The very best of Irish produce has today been recognised and celebrated at the EirGrid Euro-Toques Food Awards 2014 at the Residence Club on Stephen’s Green in Dublin at a reception hosted by Ear to The Ground presenter, Ella McSweeney.
With Irish cuisine currently enjoying excellent international recognition, five food producers were recognised at the 18th annual awards for their outstanding produce and methods and were presented with a coveted Euro-Toques Award.
Euro-toques, was established in Brussels in 1986 by the top chefs in the Europe with the aim of forming 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. Ireland’s Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House was one of the founding members and went on to found Euro-toques Ireland the same year.
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 8 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.
The prestigious awards honour enterprise, innovation and the preservation of traditional methods behind the fine produce that is celebrated and enjoyed by top restaurants in Ireland and abroad.
The Euro-Toques Ireland Food Council, together with the Euro-Toques Commissioner General Wade Murphy chef/proprietor of acclaimed 1826 Adare restaurant in Adare, Co. Limerick, selected the winners following a nationwide process that involved Ireland’s 160 Euro-Toques chefs nominating producers. Central to the selection criteria was taste, production methods, preservation of traditional methods and provenance.
At the Awards ceremony Wade said: “All five winners are true champions of Irish produce and deserved recipients of these coveted awards. The exceptional standard of nominations considered by the panel demonstrates the passion and expertise within the industry that makes Irish produce famous around the world.”
“All of these winners have been innovative in preserving traditional techniques and bringing their products to market, ensuring that quality traditional farming and produce does not just survive, but it thrives.”
“What is special about all of today’s award recipients is that they channelled their passion for traditional produce into thriving artisan, and above all, local businesses. Ireland is a nation of great producers and great food and the survival of the traditional techniques and skills, handed down from generation to generation are very much alive with these award winners, albeit with an innovative twist.”
The common underlying theme for this year award recipients is the rural nature of their produce, the care and attention towards our precious heritage and an in-depth knowledge of the raw materials, resulting in these five products which are rare gems in the Irish culinary scene.
The five recipients of Euro-toques Food Awards 2014 are:
Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch Toonsbridge Dairy
Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch from Toonsbridge Dairy have been making celebrated Mozzarella at their dairy farm in Macroom, County Cork since 2011, using traditional techniques learned in Italy to make delicious mozzarella from their herd of specialty Prince of Lombardia Buffalo. www.therealoliveco.com Twitter @ToonsBridgeCafe
Ed Hick of J Hick & Sons is renowned for his curing and smoking techniques. He is a champion of innovation and tradition, particularly in his production of his much vaulted cured and smoked Irish wild venison, which is celebrated at restaurants throughout Ireland. His shop is situated in Dun Laoghaire and they attend Temple Bar Food Market every Saturday. www.hicks.ie Twitter @edhick
Lucy Deegan and Mark Cribben of Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms
With a background in food science Lucy Deegan and Mark Cribben of Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms are celebrated growers of specialty mushrooms popular for their taste and texture and famed for their scientific methods to produce a unique natural microclimate in Ballyhoura, County Cork to deliver their award-winning Shitake and Marinated Oyster mushrooms bursting with flavour and texture. www.ballyhouramushrooms.ie Twitter @irishshiitake
Marjorie and Kieran O’Malley of Achill Island Sea Salt
New on the scene, Marjorie and Kieran O’Malley of Achill Island Sea Salt, have been producing the finest hand-harvested sea salt since 2013 at Achill Island Sea Salt. Their passion to deliver a pure, natural, product that celebrates traditional techniques, coupled with the famed texture, flavour and appearance quality of their artisan sea salt has proven a hit with consumers and critics alike. www.achillislandseasalt.ie Twitter @achillseasalt
Mick Healy of Wild Irish Game Ltd.
Mick Healy of Wild Irish Game Ltd in County Wicklow is Ireland’s only Department of Agriculture approved processor of wild game including pheasant, venison, rabbit, quail, guinea foul, grouse, pigeon and duck and his customer list reads like a guide to Ireland’s top restaurants. www.wildirishgame.ie Twitter @WildIrishGame
All of today’s award recipients have chosen the path of directly marketing their produce, which has ensured the viability of their businesses and has given them a vital direct link to the restaurant kitchens! Euro-Toques chefs cherish the direct link with the producers and their kitchen door is always open to those who constantly inspire their menu.
Irish food producers with this calibre of dedication to their craft are vitally important as they encourage others to also concentrate on top quality. Thus begins a new Irish Food Legacy. Congratulations to them all!