If you told me 10 years ago that my passion in life would be food, I would have quite literally cackled. When I was 16, I had no idea what I wanted my future career to look like. I enjoyed art, science and history with equal zeal and imagined myself as a politician or perhaps the female version of Vincent Browne. I dreamt of moving to Dublin and studying Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Sociology in Trinity - all disciplines which I do still have an interest in although I’m now glad things took a different turn for me. Ten years ago, as a 5th year student at the Presentation Secondary in Listowel, many of my classmates were aspiring towards careers in law, medicine, or teaching. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be a chef. My parents weren’t – and still aren’t - the kind to put pressure on their kids academically. It’s more important to them that we’re happy in our day to day lives, a value which they’ve passed down to us as individuals. Success doesn’t equal happiness, and I’m very lucky to have known this at 17 as I entered university in UCC. I decided to study Architecture for my undergraduate. I arrived at that conclusion to the surprise of many, including my GP, who asked my mother quizzically ‘where did that come from?’ one afternoon as she picked me up from an appointment. It was generally expected that I would become some description of a baker or pastry chef, following in the footsteps of my mom. Probably our GP wanted to secure the future supply of his weekly apple tart order, of which mom was the dealer at the time. But it did make sense that I should work in food, it came naturally to me, and I had always enjoyed it. I’m stubborn though – I wanted to do something different, carve my own path and all the rest. So off I went to study Architecture, where I felt completely out of my depth as I couldn’t even name one famous architect, not to mind grasp the concept of why some buildings were better than others. I spent the summers working in cafes and bakeries – where I was very naturally comfortable. I started learning the names of famous architects and struggled on for a few years, eventually getting the hang of it. Something about it never felt quite right though, and I couldn’t imagine myself working in an office at a computer all day. It took me a few years to realise - after a fairly big hiccup with my mental health – that time spent in the kitchen made me far happier than time spent in the studio.
As the final semester of my undergraduate degree in Architecture began in UCC, I found that a sludgy quality had begun to melt across my brain. The creativity that had once come so easily to me became stifled and awkward and bringing a pencil to the paper to draw was next to impossible. I was on track to get a first based on my semester one work but found myself unable to move beyond a concept stage with my project and very much fell behind, stuck in this invisible mud. I googled the college mental health services but never managed to make myself an appointment - I felt that I would be wasting their time as I couldn’t really describe whatever it was that was wrong with me. This situation was entirely new to me, and I trudged on, hoping it would pass, falling further and further behind as time passed. On the 16th of March I was due to present my work at the halfway mark of the semester. I had essentially nothing of value to present and was at this stage virtually paralysed by what was now an incredibly dense fog in my mind. In the middle of the night, I woke up, unable to breathe properly. I called my friend, who luckily happened to be awake, and she guided me through steadying my breathing in what was my first panic attack. I woke up my housemate at about 5 o clock in the morning and sat on her bed crying uncontrollably before returning to my room and emailing my lecturers to say I wouldn’t be able to present that day. For several weeks afterwards I continued to move through these days that felt like thick sludge in a robotic kind of way. To occupy myself I began to bake, as I had done when I was a child at my granny’s kitchen table. Baking brought me a comfort that’s difficult to describe, particularly sharing what I had made with my friends and housemates. I applied for a deferral from college to submit at the end of the summer and then another deferral for an additional year. I returned to my part time job at Avoca in Molls Gap where I held responsibility for the Foodhall, and began to realise that I had an unusual passion for food. I continued to bake throughout, making haphazard and deeply flawed cakes for the birthdays of friends and family.
In late January of 2020 I began a part time pastry course at MTU, driving from Killarney to Cork city on Monday nights to attend. I was extremely apprehensive about returning to college and dreaded sitting any kind of exam, worried that the brain sludge would return. On our first night we were reassured that a large portion of the work would be assessed on a continuous basis and that the exams would be very much based on the learning which we had practiced in class. My breathing settled for what felt like the first time in two years; as we whisked eggs and sugar over a bain-marie to make a genoise sponge, I felt I had found my place.The classes came to an abrupt halt as the pandemic began, but I continued to bake at home and absorbed as much information as I could about baking. In September of the same year, I found myself living in Donegal, and eager to return to college, applied for the Springboard course in Culinary Arts in Killybegs. Sitting in the computer lab of the college, about to begin a new academic year, I realised that I was meant to return to Architecture that September. Without hesitation, I downloaded the form for withdrawal and sent it off to UCC, quite content to start my academic career all over again; this time studying something that came naturally to me.
I’m about to graduate with a first-class honours degree in Botanical cuisine, and have now commenced a part time masters in Applied Nutrition. Protecting real food and rural communities is my passion and I feel I’ve been gathering skills for a career in this line for my entire life. Growing up, my understanding of what it means to work in food was fairly limited. Now, I can see the beautifully diverse range of jobs that can be found in all areas of food. From working as part of a highly skilled Michelin star team, to making cakes in a small café, to cheffing in the line in a busy casual dining spot, to food writing, right through to food education. There are so many diverse opportunities available with a career in food, and in my opinion there has never been a more important time to be working in this industry. There is a seismic shift occurring in society’s understanding of food and its impact on our health, and this shift is slowly trickling down to how we consume food in restaurants. Consumers require more information on nutrition and they’re increasingly conscious of the impact the food they consume has on the environment. The food industry needs passionate individuals to drive change in both the options available to consumers and the environments we work in. Degree programs like Botanical Cuisine are paving the way in crafting the chefs that the future needs; environmentally conscious, careful custodians of the wonderful produce that exists in this country.
For many, the path to becoming a chef is not a linear one. They begin working in kitchens as a summer job, something to make a bit of money; it’s not the long-term plan. But for many more - like me - they find something in the space of a kitchen that feels like home. There are lots of things that need to change to make the industry a truly viable career choice, but it won’t change without a few gamechangers. If you or someone you know is naturally drawn to cooking or baking, encourage them to follow their hearts into the vibrant world of food. You never know, they might have just the ingredient we need to make the industry a better place.
Amidst a whirlwind of formal introductions, smiles and small talk, the five of us set out on our first official TTA excursion in Sligo at 10am on Monday morning. Driving slowly along the Mullaghmore coast road, grey clouds parted to reveal the proud silhouette of Classiebawn Castle, and our first glimpses of the Atlantic coastline materialized against dramatic sandstone cliffs. At the harbour, the last of the sea mist lifted and the sun saw us through two vibrant days of exploring Sligo’s coastline.
Reflecting on our first excursion I am left with an immense, renewed feeling of pride in the produce and the producers our island has to offer but also completely baffled as to why we do not instil this sense of achievement within them more often. I think, as chefs, we get so caught up in championing the produce itself and all of its versatility that we can sometimes overlook the people on the ground doing the work, getting seafood safely from ocean waters to our restaurant plates or farming it from scratch with their own hands. It is difficult for me to properly encapsulate or convey the genuine passion and dedication that those working on the frontlines of Irish aquaculture possess but talking face to face with producers about their livelihoods is an incredibly warming, rewarding feeling that you really have to experience for yourself. Listening to them speak and educate, their enthusiasm becomes almost tangible and the willingness that is there, to give their time to sharing such a wealth of generational knowledge, is overwhelming. I think it is important for them also to realize that people want to hear what they have to say and in the era of sustainability and commercial greenwashing, now is the time to shout loudly about the genuine efforts they have been making all along.
Walking on to any working farm, I am always struck by the degree of sheer physical labour at hand combined with the small work force that keep the wheels turning day in, day out. It really is a labour of love and listening to Daithí of Mullaghmore Sea Farm speak of the challenges of keeping young people interested in such a career was more than disheartening. He left us with no doubts that it is indeed a vocation. On site on the sea farm, surrounded by towering stacks of shellfish crates representing every fishing company from Cork to Donegal, I really began to get a sense of the volume of work at the origin point of our food systems. The packing, unpacking, reboxing, labelling, filing, moving, lifting, storing, checking, adjusting and of course the reams of thrilling paperwork that come with managing a traceability system. And that is excluding the physical labour and time spent by fishermen catching and getting the produce back on dry land come rain, hail or shine.
For me, the overarching theme of the trip was undoubtedly food education – how our seafood is sourced, the biology behind it and the time frames in which it is ready to be put on the market. I was surprised at the gaps in my own knowledge and the questions that had never even occurred to me. It is jarring to realize I did not know how products like oysters or lobster, that I could be working with every day, were grown and produced. Before our workshop with BIM, I had never heard of “V” notching lobsters as a sustainable practice nor did I know it is actually illegal to land, hold or sell these lobsters. It signals a frightening disconnect in our food system that those handling food every day would not know if their produce was in breach of legislation.
When you consider that the oysters on your restaurant plate take three years to reach that size it really gives a whole new perspective on their value as a food item. For me, it raises questions around fair prices for farmers and fishermen, especially when they face consistent challenges like disease, failed seed crops and an increasingly unpredictable climate with rising water temperatures. This thinking really reinforced the need that is there to overhaul food education in Ireland and start teaching children at a young age where our food comes from so that in years to come, they may place a greater importance on protecting the jobs and the people that keep us fed. We need more initiatives like Feast Ireland to keep the momentum on this going because it is invaluable that future generations are armed with the correct knowledge on the realities of food systems.
Something that also really came to the fore across the two days was the inherent value and necessity for community and cooperation amongst the producers. There is strength in numbers and while yes, they are competitors, there is a phenomenal amount of support and knowledge sharing amongst them. They lift each other up rather than see each other struggle. It is great to hear producers promoting and linking in with one another where possible. Collectives of producers and fishermen are what strengthen the industry and give them the lobbying power they need to improve policymaking. The Wild Atlantic Oyster company is testament to this with several producers coming together to form a successful business. Mullaghmore Sea Farm also emphasizes this point, acting as a vital intermediary between fishermen on the west coast and the international export markets. Without it, smaller fishing families would have no means to compete as their individual total catches would be below viable commercial level.
Another huge dimension to this trip was the growing demand for and commercial viability of food tourism in today’s tourist economy. The Sligo Oyster Experience is a perfect example of this. Farm tours and tastings are the ideal way for producers to gain increased exposure of their produce and engage the public in a more emotive, less static manner. In a sense, they allow for the forging of a more personal relationship with consumers, and it is hard to deny that special feeling you get of being somewhat involved in it all. There is an authenticity in being on a working production site or eating local produce in its place of origin that isn’t as easily translated by simply marketing your product to domestic consumers via supermarkets or social media.
Of course, the reality for many producers is that they simply do not have the additional time, staff, experience or space to accommodate visitors. This is where entrepreneurial individuals like Aishling (Sligo Oyster Experience) prove indispensable to the industry and I think meeting her made me realize that the more diverse, professional perspectives aquaculture gains, the more likely it is to gain greater traction in the public domain. There is a meeting point here of hospitality, business, tourism and production that once again reiterates the importance of network and community. Aishling is someone who is invested in championing local produce and is on a mission to share her pride with whoever is willing to listen. She has managed to turn her passion into a profitable experience that gets people back to the roots of where their food comes through informative, interactive education sessions while spreading the word about Sligo’s incredible offerings.
Our two days in Sligo were a brilliant start to the programme and I am excited that this is just the beginning of our journey together. It has provided me with ample food for thought and I am extremely grateful to each of the producers who gave up their time to host us. I look forward hugely to our next outing and of course working with my paired producer in July!
In 2021, the Department of Health launched the Roadmap for Food Product Reformulation in Ireland. The aim of the roadmap is to improve the health of people in Ireland by changing the food environment to make it easier for people to make healthier food choices. Foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt are overconsumed in Ireland, which contributes to high levels of a range of diseases including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Why food reformulation? There is no doubt of the effect that food and nutrition have on health. We know that lifestyle – including nutrition – accounts for almost two thirds of all cancer. We know that risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death in Ireland, is substantially reduced by a balanced and nutritious way of eating. Research on diet and mental health shows that nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids from fish as well as following a Mediterranean style diet reduces anxiety and depression.
Changes to what and how we eat have the potential to improve health and prevent a range of diseases and disorders. On a personal level this means that we, and our family members, have the potential to live healthier, for longer. From a wider community perspective, it means savings in healthcare can be used to support education, infrastructure and other investments in the community.
Food reformulation means improving the nutritional content of foods and drinks by reducing calories and target nutrients including saturated fat, salt and sugar in some foods. The roadmap for food reformulation is targeting key nutrients in foods purchased in retail but also in food service. One third of Irish people eat out once a week and one in four eat lunch out most weeks. Food served in cafes, restaurants and takeaways has the potential to affect the nutritional health of many people in Ireland.
The idea of thinking about food service from a nutritional as well as a taste point of view is not new. The Irish Heart Foundation has been running programmes in workplaces for decades to reduce salt and saturated fat in foods served in workplace restaurants. Chefs are engaged in improving nutrition as well and there is a range of courses to develop knowledge of nutrition and bring it to people in restaurants and workplaces.
Changing recipes to improve nutrition can be a challenge. Salt is a great flavour enhancer and reducing saturated fat can mean a rethink of how much butter and cream is used. How can chefs and anyone working in food service help to reach the reformulation targets?
1. Reducing saturated fat is one of the big targets. Ingredients that are high in saturated fat include butter and cream, coconut milk, coconut oil and lard. Streaky bacon, chorizo, and other sausages all add extra saturated fat as well. Can amounts of these foods and ingredients be reduced in recipes? Can they be replaced? Can olive oil be used in place of cream or butter? Can spices be used to replace some flavours like smoked paprika? Nutritional yeast is a great ingredient to add umami or even cheese flavours.
2. There is a target of a 20% reduction in sugar in some foods. Foods like fruit and milk will have a naturally occurring sugar and they are not foods that need to be reduced as they are very nutritious. However, can added sugar be reduced in any recipes? Techniques like caramelising onions & sautéing vegetables can be used to add sweetness to savoury meals without added sugar. What can help with desserts? Can sugar be reduced? Can sweeter fruits be used instead? Can flavours like vanilla extract be used to add a sense of sweetness without sugar? It is important to remember that any sugar that is added is an added sugar – no matter where it comes from. So, honey counts as an added sugar as does maple syrup or coconut sugar. The aim is to reduce overall sugar, not swap one type for another. For cakes like carrot cakes, cooking the carrot a little before adding can add more sweetness and reduce added sugar and many cake recipes can have sugar at least partly reduced and still work.
3. There is a focus on reducing calories in children’s foods. This can be difficult for hospitality with the enduring popularity of chicken-nuggets-and-chips with parents and children. Lots of restaurants have more options for children that include pasta or mashed potatoes. Thinking about how breaded chicken or fish is produced for children may help to reduce calories. Can foods be baked instead of fried? Can coatings have less fat? Less salt? Can half portions of some of the adult meals be available for children? This can be a tricky area to manage - it is hard to strike the balance between providing healthy foods for children and actually getting them to eat them. Make goujons with wholemeal crumb or high fibre cereals and bake rather than fry them.
4. Reducing salt is also a target. Can some of the salt in the recipe be reduced? It is easy to get used to the taste of salt and start adding more and more salt to get an effect. Reducing salt can help to “reset” tastebuds and people find they need less salt for the same effect. This is worth remembering if you are tasting salty foods a lot – foods might not need as much salt as you think. You can also use seaweed powder to add a salty flavour without salt (this also adds much needed iodine). Adding chilli helps foods to taste saltier with less salt and can be another way to reduce salt.
More information on the Roadmap for Food Product Reformulation in Ireland can be found here.
ABOUT REBECCA AND SARAH:
Rebecca and Sarah are both past BIM Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassadors. Sarah Browne is originally from Co. Kerry but is now working as a chef de partie in Cava Bodega in Galway. Sarah has studied and honed her culinary skills in CIT and LYIT and has extensive experience working in tourism including at the world-famous Avoca Molls Gap in Kerry. Originally from Galway, Rebecca Sweeney is the Head Chef of Hooked Restaurant, Sligo. She graduated from ATU with a Bachelor of Business degree in Culinary Arts Management.
Both Sarah are Rebecca were onsite representing Chef Network at CATEX, Ireland’s Largest Foodservice event in February and we asked them both to recap on their activities & experience at the event. Rebecca looks back at her time at the event and Sarah provides us with a first person diary entry perspective of a full day at CATEX 2023.
"Catex 2023 had a brilliant atmosphere. The Chef Network hub was an inclusive and inviting space for existing members, new members and those curious of Chef Network. It was an incredible and lively set up including a wall dedicated to reasons why we love being chefs. Anyone was free to write on the wall their reason why and it was insightful to see the variety of people within the industry and where their passions lie.
Chef Network had a fantastic live kitchen set-up with food demonstrations in Butchery, Fish Filleting, Vegetarian Cooking and Seaweed. Seats were full at every demo! It was a great learning experience, and many tastings were had. Tom Flavin and Michael Birmingham slow-cooked some pork shoulders baps, Sarah Browne created a delicate dish with mackerel, local yoghurt, and seaweed pesto, Prannie Rhatigan created a carrot and sea spaghetti salad and more. These experiences brought the community together through food, and promoted interaction, conversations, and curiosity.
There were panel discussions over the three days. I took part in the "Positive Kitchens" discussion, a relevant and progressive topic. Sinead Moore, Anthony Gray, Michael Nestor and I spoke about our roles in achieving a positive kitchen environment and how to deal with conflict appropriately. All of these aspects tie into the Workplace Kitchen Charter that Chef Network created and the importance of sticking to these values for both your staff’s wellbeing and your own.
Overall, it was the perfect opportunity to connect with old friends and make new connections as it was a great advantage having such a variety of professionals within the industry under one roof. And the Chef Network stands was the perfect place to Network! Looking forward to what the next year may bring."
It is a great privilege to have been invited to participate in Catex, a three-day, foodservice and hospitality event showcasing over 270 exhibitors; and what a whirlwind it was! Here is a “day in the life” diary entry of my first day at CATEX 2023:
“It’s the 22nd of February, the second day of CATEX 2023. It is also my Gran’s birthday – Gran was one of the great influences in my becoming a chef - and so the day is doubly significant for me as I have been invited to participate in a panel discussion on Career Progression in the morning and a demo in the afternoon with Dr. Prannie Rhatigan, the queen of seaweeds! It goes without saying that Gran is very proud.
I arrive early, get myself a coffee from the Chef Network Lounge and set off for a trot around the exhibition stands; where everything you could ever imagine needing for food service has been carefully arranged and displayed by passionate vendors. I lust after plates, cutlery, chef whites, cleaning supplies, and packaging of every shape and size. Walking around CATEX as a chef with a dream of one day opening a restaurant is akin to the feeling of walking around a stationary shop before you go back to school; all of the shiny new equipment bears with it the zest of a new adventure.
The exhibition hall is massive and slightly overwhelming at first, so I relish my return to the Chef Network Lounge for a little rest before our panel discussion begins at 11. Our panel is hosted by the illustrious Ruth Hegarty, who guides us through a lively discussion on a chef’s career. I’m joined on the panel by Clement Pavie, Ray Flynn and Patrick Clement, all of whom are chefs who have many years of industry experience and have had interesting careers to say the least! We discuss how we became chefs, longevity of the chef’s career, and the importance of education. The discussion flies, and before we know it our time is up.
I locate fellow TTA ambassador Becca Sweeney and we go for a gander around the exhibition hall again, this time in search of an ice cream to accompany our lunch!
There are large stands from various food service suppliers around the hall, all demoing recipes, products, and new ingredients. These stands are almost like mini supermarkets when you step into them, complete with deli counters, fish counters and wine displays! We bump into old friends and make some new ones, sampling some fabulous products along the way. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, and it is time already to get set up for assisting Dr. Prannie Rhatigan in her demo on Seaweeds.
I don my whites and trusty TTA apron and help Prannie to set up. Her knowledge of seaweeds is second to none and Prannie is an actual medical doctor, so she approaches the culinary application of seaweed from both a health and flavour perspective; it’s fascinating. We prepare a few dishes from her award-winning cookbooks and hand out samples of different seaweeds to the crowd. Incorporating more seaweeds into our diets is of huge importance as they are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals and are also a great source of protein. Seaweeds are a hugely sustainable food as they are low-trophic, meaning they require minimal inputs to create protein. There are also many different flavours of seaweed, depending on the variety. The demo is so informative, and I leave determined to experiment more with seaweeds in my cooking.
The show begins to wind down around 5pm as everyone heads home to get some rest before a bustling day again tomorrow. I head home to prepare for demoing with Master Fishmonger Hal Dawson and my TTA bestie Becca Sweeney tomorrow, tired but excited for another day of inspiration. CATEX is energizing and filled with passionate members of our vibrant industry. It is so exciting to have been a part of it; I look forward to returning in 2025.”
Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassador Programme has returned for 2023, Open for applications until April 30th 2023. To apply and read more see the ‘TTA 23’ events page.
CATEX, Ireland’s Largest Foodservice Event, returns to the RDS in February 2025.
ABOUT FRANCES BUCKLEY
I am an Applied Culinary Nutritionist , licenced food safety trainer and Chef with over 25 years of professional cooking experience in restaurants and diplomat catering. Currently working with the Coeliac society of Ireland and the DDLETB.
My classical training was in Dublin College of Catering, Cathal Brugha Street. I have worked for over 5 years in food sensory science evaluation, with Teagasc and Diageo as part of their food sensory testing panels. For several years, I have been a guest judge for the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland.
I attained a Master of Science in Applied Culinary Nutrition at Technological University of Dublin, Tallaght campus in 2020. In my applied research project on coeliac disease, I evaluated the understanding of coeliac disease in workplace catering together with the potential deficiencies in the gluten free diet.
Applied Culinary Nutrition provides me with the expertise to apply culinary skills and nutrition knowledge in developing food for health and wellness. It combines advanced nutrition science with professional culinary skills to provide health supportive meal solution.
FOOD CHALLENGES FOR COELIACS:
Coeliac Disease (pronounced see-lee-yak) is an autoimmune disease which causes an adverse reaction in adults and children when they eat gluten. It is not an anaphylactic reaction. Gluten is a protein(gliadin) is found in wheat rye and barley.
Some people with coeliac disease are also sensitive to a similar protein found in oats called avenin. Even a grain of gluten can cause abdominal harm such as diarrhoea, or other symptoms which can last for several days.
Gluten can sometimes be contained within ingredients of foods, e.g. soups, sauces, gravy, crisps, chocolate, sweets, and ready meals. In these cases, it can be hard to tell if the food is safe to eat for coeliacs. Gluten-free manufactured products do not always contain the same nutrients as those that contain gluten.
COELIACS FACE MANY CHALLENGES IN THEIR DIET:
Malabsorption of nutrients is a direct result of the damage to the lining of the small intestine in those with coeliac disease. Increased intake of the following nutrients is important on a coeliac diet, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, vitamin D and fibre. Try to include the following ingredients to increase nutrients from vegetables and root vegetables; gluten-free grains, such as quinoa and rice.
The inclusion of pseudo cereals (ancient grains) such as amaranth, sorghum and teff can help in mitigating the risk of nutrient deficiency. Fruits and dairy products, meat and poultry, fish, eggs and non -gluten wholegrains will deliver required nutrients. When selecting meat, fish or poultry choose ones which have no seasonings, sauces, crumbs, or batters added, unless they specifically say gluten free.
When using breadcrumbs and flour in the kitchen you may decide to use gluten free option for both menus, reducing the risk of cross contamination. Remember, non- coeliac or non-gluten intolerant customers can eat gluten free food!
When purchasing pre-made options such as gluten free breaded chicken or fish you may consider using this product for both the gluten free selection and the regular menu. This may be a more cost-effective practice.
STEPS TO CATER SAFELY:
Good food safety practices are essential in the kitchen and are vital in the preparation of food free from gluten. HACCP plans already in place in your kitchen will include risk assessment for food safety and allergens. The risk of contamination with gluten to dishes without gluten-containing ingredients, should be built into the steps of the HACCP plan.
What is cross contamination?
IMPORTANT MEASURES TO MINIMISE CROSS CONTAMINATION RISK:
The provision of dishes for coeliacs can be a valuable part of your business, you may decide to provide a separate menu, this can allow you to produce the dishes for this selection at a different time (time zoning) or in a different section to minimise disruption to the kitchen workflow.
The most common request for free-from foods in restaurants and other catering outlets is for GF food
It’s not just the person living with coeliac disease your business could be missing out on as a customer, but their entire party. The coeliac customer will be the decision-maker on what restaurant the party goes to, based on menu choices without gluten and staff understanding of their needs.
63% of Coeliac’s eat out once a month with the average spend on food €120.
70% of Coeliac’s choose the restaurant where a group will eat.
97% of Coeliac’s are more likely to book a restaurant which has had training.
100% believe it is significantly important that the restaurant staff are knowledgeable about Coeliac Disease.
The Coeliac Society of Ireland have a catering training programme on catering safely for coeliacs for further information contact email@example.com
The demand for plant-based dishes in company restaurants is growing yearly as workplace services provider Sodexo Ireland marks Veganuary 2023 with food data results from 43 of its client sites in Ireland. Approximately 21,600 vegetarian or vegan meals were bought on those sites between January and November 22, representing a thriving 8.5% of sales, up from 5% in 2021.
Vegetarian and vegan dishes purchased on client sites in Northern Ireland remained steady at 6% of sales for both years.
Sodexo offers vegan and vegetarian main courses, grab and go snacks and sandwiches throughout the year. The survey showed that demand for plant-based food options is greatest during the summer months, but December also has a strong showing.
Sodexo has long been committed to providing more vegan and vegetarian meal options to suit the changing demands of its customers. As part of its Social Impact Pledge, the organisation is focused on increasing the uptake of sustainable meal options by promoting and raising awareness of sustainable plant-based choices to its clients. The organisation continues to develop and expand its plant-based meal options to enable its customers to make more sustainable food choices.
Vegan options offered by Sodexo include lentil celeriac chestnut pie, potato mixed bean chilli, tofu summer tart, Southern Indian vegan chickpea curry, vegan mushroom burger, vegan chicken nuggets, aubergine masala and many more.
Claire Atkins-Morris, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Sodexo, said: “Whether people are vegan, vegetarian, or just want to try something new, it's great to see that more and more customers are trying plant-based meals across our sites. This really demonstrates a shift in consumer awareness, a wider range of options and a marketplace responding.
“We are a proud supporter of Veganuary, and our community of chefs are encouraging more customers to try our plant-based meals by developing delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes that show the variety of meal options people have at our client sites. As part of our Net Zero commitment, we have set ourselves the goal of increasing the number of plant-based meals and recipes our clients choose from to 33% by 2025.”
Toni Vernelli, Head of Communication & Marketing at Veganuary added: “We're delighted to see Sodexo reporting an increase in sales of vegan and vegetarian meals across their UK and Ireland client sites. Veganuary is here to support anyone who wants to try being vegan, but it makes our job a lot simpler when organisations like Sodexo are offering delicious, nutritious, and easily accessible options.”
Sodexo Ireland Sodexo Ireland is part of the global Sodexo Group, a world leader in delivering services that improve the quality of life to clients in business and industry, education, financial, pharma and healthcare. These include food services, infrastructure build, facilities and estate management, optimising the workplace experience, wellness experiences, personal and homecare services.
ABOUT REBECCA SWEENEY
Originally from Galway, Rebecca is the Head Chef of Hooked Restaurant, Sligo. She graduated from ATU with a Bachelor of Business degree in Culinary Arts Management. Rebecca was one of the Taste the Atlantic Ambassadors for 2022, collaborating with Bord Iascaigh Mhara and Chef Network and is the Granddaughter of well-known Kinvarra Fisherman, Rainer Krause.
TASTE THE ATLANTIC AMBASSADOR PROGRAMME 2022: MY EXPERIENCE
The Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassador Programme was proudly supported by:
After coming across the social media input of 2021’s Taste the Atlantic (TTA) Ambassadors, I was introduced to the TTA Program created by Chef Network and Bord Iascaigh Mhara, I had to apply, especially with my family history of oyster farmers and fishermen! Alongside four other talented chefs, I had the privilege of being chosen for the second year of the TTA Program.
The program began in late June, and mostly ran its course in my beautiful home county of Galway. Our first event was held at Aniar with JP McMahon. JP had an amazing variety of fish delivered to the kitchen that morning, including salmon, turbot, oysters, mussels and lobster. We learned about preparing each product, flavour pairings, how to maintain the delicate flavours of these seafood items through cooking, handling and seasoning. It was also a great team building experience for all the young ambassadors, being our first in-person meeting.
The following day we met Brigitta Hedin-Curtain at The Burren Smokehouse in county Clare. Brigitta told us her story and the creation of the now well-known Smokehouse. We learnt about the preparation and handling involved and the different smoking methods they use. The Burren Smokehouse use 100% organic Irish salmon and they promote sustainability and display this in their educational Centre on-site. Later that day we enjoyed some Flaggy Shore Oysters for lunch; one of the two hatcheries in Ireland. They have a 2 to 3-year life cycle, before they are much-loved by diners at Linnanes Bar. The Flaggy Shore oyster has a mineral flavour.
In late July, each ambassador visited their assigned producer. I had the pleasure of being paired up with Jimmy and Marion from Irish Premium Oysters, Donegal. Irish Premium Oysters is a family run business which began 33 years ago. They have become massively successful especially within the Asian Market, where this unique Irish shellfish is celebrated in 11 countries around Asia, exporting 2 Tonnes weekly. Their clientele typically enjoys their oysters in a buffet setting.
Irish Premium Oysters have a 2.5-year lifespan, where they spend the last 6 months “fattening” in grade A bog water which contributes to the remarkable sweet notes when tasting. Jimmy and Marion kindly gifted me a box of their oysters, which I created into a delicate saffron and fennel stew. I lightly poached the oysters in the velouté, maintaining their flavour, as JP McMahon had taught us.
In August, the ambassadors and I met again at Connemara Oysters to take a glimpse of DK's farm. DK presented us with a 258g oyster, which one of the lads bravely took on! From there we headed to Killary Fjord Shellfish, who are well known for their mussels. Killary Fjord is one of the 3 of its kind in the whole of Ireland. We met Kate and Simon, the creators of Killary Fjord Shellfish, who had an array of seafoods and salads awaiting us in their marquee. Oysters were bubbling away on, all while surrounded by Connemara’s fantastic scenery. This experience inspired me for my potential dish ideas for the final event!
In late August, after having a couple of weeks to plan and create recipes, we presented our ideas to JP McMahon. JP mentored us for the day in Aniar and advised us on how we can enhance our dishes. Our dish had to include a product from our assigned producer to support them and show a variety of ways in which their products can be utilised. Jimmy from Irish Premium Oysters adores travelling to Asia and the food culture, therefore I decided to embrace that in my dish. I created a tempura Irish Premium Oyster bao with a white cabbage, fresh horseradish and green apple slaw in an oyster kewpie mayo and burnt corn salsa. That dish had a variety of flavours that complimented yet didn’t overpower the oyster. I wanted to capture the flavours of Asia while using Irish products such as using a local seaweed blend to season the tempura mix.
Coming into our final month of the program certainly didn’t fall short. The Ambassadors and I had the pleasure of working with Master Fishmonger Hal Dawson. We completed a fish handling and preparation course in Clonakilty at the BIM Seafood Innovation Hub. We prepared an extensive variety of fish species including Mackerel, John Dory, Monkfish, Gurnard and more. Hal was passionate about his craft and his course made me understand how to optimise and maintain the quality of fish while also reducing waste.
The final event was the International Galway Oyster Festival. This popular event celebrates the molluscs and holds the international oyster opening championship. Here we presented our dishes and described our experience to an audience. We then commemorated our time together for the remainder of the evening. What an end!
However, it truly isn’t the end, as this experience will forever be a fond memory of mine. I have had many opportunities also arise during and after the programme. It has amplified my career and changed my perspective on the food industry in a positive manor. I met many incredible personalities throughout my journey that I will keep in contact with thanks to Chef Network and BIM. It is important to network with others in the industry, as support and teamwork is necessary to succeed in the culinary sector. I look forward to what may arise in the future and passing on the legacy of being a Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassador to the next lucky team of chefs.
Bord Bia and Chef Network wanted to come together to create a campaign to highlight Quality Assured Irish pork & to promote increased usage of Irish pork and bacon with industry chefs. The Irish pig meat industry is one of many facing enormous pressures, specifically as a result of unprecedented increased feed and energy costs. Chef Network worked with Maureen Gahan, Bord Bia’s Foodservice specialist & Peter Duggan, their Sector Manager for Pig meat and Poultry. Together we developed an exciting programme that launched this week, with an interactive butcher & chef - pork masterclass.
The line-up included a butchery demonstration from Michael Bermingham who has over 30 years’ experience in the butchery and meat wholesale trade. Irish TV Chef Kwanghi Chan demonstrated a number of pork dishes showcasing the versatility of Quality Assured Irish pork and consultant chef Tom Flavin outlined how including pork dishes on menus can help with balancing costs. See the recipes demonstrated on the day here.
In addition, we were joined by Loretto Kiernan from Carty Meats who discussed what membership of both the Bord Bia Quality Assurance and Origin Green sustainability programmes means for their business.
During the event, we heard about Ireland’s long tradition of producing high quality pigmeat, a tradition that is centred around family farms. These farms are passed from generation to generation, as is the craft and love of rearing pigs. The Irish pigmeat processing sites are strategically located to minimise any long distance transport and support pig comfort. The Irish pigmeat sector is the 3rd largest Irish agricultural sector after dairy and beef. In 2021, Ireland produced around 335,000 tonnes of pigmeat, the domestic market being the main market outlet for Irish pigmeat suppliers.
There is extremely strong support for Irish pigmeat that is produced under Bord Bia Quality Assurance standards. At Retail level, 90% of pork, bacon & cooked ham products carry the Bord Bia Quality Mark – reassurance for the shopper that the product has been produced in accordance with required Quality Assurance standards and secondly that the ‘Origin Ireland’ flag verifies that the food was farmed and slaughtered in the Republic of Ireland. At foodservice level however, imported product is typically favoured, mainly due to the cost competitiveness offering. When the product that ends up on the plate is effectively ‘decanted’ without any logos or labels, the restaurant customer is none the wiser regarding origin or Quality Assurance standards.
Peter Duggan spoke about the Pigmeat Quality Assurance Scheme (PQAS) that is operated by Bord Bia and how it holds Irish pig producers to exceptionally high standards around items such as animal welfare, traceability and biosecurity. This scheme has played a key role in ensuring Irish pork is the trusted choice among retailers and consumers. The PQAS is regularly updated as new knowledge and information becomes available, meaning that Irish pork production shows due diligence at every link of the supply chain Through PQAS, production facilities are regularly inspected and audited frequently to ensure they are adhering to its rigorous standards. To ensure full supply chain compliance, pigmeat processors are members of the Bord Bia Meat Processor Scheme where they are audited to ensure that they pigs they source from Quality Assured farms are handled correctly. And that the meat they market with their customers meets the Quality Assurance standards around thresholds for any added ingredients such as water or salt.
We were absolutely delighted with the positive response from Chef Network members, with the event selling out quickly. The members in attendance really enjoyed the masterclass, which was the first cookery demonstration at Bord Bia’s new Global Hub in Ballsbridge. They view their new headquarters as a valued and vital investment in Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture industry and it is available as a resource for both food and drink client companies and industry customers alike.
This event forms part of for a wider industry campaign. Based on feedback received from those in attendance on the day, we have plans to produce a series of short tutorial videos that can be shared with all Chef Network members through our website and Social Media channels in the coming weeks.
Meet the chefs & teams of Ireland’s professional kitchens, with Chef Network
The Chef Network community brings together chefs at all levels from all sectors across Ireland. In a Hotel & Restaurant Times regular column we meet some members and hear from them what inspires and motivates them, their career challenges and opportunities, and how they believe we can improve the industry.
In this edition, we meet Michelle Daly. Michelle began her Chef journey at an early age, when she worked in kitchens on weekends while in school. Her passion has lead her to the UK & Australia, working in kitchens small & large. Michelle is currently a Development Chef with Sodexo.
1.Why did you become a Chef?
For me, I have always loved the feeling of camaraderie in the kitchen. I started working in restaurants on the weekends when I was in school and I was immediately drawn to the fast-paced, sink or swim environment. When I enrolled in culinary school, I studied at a live-in college in Ireland. Every six months a different group of students would take over a hotel ౼ we were both the guests and the staff. Depending on your area of study, you’d run a different part of the hotel. I was in the kitchen while other classmates ran reception, served in the dining room, etc. It was a wonderful experience and my first time creating a sort of “culinary family.”
2.What was your path to where you are today?
After my studies, I worked in kitchens in Ireland, England, and Australia ౼ everything from a tiny boutique hotel in Edinburgh to an outside catering company where I’d cater massive meals for thousands of people. It was very varied and kept me on my toes! Through these different experiences, I learned how important it is to say yes to opportunity ౼ and also how equally important it is to say no if you think it’s going to overload you. When you’re overloaded, you’ll never be able to put in 100%. You have got to be passionate about what you do, otherwise, it affects you and it affects your colleagues around you. One of the things that I love about working at Sodexo is that there are so many opportunities at every level of the company. I’ve really been able to take advantage of those opportunities on a personal level. In fact, this past summer, I earned a BA in Business Studies. The company supported me with time allowances on projects and I was able to use Sodexo as my guinea pig for assignments!
3.What is the most important ingredient in your success to date?
Throughout my career, I’ve made a point to learn as much as I could everywhere I went, to take as much as I could out of every experience. That mindset has helped me grow and has gotten me to where I am today
4.Tell us about the team you work with
The vast majority of chefs spend more time in the kitchen than with their own families, so the workplace becomes a kind of second family. I believe that if you're going to be around a group of people for a significant amount of time, you’ve got to find your niche, that place that you can feel good about going to every morning when you wake up.
In my current position at Sodexo as a Development Chef for the Food platform in Ireland, my day to day is extremely varied. Together with my team, we create new food offers, build regional menus, look at insight and feedback, test recipes and try to find ways to work smarter. We serve clients in schools, corporate offices, manufacturing companies, and even major government contracts. I liaise with segments, supply management, branding, marketing, the list goes on. I’m able to touch base with a lot more people in a lot more segments, which is very challenging and also rewarding at the same time. There's no job fatigue because there's so much to learn and to do.
5.What is the most important lesson you have learned about being a leader in the kitchen?
With every change, I’ve found that the most important thing is to be passionate about what you're doing and who you're doing it with.
QUICKFIRE Q & A
The biggest challenge is: at 5ft, my height, not easy reaching the back pot on a stove
The most difficult thing I have had to face is: criticism
The most rewarding thing I’ve done is: taking criticism onboard and turning it into good feedback
I have learned that: old age saying: you can’t please everyone all the time
The key skills or traits to have in this job are: willingness to adapt
My advice to chefs starting out is: be willing to adapt!
My advice to chefs trying to progress their career is: assess what you want as an end result and take the steps to get there (assess if you can take the bigger risks or smaller ones at each stage, but just take a step)
My greatest mentor has been: Mercy Fenton. She led by example every day and didn’t hesitate in giving her time in showing you new skills (deboning a full lamb during her split). She was one of the strongest female chefs I was able to emulate as a younger chef,
My favourite job ever: Dipping Marshmallow wafer cups in chocolate! My first job in a handmade sweet factory, I used to go home smelling of clove rock.
My favourite place to eat is: In the Sun!! The sun makes everything better
My favourite thing to eat is: anything served up to me with a smile
My favourite piece of kit is: good shoes so you can carry whatever the day throws at you
Meet the chefs & teams of Ireland’s professional kitchens, with Chef Network
The Chef Network community brings together chefs at all levels from all sectors across Ireland. In a Hotel & Restaurant Times regular column we meet some members and hear from them what inspires and motivates them, their career challenges and opportunities, and how they believe we can improve the industry.
In this edition, we meet David Gillmore. David knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Chef. He started his career with an apprenticeship in his local Holiday Inn before moving up the ranks in to numerous luxury hotel kitchens. He moved to Northern Island with his wife, where he is now Executive Head Chef at Galgorm.
1. Why did you become a Chef?
The decision to become a Chef was a very conscious one when I was in high school. I had to choose home economics in school as I was, and still am, terrible at woodwork and DIY. I then discovered that I enjoyed cooking and decided that I wanted to be a Chef. I also used to watch Gary Rhodes in a series he had on television. He came across very well and he became someone I admired – and still do. I was delighted that I was able to meet him when he came to The Chester Grosvenor a couple of times while I was working there.
2. What was your path to where you are today?
I left school at 16 and started work as an apprentice, going to college one day per week. I began the apprenticeship at a local Holiday Inn and then moved to The Chester Grosvenor Hotel. In the area where I grew up, The Chester Grosvenor was an iconic, luxury five-star city centre hotel. It was my first experience of Michelin star standards and a large kitchen, which was run like a military operation. I started petrified but, over time, as I started to increase my knowledge and experience and rise through the ranks, I gained an immense sense of achievement. Whilst the hours were long, I enjoyed the feeling of being part of a different world and I realised that this was the level at which I wanted my career to be.
Following my apprenticeship, I worked with a Chef called John Campbell at Lords of the Manor in the Cotswolds. This was in the early 2000s - at a time when we had ice cream on savory dishes and it was my first experience of cooking that was directed by science. I continued to work with him at The Vineyard at Stockcross in Newbury, also working alongside Nathan Outlaw.
I later returned to The Chester Grosvenor in a senior position when I relocated back to the area where I had grown up. Simon Radley was still the Executive Chef, as he was when I had worked there initially. He was a Chef who kept himself away from any limelight but was a great role model and an example of how to lead a multi-outlet hotel at a very high standard.
I progressed from there into my first Executive Chef role at Thornton Hall Hotel & Spa and won three rosettes in the restaurant. It was a learning curve in terms of managing and cooking at the same time.
After getting married to my wife Rachel, who is from Northern Ireland, we moved to Belfast and I spent eight years working for Niall McKenna at James Street South, Hadskis and James Street South Cookery School. I worked closely with restaurant owners and learnt to be more confident, by talking in front of people and teaching within the cookery school.
I then moved to my current role of Executive Head Chef here at Galgorm.
3. What are some of the highlights of your career to date or some of the periods/aspects of your time as a chef that you have most enjoyed?
A key highlight of my career was cooking for members of the Royal Family while working for The Duke of Westminster. I’m also proud of achieving three Rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide as well as numerous awards while working in James Street South, including from the Irish Restaurant Awards and the Waitrose Good Food Guide awards and Georgina Campbell’s Restaurant of the Year.
My first experience working in a five-star hotel was something that has stuck with me and shaped me into who I am today. Without that experience, I would never have had the career I have had to date. Working within the best establishments from an early age is something I would encourage everyone to do.
4. What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
Initially, when I was at the beginning of my career, I struggled to believe that I was good enough to work at the highest level. Appreciation can oftentimes be overlooked in the profession and this is something I quickly learned in my early years working as a Chef. I had to remind myself that just because you aren’t continuously being praised, that this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not doing a great job.
Integrating into new teams when you start a new job, proving your worth, and showing the new staff around you that you have the capability to succeed is also a challenge, as is adapting to the unique ways of working under a new Chef. This helps mould you into the Chef you want to be and influences the way you treat people once you have reached a senior position.
Cooking for large numbers can be a big challenge in our industry, so you need to be able to rely on your team and trust the methods and ways you know work. There is of course an increased risk factor when working with very large numbers but the satisfaction of being successful afterwards is very rewarding.
Balancing the life of a Chef and a parent is something I’m not sure you ever overcome, you just adjust, but it is certainly one of the biggest challenges.
5. What is the most important ingredient in your success to date?
I believe work ethic and adaptability are key ingredients in my own personal success. I come from a family where older grandparents continued to work past retirement age and this drives me to work hard as they did. Adaptability is also key and it is important to know which battles to fight and which to move on from. Chefs by nature can spend a lot of time fighting the problem rather than looking at solutions. Don’t get me wrong, we all make decisions that don’t work out, but it’s how we react afterwards that matters.
6. Tell us about your work environment and the team you work with
I joined Galgorm just before Christmas 2021, so it is not a team I have known all that long. There are a couple of staff with whom I have worked previously, so obviously that helps with communication and expectations. I try to speak to every member of the kitchen staff each day when I arrive as I feel it’s important to have that moment with everyone and build mutual respect. It was something I experienced in a kitchen in France and think it helps build the team environment. Man-management is a big part of the role - treating people as individuals and knowing your team well enough that you can sense if something is not right.
The senior members of the kitchen team were great in helping me settle in quickly when I first started. It doesn’t matter how long you have been working in the industry, when you begin a new job in a new environment, you still need the knowledge, experience, and support from existing staff to make the transition easier.
I’m motivated by wanting to be better and more successful. I want the hotel and food to be talked about in a positive manner and for Galgorm to be held up with the best there is in the UK and Ireland.
7. The Chef Network Kitchen Workplace Charter aims to create a positive and nurturing work environment in kitchens, which point(s) of the charter do you feel are most important and can you share examples of practices from your own kitchen that help you to achieve these principles?
I feel that one of the most important aspects of the charter is “To build a positive and encouraging environment.” This is something I have made an active effort to work on over the past few years. Whilst working in some high-end, demanding kitchens, it was always about the result and not necessarily about how we got there. As you get older, and especially if you have your own children, it gives you more empathy about the type of environment you would want for them and others. Greeting everyone each morning and creating that mutual respect starts the day in the right manner. It is important to choose your words and the delivery carefully, to ensure a better outcome. Telling someone we need to be better or correcting something doesn’t need to be an attack on them as an individual. I try to create an environment that lets people speak up and an environment in which they feel comfortable, to help them be the best version of who they are.
Another important aspect of the charter is to “Prioritise work life balance.” We try to be mindful of the previous week’s rota when designing the new week to prevent where possible a real lengthy run of consecutive days. We also try to balance shift patterns between late finishes and early starts. I’ve always believed that everyone has something just as important to them as the next person. What is important to the 18-year-old commis chef is always going to be different to the Sous Chef with a wife and small children, but that is never comparable, it’s just different. Avoiding making contact on days off, letting people know that an email can be replied to when they are back working, or where possible holding off and talking about it in person, can all make a huge difference to work life balance.
8. What is the most important lesson you have learned about being a leader in the kitchen?
The most important lesson I have learned about being a leader in a kitchen is that people react to how you behave. If you’re stressed, they will be stressed, and if you are calm, likewise, they will react to that. A kitchen that is always on edge isn’t a great environment to be in, and people will follow your lead, in terms of work ethic and adaptability. It is important to give people confidence, and make them believe they are capable, by showing them, and teaching them. As a leader, you want to empower your team to feel like they can achieve the standards required regardless of how busy a particular service might get.
QUICKFIRE Q & A
What I love most is: Every day throws up different challenges.
The biggest challenge is: Keeping everyone motivated.
What makes me most proud is: Seeing a constant improvement in everything we do.
The most difficult thing I have had to face is: Leaving your loved ones at Christmas or family occasions to go to work.
The most rewarding thing I’ve done is: Getting through a day or service when you were facing adversity.
I have learned that: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can accomplish today.
The key skills or traits to have in this job are: Work ethic, adaptability and a willingness to learn.
We can create a better workplace by: Creating the right environment.
My advice to chefs starting out is: Look for solutions, rather than focusing on the problem.
My advice to chefs trying to progress their career is: Be fully committed.
My greatest mentor has been: Simon Radley.
My biggest inspiration is: My children.
My favourite job ever: I’m fortunate to have experienced a range of roles, all of which have ultimately set me in good stead for my role at Galgorm.
My favourite thing to eat is: Cheese on toast.
My favourite dish on our menu is: I have a real sweet tooth, so naturally I gravitate towards the pastry menu and like to be involved in its development. I love a classic like the Sticky Toffee Pudding or the Chocolate Brownie Sundae in Gillies. The Coconut and Mango Sundae in the Castle Kitchen & Bar is also a favourite of mine. There is something about a tall glass layered with ice cream, sauce, and different textures and temperatures that is just pure indulgence. That for me is the perfect end to a meal.
My favourite piece of kit/equipment is: A Rational oven.
Something I would like to learn is: A foreign language.
How I keep or attract staff: Provide a working environment that is enjoyable and make them feel valued.
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