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.
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