Ireland's favourite chef, Neven Maguire, was last night crowned 'Irish Food Producers' Champion' at a ceremony in Dingle as part of the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards.
The award was presented to Neven, by Artie Clifford, chairman and founder member of the Blas na Eireann committee, during the final judging session of the prestigious Irish food awards.
"Thank you for this award," said Neven to the packed house. "I am humbled. It's a pleasure to receive it and it will be on display in my restaurant tonight".
Neven also paid tribute to his late mother from whom he learned his craft saying, "I got my love of Irish food from my mother and I'll never forget where it all started. To receive this award is
wonderful because we have great people involved in food now and the next five or ten years are going to be very exciting.
From a young age, Neven learned his trade by watching his mother cook and his pastime became his passion when he began experimenting with ingredients in the home kitchen at the tender age of 10. In 1992, Neven enrolled in Fermanagh College, Enniskillen, to study catering and received the Student of the Year Award.
"I love my job and I love to promote the great people that are involved in food in Ireland" said a delighted Neven. "This is a great time for me, as a chef, to be cooking and to be supporting these wonderful people. We have gone through a very difficult time here in Ireland, with the recession. We're not fully out of it but we're getting there!"
Neven trained in some of the highest profile restaurants in the world including Michelin Star winning Hotels Roscof in Belfast and the Grand Hotel in Berlin, the Lea Linster in Luxembourg (where he cooked for Lady Diana and Tony Blair) and Arzak, San Sebastian.
In 2001, Neven took over the family business and turned a local restaurant into a national phenomenon. Located in the village of Blacklion, Co. Cavan, MacNean House & Restaurant has become one of the most talked about and frequented restaurants in the country.
This is the 7th year of the Blas na hEireann (Irish Food Awards) and 2014 saw the biggest number of entries to date.
"We want people abroad to recognise Ireland for the great food that we produce here. We have great chefs and hard working food promoters, but it all starts with our amazing food producers," said Neven. "And that's what awards like the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards are all about".
Congrats Neven, what a great night in Dingle!