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Don't Miss the Coolest Foodie Break in Ireland on May 21st

I'm delighted to announce our first Donegal Food Tour in collaboration with Harvey's Point Hotel, run by the wonderful Deirdre Gysling and her husband, Marc! We will explore some of the best in local and seasonal food and drink, on a food tour that involves a visit to a master bakery, a craft brewery and a fishing trip on Donegal Bay.

Harvey's Point Hotel nestled at the bottom of the Bluestack Mountains just outside Donegal Town

Harveys Point is a multi-award-winning fabulous hotel located on the shores of Lough Eske (just outside Donegal Town) and nestled cosily under the Bluestack Mountains! This special Irish Food Tour break is running from Sunday 21st May through to Tuesday 23rd May, with cookery demonstrations, foodie discussions, wine tasting and three different dining options to enjoy at Harvey’s Point Hotel.

Owners of Harvey's Point and fabulous food lovers, Deirdre & Marc Gysling

The Monday of the stay-over package is completely devoted to a great day out of Donegal food related activities!

Monday's Food Tour is going to be brilliant fun and learning and the full itinerary is as follows:

Following a leisurely breakfast overlooking Lough Eske, meet up with me, Zack, (I'll be your personal guide for the day) and I'll tell you all about the growth of artisan food and food tourism, we'll share some chat about Donegal foodie things, meet some wonderful people and get to enjoy a real taste of Donegal!

Our first visit of the day is to our good friend and Master Baker, Franck Pasquier, at the Donegal Craft Bakery.

Franck will take us through the process and history of sourdough, slow fermentation for bread-making. You will also get the opportunity to learn some of the tricks of the trade and how the different bread types are produced. Tastings of Franck’s savoury and sweet bread varieties will be provided!

Onwards then to Ballyshannon, Ireland’s oldest town and the birthplace of the famous blues guitarist Rory Gallagher (no relation), for a visit to the Donegal Craft Brewing Company.

Owner Brendan (Dicey) O’Reilly and Master Brewer, Patrick, will take us through the process of making craft beer from start to finish and there’ll be samples of his famous Donegal Blonde and other beers too!

Back on the coach again for a twenty minute drive to Donegal Town and Donegal Charters. At the Pier, we'll board the fully licenced 8-metre fishing vessel, “Donna Marie”, owned and operated by local skipper (and my cousin) Paul Ricketts, who is also s chef, for a trip out on Donegal Bay.

We’ll pass the seal colony at Seal Island and the old Coastguard Station, an embarkation point of emigrants during the Famine years. Paul will bring us out to where he fishes his Lobster Pots and you will experience first-hand how Lobster is caught! We'll also be cooking and eating some fresh seafood on the boat’s built-in barbeque!

A visit to The Irish House on the Diamond in Donegal Town for an Irish Coffee and some weaving
Catriona's dad, Denis Mulhearn, is a fifth generation Donegal weaver

The Irish House produce and offer authentic Irish made products that represent the best of Donegal & Irish made Tweed clothing and Crafts in the tradition of their forefathers and in doing so, support and promote many local businesses. Catriona and her family will offer a complimentary Irish Coffee and will talk us through the history and process of Donegal Tweed making.

Board the coach for a visit to the famous Biddy’s O' Barnes Roadside Tavern.

Biddy's O'Barnes is a famous roadside Pub in Barnesmore Gap, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Since it's days as an Inn, dating back to the 18th century, a time when the Coach was the main form of transport, Biddy's was a stopping point, where horses were rested, and travellers relaxed before the next stage of their long and tiring journey through the Gap. Today we continue that tradition before heading back to Harvey’s Point where you will have time to freshen up before dinner.

The Total weekend foodie break package includes:

• Three night stay in a Lodge Cabin at Harveys Point Hotel
• Three Full Irish Breakfast Feasts
• Sunday Carvery Lunch Banquet
• The Donegal Food Tour with Zack Gallagher
• Dinner on one evening of your choice in Harveys Point's award winning Lakeside Restaurant
• A Cooking Demonstration with Wine Tasting on Tuesday
• Homemade cookies and fresh fruit on arrival
• Free WIFI & Car Parking

And this only costs €318 per person sharing,
for absolutely everything!

This special Irish Food Tour break is running from Sunday 21st May through to Tuesday 23rd May and Numbers are Limited so, to Book go to: 
or call Harvey's Point Hotel, today, on +353 (0)74 97 22208

I look forward to welcoming you all to Donegal and sharing our Donegal Food story!


Finals of Ireland's Apprentice Chef take place on 11th May

On Thursday 11th May, secondary school students will get stirring to complete the final service in the 2017 Flogas Ireland and Failte Ireland sponsored Apprentice Chef Programme. The objective of the programme is to steer students towards eating a healthier and more balanced diet that will improve their mental and physical health and to also promote the catering industry as a career choice.

Since October 2016 over 500 students have enjoyed a series of demonstrations and workshops as part of the programme which aims to promote the importance of healthy eating to enhance physical and mental well-being, encourage young people to consider a culinary career to help combat the current chef crisis in Ireland and contribute to the development of self confidence and self esteem.

The young finalists will enjoy an authentic professional kitchen experience and serve restaurant standard dishes ranging from “green tea smoked chicken with cauliflower rice, apple & fennel slaw” to “pistachio, courgette and lemon cake” to a panel of judges. The Apprentice Chef Finals are being held in the Hotel, Culinary & Tourism Department at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, where they will have to produce their dishes for tasting and judging by a panel of independent judges.

Having been mentored by accomplished Kerry chefs Mark Doe and Louise Brosnan, who recently completed a stage in Belfast with Danni Barry, Ireland’s only female Michelin Star chef, and supported by nutritional therapist, Susie Cox, each dish presented by the students will have a “Good Mood Food” influence.

Apprentice Chef mentor Louise Brosnan

This is the fifth year of the Apprentice Chef Programme which was established by Mark Doe of Just Cooking Cookery School in Firies, Co Kerry and Mark Murphy, senior lecturer in Culinary Arts at IT Tralee. 

Apprentice Chef mentor Mark Doe

Co-founder Mark Doe said, “Since we started the Apprentice Chef in 2012, over two thousand secondary school students have attended workshops and cookery demonstrations. In our initial year we had a modest cohort of students from Kerry and Limerick. In year 2 students from Co Cork participated and for the first time this year, we were delighted to collaborate with Waterford IT and students from Tipperary, Wexford and Waterford have joined the programme. We are continuously impressed by the standard of dishes produced and this inspires us to build on the programme’s success and we will continue in our efforts to take it to national level. We are indebted to our sponsors, Flogas Ireland and Failte Ireland, for their support to date and we look forward to future collaboration.”

 George Hennessy, Apprentice Chef Winner 2016

The inaugural 2012 winner, Julia O Doherty from Hazelwood College in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick went on to study pharmacy at UCC. On International Women’s Day this year she contacted the Apprentice Chef team saying, “I find that there are many similarities between cooking and the pharmacy course. While I swapped my chef’s jacket for a lab coat and safety glasses, my goal in cooking still holds through in many dosage forms – the product must make the recipient happy. In a nutshell, it goes without saying that my success in the competition has not only inspired me to thrive in the development of my culinary skills but also in my academic studies and my pursuits in extra-curricular activities." Julia added, "When I have an exam approaching or a tough assignment due, I reflect on the challenges that I met and overcame in preparation for the competition. As a result, I have gained self-confidence and public speaking skills which are invaluable at third level.”

All finalists receive a specially commissioned Ambri chopping board, a Just Cooking cookbook and their Apprentice Chef monogrammed chef uniform.

The Supreme Apprentice Chef will also receive a set of professional knives, €1000 equipment for their school, a year’s subscription to Easyfood Magazine and a styling session at Easyfood Magazine HQ this summer. A specially commissioned perpetual trophy will also be presented to the winner.

For more information on the Apprentice Chef visit and and Follow them on Twitter on

Best of Success to all involved!

Tasty 2017 - Donegal Town pilots a new Transition Year Students Irish Food Project

TASTY 2017 is an innovative pilot Irish Food & Tourism Project, which has been recently launched in Donegal Town. It could be described as a mix of Master Chef meets The Apprentice!

Local chefs from seven of Donegal Town's leading Hotels and Restaurants have teamed-up with Transition Year (TY) Students from the local Abbey Vocational School (AVS) and together they are competing and creating new TASTY 2017 food products that feature locally sourced ingredients.

Following an interview process at the AVS, forty-two young student entrepreneurs were selected and split into seven TASTY 2017 teams. Each Tasty 2017 team has been assigned to a local hotel or restaurant who will mentor the Student Teams over an eight week period.

During the course of the project, each of the participating students will get the opportunity to work alongside tourism industry professionals and learn all about Food Origin, Sourcing, New Product Development, Culinary Arts, Food Packaging, Marketing, Social Media & Presentation Skills.

Sponsored by Donegal Town Credit Union, the Tasty 2017 project is being overseen by a voluntary steering committee which includes:

Enda O’Rourke - Catering Consultancy (Chairperson of Tasty 2017),
Geraldine Diver - Principal of Abbey Vocational School,
Dr Seán Duffy - Head of School of Tourism, LYIT Killybegs,
Conor Daly - H!VE Restaurant,
Donal Cox - Operations Manager, Solis Lough Eske Hotel and
Emily Browne - Smuggler’s Creek Inn, Rossnowlagh.

The project is been co-ordinated by Dympna Kennedy (0879334434) who is also the information point of contact for Tasty 2017 and co-ordinates the  Facebook Page at

Liam Kelly, of Donegal Town Credit Union explained why they decided to sponsor the TASTY 2017 project. “The ethos of our Credit Union is people working together for the people, with the people, and for the benefit of the people in our Donegal community” he said. “This innovative pilot programme gives our TY students real-life insights into varied career paths and opportunities within the local tourism industry and fits perfectly with the community ethos of Donegal Town Credit Union”.
Liam also paid tribute to the voluntary steering committee, the teaching staff, Chef Gabrial McSharry, all the local Donegal food producers and suppliers involved and the management and chefs at the supporting restaurants and hotels.

The 7 Teams taking part in Tasty 2017 are:

(and Do Like their Facebook Page if you like their food products)

Foireann Caonach
with Smugglers Creek Inn

Food Product: Irish Whiskey & Carragheen Cheesecake with Sea Salted Butter-Scotch 
Team Members: Shuan Campbell, Aine McGovern, Lisa Gallagher, Laura Taylor, Ellie Chambers, Euan Cullinan 
A.V.S Mentor: Mary Crawford

Lord of the Wings
with The Village Tavern

Food Product: Donegal Silkie Whiskey soaked Chicken Wings with a Smoked Sea Salt & Blissberry Farm Honey Glaze and a Donegal Blue Cheese Dip 
Team Members: Jasmine Timony, Aoife Breslin, Aisling Meehan, Marie Harris, Patrick Harley, Dillon Thomas - A.V.S Mentor: Patrice Rooney

Uisce Fishce
with Quay West Restaurant

Food Product: Whiskey & Honey Cured Salmon on a Stout Saltine with a Cream Cheese & Seaweed Aoili 
Team Members: Cian Hegarty, Siofra Mauehofe, Niamh Boyle, Ellen McGrory, Orla Breslin 
A.V.S Mentor: Sorcha Begley

A Donegal Fusion
with Chandpur Indian Restaurant

Food Product: Donegal Chicken in a peanut sauce, red pepper & onion concasse, mixed spices with Donegal Honey with cream 
Team Members: Victor Mitchell, Elizabeth Mackle, Kerrie McHugh, Aine McGroarty, Katie Shovlin,William Browne - A.V.S Mentor: Kyle Clarke

with Harvey’s Point Hotel, Lough Eske

Food Product: Slow cooked Beef Cheek & Donegal Stout Stew 
Team Members: Eoin Gallagher, Charlotte Timony, Killian Faulkner, Abbie Boyle, Niamh Histon, Nicole Browne - A.V.S Mentor: Karen Stewart

The Seaside Bakery - Tonn Arán
with Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel

Food Product: Tonn Arán - A Healthy new Seaweed Bread with Foraged Ingredients 
Team Members: Karla Kelly, Ciaran McGrory, Aine McGroary, ClodaghBoylan, Mya Magee, Elaine Wright - A.V.S Mentor: Lucy Gordon

Tirchonaill Toffee
with The Mill Park Hotel & Leisure Centre

Food Product: A Dessert Plate of Silke Whiskey Toffee Pudding, Silke Whiskey & Sea Salt Caramel Sauce with a Local Rhubarb and Custard Parfait. 
Team Members: Ella Duffy, Daniel Gallagher, Shaneen Graham, Keri O'Loughlin, Marguerita McHugh and Evan Towey - A.V.S Mentor: Mary Keeney

The LYIT School of Tourism in Killybegs is also supporting the TASTY 2017 project. Students taking part in the TASTY 2017 project first had to undergo an interview process, with successful participants assigned to teams of students with a mixed set of skills to complete a group task. This was followed by a day visit to the LYIT School of Tourism in Killybegs and opportunities to experience a real-life hospitality environment prior to visiting their participating restaurant or hotel.

“We view the TASTY 2017 pilot project as an extended work experience journey for the AVS TY Students. Each of the hotels & restaurants have been assigned their TY student teams," said Dr Seán Duffy (LYIT School of Tourism). "They are currently working on the creation of new Donegal food-dishes involving locally sourced ingredients".

Ms. Geraldine Diver, Principal of the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town, is delighted with the project. “TASTY 2017 is an invaluable hands on learning experience that could never be achieved from a business textbook. This project will facilitate learning in so many areas and the students will gain invaluable life-skills throughout the process” she said.

The seven TASTY 2017 Teams will have to present their finished food products to a panel of judges and over 300 members of the public at a Gala Awards and Presentation Evening hosted by Solis Lough Eske Castle, Donegal Town on 16th May 2017, where all their hard work will be acknowledged and the winners announced. “It promises to be a very special evening which the team at Solis Lough Eske are delighted to host” said Sinead McGowan, of Solis Lough Eske Hotel.

On the night, each of the seven TASTY 2017 teams will present their culinary work to an invited public audience and a judging panel. Each team will make a presentation on the journey of their product and tell their food story. The public will also get to taste each of the products.

The judging panel is headed by celebrity chef Neven Maguire, McNean House, Blacklion, with Thomas Clancy, Food & Wine writer, Sunday Business PostJoan Crawford, Failte Ireland, Paul Hannigan, President LYIT Letterkenny & KillybegsAnne McHugh, Chef Executive, Donegal ETB and Zack Gallagher, Irish Food Tours Ltd.

Each product is being judged on a combination of criteria including local sourcing of ingredients, taste & presentation, marketing strategy and social media reach over the eight weeks.

There is also a tourism promotion element to the project with the opportunity as each of the food establishments that have been mentoring the teams will feature their unique TASTY 2017 dish on their own menu for the whole of the 2017 summer tourism season!

“The aim is to provide visitors to our county with a taste of the superb food and tourism experience available here in the Donegal Bay area, thereby encouraging holiday-makers to extend their time in the region,” explained Enda O’Rourke from

Michael Tunney, CEO of Local Enterprise Office Donegal, said that the project was a great example of the type of creativity and innovation that Donegal’s Good Food Initiative hopes to inspire around the county. “The Donegal TASTY 2017 project fits well with the goals of our Food Coast Brand and demonstrates how by working together in Donegal, we can encourage people to look at the potential of the food and hospitality sector both in terms of employment and enterprise.”

Emily Browne of Smugglers Creek Inn echoed this sentiment, saying “It's great to see hospitality businesses taking the initiative and driving forward new pilot projects like this one for the greater good of the entire locality”.

This is surely an idea that could be rolled out throughout the whole country to give students an insight to the opportunities that the food and hospitality sector can present. Irish Food and tourism are currently being blended together into a new tourism product here in Ireland, with excellent potential for growth.

Projects like Tasty 2017 are key to encouraging young food entrepreneurs coming into the Irish food trade and ensuring that the food and tourism industries here in Ireland will have a solid future.

So, well done and good luck to all the students involved!


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The Irish Food Guide Blog includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food Visit

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