperson of Slow Food Ireland, and sits on numerous other national food committees. On top of all these professional commitments, both Darina and Rory have always been willing to help out at any event, where their expertise and work ethic has contributed enormously to its success.
Eamonn and Mary Gleeson, Gleeson’s Restaurant & Rooms. When this married couple bought an old townhouse in Rosscommon town and turned it into a restaurant with rooms, despite the fact they were teachers with no experience in the hospitaliy industry, it seemed like a crazy risk to take. But what the heck? They went for it. Gleeson’s has since become a sought out venue for Irish food and the famous Irish warm welcome. The Gleesons have given willingly of their time at many food events for Good Food Ireland and other food bodies, to ensure that the repuation of Irish food continues to grow and grow.
They are educators who share there experience and knowledge generously, working in the local community of Rosscommon and nationwide, and also willingly welcoming anyone who loves good food, wants to learn about good food, or also wants to share their own knowledge and expertise in the food industry to Gleeson’s. We are happy to have them as part of our family, a pair who are always there with a smile, practical support and a wealth of advice.
Peter Ward, Country Choice. When this man is not to be found at his food shop and cafe in the heart of Nenagh in Tipperary, he could be working with Slow Food Ireland, manning his stalls at the Limerick Milk Market, carving his famous baked ham at a national food event, or taking part in a panel discussion at a major food conference. Peter Ward never sits still.
He works tirelessly with his wife Mary to source, produce and promote Irish food, run a busy family business which gives platform to smallholders and local producers, and gives generously of his time and extensive expertise as both a shopkeeper and cook. All this while raising a family who have also inherited the Wards’ fantastic sense of responsibilty and commitment to a career which isn’t just a job, but a way of life. He is an integral part of the Good Food Ireland family and a key player in all our events.
Robert Ditty, Ditty’s Bakeries. Robert Ditty is a baking icon. A Master Baker and the driving force behind the Artisan Bakers of Northern Ireland. This second generation baker is uniquely responsible for putting Northern Ireland’s humble traditional oatcake on the gourmet map.
He continues the tradition of homebaking at the bakery his father launched in 1963. Robert has spoken on numerous occasions at food conferences and Good Food Ireland events and his products have graced world class occasions like the Ryder Cup and Wimbledon.
Kay Harte, Farmgate Cafe. Kay Harte established her iconic cafe high in the roof of the English Market in 1994. Since then, she has made it her life’s work to introduce her customers and numerous visitors to the traditional dishes of Cork and provide a local food experience. Tripe, drisheen, corned beef and mutton all feature on the Farmgate menu.
Along with fresh fish and shellfish from the Cork coast, home baking, and locally made cheeses and charcuterie, all sourced from the market below. Kay has been the face of Farmgate at the Engish Market since it opened, as well as being a driving influence of the Cork food scene, and a major player in food development plans for the city and county. Her work has continued in her voluntary role with Good Food Ireland, always providing a sensible and informed voice for argument in presenting Ireland’s food reputation to a wider audience.
Nora Egan, Inch House. Inch House in the Tipperary countryside was once a family home, now an award winning country house with restaurant. Its development and success as a top class culinary accommodation was driven by Nora Egan.
As well as raising her family here and running the house as a viable business, Nora also introduced her guests, and then the wider Irish food community, to the award winning Inch House Black Pudding. First made by Nora’s grandmother and still made to the same recipe by Nora herself in the kitchens at Inch House. She has happily participated in Good Food ireland showcase events, networking wih other members to provide an Irish food experience to a far reaching audience.
Anthony Creswell, Ummera Smokehouse. Anthony Creswell is a second generation smoker of Irish salmon, chicken and bacon. He continues the business started by his father, located in rural West Cork near the Argideen River in Timoleague, where his dad fished for wild salmon. As an enthusiastic supporter of natural resources and ‘green’ practices within his business, Anthony made the decision in 2006 to convert to only using organic Irish farmed salmon, in line with conserving wild salmon stocks.
He has worked closely within Slow Food West Cork to promote local foods, and has spoken at national talks and seminars on sustainable artisan food production. Picanha Beef is his latest product to hit the shelves only a few weeks ago. First showcased at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival in May, Ummera Picanha Irish organic smoked beef has already won a major award for Best New Product at the Bord Bia National Organic Awards in October 2016. Anthony can often be spotted wearing his Good Food Ireland apron or fleece, whether its making deliveries of his products to local businesses, or in an official capacity at a Good Food Ireland network event. Where he will no doubt be ready with the salmon knife to slice a few tasty samples for guests!
Declan Ryan, Arbutus Breads. What started as a retirement hobby for Declan Ryan has now become a full blown and award winning bakery which is held high as a beacon to all aspiring bakers and bakery businesses. Cork city based Arbutus Bread is renowned for its massive selection of home baked breads, from traditional Irish soda to continental breads and San Francisco style sourdoughs. Declan is a Master Baker who has presided over many bakery classes, spoken at conferences, and given freely of his time for Slow Food Ireland and other voluntary food groups. A long standing member of Good Food Ireland, Declan has travelled at home and abroad with the network to promote Irish food.
Ed Cooney, Executive Chef, Merrion Hotel. When he’s not cooking up a storm in the kitchens at the Merrion, Ed Cooney is working tirelessly to source Irish ingredients and develop seasonal menus, as well as volunteering with Good Food Ireland to help raise Ireland’s food profile. On his latest trip just last week, he joined GFI founder Margaret Jeffares to cook at the Taste of the World event at the Breeder’s Cup in the USA.
Ed is never one to shirk hard work or turn down an opportunity to push Ireland further into the gourmet limelight, even if that means using his own private and free time to do so. Ed is also a former Good Food Ireland Ambassador of the Year, and now adds International Ambassador to his well deserved list of honours.
Martin Shanahan, Fishy Fishy Cafe. Martin is solely responsible for introducing Ireland to the wonders of fish! His friendly approachable style and connection to local fishermen has guaranteed his success as a restrauteur, tv cookery presenter and seafood cookery author. Martin has proved to the Irish people that fish is not just for Fridays! His reputation has gone beyond Ireland, to fishlovers across the world. Martin also joined Margaret Jeffares and Ed Cooney at the Breeder’s Cup in the USA last week, to give visitors to this world class equestrian event a taste of what Irish fish cookery is all about!
Jack McCarthy, McCarthy’s of Kanturk. Is there a louder voice for local meats than Jack McCarthy’s? This man created a special McCarthy’s Black Pudding for the state banquet for Queen Elizabeth’s historical visit to Ireland in 2011. He won a major award from the Irish Food Writer’s Guild in 2012, and was the subject of a dedicated feature on BBC Radio Four’s Food Programme after recieving a gold medal for his black pudding from the French Brotherhood of the Knights of the Black Pudding in 2013.
Add to this appearances on tv with Donal Skehan and in RTE’s Ear to the Ground, and numerous awards from the Associated Craft Butcher’s of Ireland. We’re exhasuted already! But the McCarthy energy knows no bounds, and Jack and son Tim are always willing to step up to the mark when it comes to promoting Irish meat and Irish food on the wider scene.
Birgitta Hedin-Curtin of Burren Smokehouse. Love is great, love is grand. Especially when it produces an award winning double act in Irish food! When Swedish Birgitta met Clare man Peter Curtin in Lisdoonvarna, village of romance, their marriage produced not just a great family, but a top class artisan food business.
Burren Smokehouse has gone from strength to strength, creating Irish smoked salmon and wild fish products, as well as offering an educational experience at the Visitor Centre on site. Birgitta never stops working, whether hosting a group tasting of Burren Smokhouse products at the visitor centre, visiting shops and food halls nationwide, giving talks on artisan production, or working with Slow Food Clare. This lady is a human dynamo, who also received our Best of the Decade Food Champion Award at touRRoir.
Maurice Keller. Behind every successful venture is a person who doesn’t always hog the limelight. That’s the case for Maurice Keller, one of Good Food Ireland’s most long standing and closest allies. Not that Waterford native Mr. Keller, a former award winning guest house owner, is adverse to a spot of the limelight! Oh no, he loves the shining beam of food stardom just fine! But he is just as likely to be found in less recognised surroundings. Such as cooking and promoting Irish food to visitors in the galley kitchen of a yacht out on a rocky Atlantic ocean, where no other cook would dare go. Or indeed donning a pair of overalls and workboots while banging together a display stand for a Good Food Ireland event.
Along with Peter Ward, Maurice travelled voluntarily for Good Food Ireland to feed the Irish team with Irish food at their various stops during the Volvo Ocean Race. Maurice is one of those men you just need to have around for the big jobs. A Jack of all trades, who is no stranger to the kitchen to lay on a fine feast and represent our country as a top class food destination, as well as being a dab hand at wielding a hammer or erecting a marquee. At touRRoir, he was last seen searching for hay, something to do with a certain Michelin starrred chef... Where would we be without Maurice Keller?!
Last but not least, Tom O’Connell. O’Connell’s of Donnybrook is another iconic venue in the Good Food Ireland ranks. A place where Dubliners and visitors go to enjoy home cooked, home made Irish seasonal food. Manned by Tom, brother of Darina and Rory. Is there no end to this family’s success in food? We think not!
We think not! As part of our voluntary team, Tom was instrumental in co-ordinating Good Food ireland members to represent and offer Irish food to thousands of foreign visitors at Web Summit in Dublin. He has been a stalwart supporter of Good Food Ireland since he joined the network, and always offers practical help and an insightful word or piece of advice whenever it’s needed.
We congratulate all our Best of the Decade International Ambassadors, and say a very big thank you for all their efforts in working within the Good Food Ireland family to bring the reputation of Irish food to the world.