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Failte Ireland names it's new Food Tourism Ambassadors

Fáilte Ireland today announced the names of the eight new food tourism ambassadors that have been selected to represent Ireland and join the Food Tourism Network Development programme.

This followed a very well subscribed selection process after the tourism authority had sought nominations for emerging food champions with a resounding passion and belief in Irish food who actively influence and shape the future of Irish cuisine and food tourism in their region.

The focus for the initiative in 2013 is on individuals located along the Wild Atlantic Way - Ireland's first long-distance touring route, stretching along the coast from Donegal to West Cork. 

The 2013 Failte Ireland Food Champions are:

Hugh O’Donnell, Kitty Kellys & Hughies Bar, Killybegs – DONEGAL
Deborah Evers, Clareville House Kitchen Gardens, Ballyvaughan - CLARE
Jacinta Dalton, Dept Culinary Arts, GMIT - GALWAY
Martin Bealin, Global Village Restaurant, Dingle - KERRY
Mary McGettigan, A Taste of Donegal Food Festival, Donegal Town - DONEGAL
Benoit Lorge, Lorge Chocolatier, Kenmare – KERRY
Zack Gallagher, Irish Food Tours, Donegal Town – DONEGAL
Ross Quinn, Vasco Restaurant, Fanore - CLARE

(See detailed individual Profiles below)

Speaking today, Helen McDaid Fáilte Ireland’s Food Tourism Manager said - “We received nominations for many able ‘would be ambassadors’ from along the Wild Atlantic Way route – many thanks to both the nominees and nominators for the interest that they have shown. Our focus continues to be on ‘emerging’ food champions who have been working hard in their regions and can now become a part of this network which will support and guide them as they continue to develop food tourism experiences.

Helen McDaid, Food Tourism Manager at Failte Ireland

“Last year’s programme was a great success with many of the champions going on to do great work for food tourism in their areas. The focus this year is on our new project the Wild Atlantic Way and how we can further develop the visitor experience by promoting our local and regional food experiences.” 

As they embark on their role as Fáilte Ireland Food Champions, the group will now travel on a food tourism benchmarking trip to Norway to see first-hand a real-life linkage between a driving route and food tourism – this trip will provide great insight and learning opportunities for our industry here in Ireland. 

The group will have the opportunity to meet with the people behind a range of food businesses in Norway who are utilising food tourism as part of their development and business generation strategy. 

Looking further ahead, Ms McDaid commented - “Once the group returns home the focus will be on working together with their local communities to help build Ireland’s food tourism reputation and encourage visitors to stop, spend and stay longer on the Wild Atlantic Way. 

“Working together and developing networks and relationships within their localities will help to develop engaging food experiences to truly utilise food tourism as a workable economic development strategy.”

Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism development authority, was established in 2003 to guide and promote tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy. The tourism and hospitality industry employs an estimated 185,000 people and generates almost €5.7 billion in revenue a year. 

Meet the Failte Ireland Food Champions 2013 

• Hugh O’Donnell, Kitty Kellys & Hughies Bar, Killybegs – DONEGAL 

In addition to his own businesses, Hugh was involved with the Donegal Good Food Taverns and launched and ran the Killybegs Seafood festivals. He represented Donegal in the Tyrone/Donegal Good Food initiative which produced The Little Black Recipe Book and several cross border food fairs. He has served as chair and vice chair of Tir Boghaine, a rural development company for the last 5 years and currently sits on the steering team of the Donegal Good Food initiative. 

• Deborah Evers, Clareville House Kitchen Gardens, Ballyvaughan – CLARE 

Deborah is a food producer with a range of preserves called Burren Kitchen Garden. She is secretary of the local farmers market, member of the marketing committee of the Burren Ecotourism Network as was on the co-ordinating committee for the Burren Food Trail & Burren Weekly Food Series which was launched in April, 2013. 

• Jacinta Dalton, Dept Culinary Arts, GMIT – GALWAY 

A lecturer at GMIT, Jacinta has a strong industry background with which she maintains close links. She co-founded The Foodie Forum now in its second year and has been actively involved in many food festivals. Jacinta was also selected by Galway County Council for an educational visit to France with the objective of promoting Galway and the local food products available. 

• Martin Bealin, Global Village Restaurant, Dingle – KERRY 

Martin is a chef who runs and manages his own restaurant. He sources local goods, grows all his own vegetables and promotes local artisan producers. He was one of the founding members of the Dingle Food & Wine Festival and of Blas na hEireann, the national food awards. 

• Mary McGettigan, A Taste of Donegal Food Festival, Donegal Town – DONEGAL 

Mary has been instrumental in setting up the Taste of Donegal Food Festival and using food tourism as a way to increase visitors to Donegal Town and the surrounding area. She has collaborated with a number of community groups in the area and has worked hard to attract a wide range of artisan food producers to this event. This event has now been recognised as one of the must attend events in the North West. 

• Benoit Lorge, Lorge Chocolatier, Kenmare – KERRY 

A pastry chef by trade, Benoit set up Lorge Chocolatier and has developed the business to include factory demos, chocolate courses and a traditional chocolate shop. Benoit has also been very involved in the establishment of the Kenmare Food Carnival, a 2013 Bonane Gathering event and he works closely with community groups in his region. 

• Zack Gallagher, Irish Food Tours, Donegal Town – DONEGAL 

Zack has been writing a food-news website,, since 2007. Over the last few years he has built networks and created links between a wide range of producers, farms, sea fishing enterprises and the very best food providers who specialise in modern Irish cuisine and use of local produce. He has now created ‘Irish Food Tours’ with an aim to provide a complete food tourism experience for inbound tour operators. 

• Ross Quinn, Vasco Restaurant, Fanore - CLARE 

Ross, owner and sole chef, brings a fresh, locally sourced, adventurous cuisine to a small village. Locals and tourists enjoy the freshly caught fish, his own organically grown vegetables, foraged foods, meat and cheeses. He has established working relationships with B&Bs and a range of other businesses in the area to offer 'eco adventure' packages combining users of surfing and climbing schools and walking guides with accommodation and food. 

The Wild Atlantic Way 
The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long-distance driving route. Stretching from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork, the route will offer visitors an opportunity to truly discover the West Coast. Following a comprehensive public consultation process, the 2,500km route has been finalised and includes 156 discovery points along the way. 

At this stage the route comprises of a main spine but in time, a series of looped itineraries will be created to further develop the experience for visitors. Along with the relevant local authorities and other stakeholders, Fáilte Ireland has been working on the Wild Atlantic Way for the past year with significant progress to date in terms of route identification and an overall brand. Over the next year the focus will be on preparing a signage plan for the route along with ensuring the discovery points are visitor-ready. 

In addition, the tourism authority will be working with tourism businesses along the route environs to help them deliver and package their Wild Atlantic Way experiences. A series of workshops will take place focussing on the main target markets of Great Britain, France, Germany and the USA. A marketing strategy for the overseas promotion of the project will be rolled out in time for the launch of the route in March 2014.

Visit the Failte Ireland website at

The Wild Atlantic Way is the world's Longest Coastal Route