Chefs urge farmers to directly supply them locally produced quality food
CHEFS HAVE urged farmers to consider supplying the restaurant trade directly because they are struggling to source certain locally produced quality foods.
The call was made by Euro-toques Ireland, part of the European community of chefs set up to protect traditional foods and culinary heritage.
Its secretary-general, Ruth Hegarty, said about 70 per cent of food purchased by Euro-toques Ireland chefs was of Irish origin but they wanted more.
Chefs were particularly struggling to source locally produced poultry products from small-scale free-range systems; free range and rare-breed pork; and varieties of vegetables, herbs and salads.
“Even different potato varieties, suited to specific culinary uses, are difficult to source commercially in Ireland,” Ms Hegarty said.
Euro-toques Ireland commissioner-general Gearóid Lynch, of the Olde Post Inn in Co Cavan, said chefs were inviting Irish farmers into their kitchens.
“What we are looking for is taste and quality, and we know we can get this from Irish farms and food producers.
“Tell us what you have, ask us what we are looking for, work together with us. We can give you a market for your produce, and we will pay you a fair price for quality.”
They were speaking at the 2012 EirGrid Euro-toques Food Awards in Dublin. Ms Hegarty said two of the winners were farmers who had opted to supply restaurants directly.
They were Ronan Byrne, also known as “The Friendly Farmer” from Athenry, Co Galway, who directly markets a range of meats to restaurants, and David Burns of Richmount Farm, Co Longford, who sells his sweetcorn directly to customers, mainly restaurants.
Awards were also presented to Anna Leveque of Triskel Cheese in Portlaw, Co Waterford, and Manus McGonagle of Quality Sea Veg, who hand-harvests seaweed on the Donegal coast. The award included a special acknowledgement to Dr Prannie Rhatigan, author of Irish Seaweed Kitchen.
A special award for outstanding contribution to Irish food was made to former chef and founding member of Euro-toques Ireland, Gerry Galvin of Oughterard, Co Galway.
The awards, which have been running since 1996, were set up to identify the very best food being produced in Ireland for the benefit of fellow chefs, consumers and producers themselves.
Euro-toques member chefs nominate the producers and the products are judged by a panel of 10 chefs.
Euro-toques Ireland has 180 owner-chef and head chef members, representing 150 restaurant kitchens employing about 2,200 chefs.
A survey of members carried out last week showed they collectively serve almost 200,000 meals a week, and have a combined food-buying power of more than €100 million per year.
EURO-TOQUES THE WINNERS
Ronan Byrne, Athenry, Co Galway, was recognised for his pasture-reared chickens. He produces 115 Hubbard chickens a week in a grass-based system where the flock has easy outdoor access. These are sold direct from the farm, online and in Galway and Moycullen Farmers Market. He also sells to restaurants in Galway, Roscommon, Athlone and Donegal.
David Burns, Richmount Farm, Carrickboy, Co Longford, feeds gorillas and elephants in Dublin zoo with his maize fodder but it was his sweetcorn that got the judges’ attention. He began growing it nine years ago and now has a waiting list of interested chefs. The season is very short – just six to eight weeks in autumn. He expects this year’s entire crop will go to restaurants.
Anna Levequeof Triskel Cheeses produces a range of French-style soft goats’ cheese from locally sourced milk in Portlaw, Co Waterford. The judges described the Breton woman’s cheese- making as “a unique style in the Irish cheese repertoire, both subtle and distinctive in taste and of excellent quality”. She produces three goats cheeses and a semi- hard cows’ cheese called Gwenned.
Manus McGonagleof Quality Sea Veg was honoured for his hand-harvested seaweed which was described as “an outstanding indigenous Irish product which is true to the traditions of his native coastal Donegal”. His purpose- built modern factory uses up-to- date technologies but all the seaweeds are hand-harvested in the traditional way. The judges also acknowledged the work of Dr Prannie Rhatigan, author of Irish Seaweed Kitchen, for promoting Irish seaweed’s culinary use.
A special award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Food was made to former chef and founding member of Euro-toques Ireland, Gerry Galvin, Oughterard, Co Galway. He was recognised for his contribution to the development of Irish cuisine and to the education and training of many chefs.