THE BEST food that Ireland has to offer has been revealed at the Irish Food Writers' Guild Awards 2022.
The awards take place each year to celebrate indigenous Irish food products of the highest quality, as well as to recognise some of the individuals, companies and initiatives which continue to make the Irish food world so exciting.
To be eligible for the awards, products must be produced in Ireland and the main ingredient must be Irish grown or produced.
Sally Ferns Barnes was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony which took place in Dublin today. The Cork woman has been perfecting the art of smoking wild Irish fish at West Cork's Woodcock Smokery since 1979, and over those years has acquired knowledge on everything that links the ocean and its bounty, smoke curing, and working with nature and natural processes.
The Keep, established adjacent to the smokery in 2020, is where that knowledge is shared through masterclasses in the art of curing and smoking wild fish, and Sally is also the last person in Ireland that exclusively handles wild fish and is a keystone in the age-old traditions of our Irish food culture.
Other food awards went to Bread 41 in Dublin, Calvey's Achill Mountain Lamb, Mayo, and Coolfin Cheese, Galway.
In just a few short years, Bread 41 bakery has become one of the city’s best-known and well-loved artisan companies, while the Calveys have been sheep farmers on Achill Island for over a century and a half. Coolfin Cheese is handmade on the family farm by Teresa Roche using only summer milk, is fully traceable and has a low carbon footprint.
The Irish Drink Award went to All About Kombucha in Galway. Established in 2017 by Emmett Kerrigan and Keith Loftus, the business brews freshly fermented sparkling tea from organic ingredients. Each bottle of All About Kombucha is hand-brewed from the organic ingredients of tea, sugar and water, and is available to buy in over 250 stockists.
The Notable contribution to Irish Food Award went to Stefan Griesbach of Gannet Fishmongers in Galway. Since 1997, his stall has evolved and is widely known for sourcing the very best quality of locally caught fish. Through its online store, Gannet Fishmongers deliver the freshest of Irish fish nationwide; shoppers see what came in from the boats, place their order and receive it soon after, cold-packed and spanking fresh.
The Environmental Award went to Rock Farm Slane in Co Meath which is owned by the Conyngham family. The farm is intertwines organic and ecotourism business underpinned by sustainable and environmentally-conscious practices. Organic cattle, pigs, hens, turkeys and vegetables are all produced on the 90-acre farm, which is run according to permaculture principles.
The Community Food Award went to Our Table in Dublin, which was set up by Malawian Ellie Kisyombe, a former asylum seeker, and food writer Michelle Darmody who met while doing volunteer work in the Irish Refugee Council. Our Table is a community-based, social enterprise that uses food as a way to connect, start a conversation and draw attention to the realities of those living in Direct Provision.
During the pandemic, the team focused on getting as much good, wholesome food as possible to those living in emergency accommodation and Direct Provision Centres. Plans for the future include setting up a new Our Table kitchen that will be used for their many projects and ongoing training, cooking and mentoring.
"Many of our 2022 winners are traditional products, but with a twist," said Caroline Hennessy, Chair of the Irish Food Writers' Guild. "From fishmonger to baker, cheese maker to the Galway duo who have played with the traditional Irish love of tea, innovative producers are putting their own stamp on things, creating something unique and something quite delicious.
"I believe there has never been a greater appreciation for Ireland’s food producers and the wider food community for what they have achieved over the past two years. Amid lockdowns and restrictions, so many of these businesses and producers managed to adapt to soaring demand for click and collect services, online shopping deliveries, food boxes and food trucks.
"In many ways, our artisan food community are heroes, bringing not just nourishment and sustenance but comfort and even joy to what was otherwise a very difficult period for so many people."
No business or individual can enter the awards, nor do they know if they have been nominated or shortlisted for an award.
With the exception of the Community Food Award, for which the Guild invites nominations, the Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body whose members nominate and anonymously buy products for tasting.
Proportional representation voting is then undertaken at a Guild tasting meeting.
A magazine with recipes and interviews with each of the winners can be found here.