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Change to Entry Format for The Great Taste Awards 2014

The Great Taste Awards 2014, one of the world’s largest and most respected blind-tasted food & drink awards, will soon be open for product entry and the organisers have decided to give their members of the Guild of Fine Foods a two-week advantage to get their entries in, ahead of non-members. 

General entry, with a new maximum entry cap of 10,000 products, will be open to non-members from February 24th. See information on applying for Membership to the Guild of Fine Foods, which is open to Food Producers based outside the UK, at the end of this post.

Organised by The Guild of Fine Food and judged by hundreds of food experts, Great Taste has discovered and celebrated the very best of fine food and drink for 20 years. Chefs, buyers, fine food retailers, restaurateurs, food critics and writers, blind-taste and provide valuable feedback to producers who covet the gold and black Great Taste logo which is increasingly recognised by consumers as a sign of excellence. 

The Great Taste Awards epitomise the best of small artisan food producers from around Britain & Ireland, with many producers now also coming from continental Europe. The black & gold sticker has become an accepted acknowledgement of quality and is a great public relations boost for any food producer that wins one. A 2-star or 3-star is a guarantee of increased business opportunities for your food product and will certainly followed up by calls from major buyers. Awards such as this are a great way for the smallest producers to have the chance to compete with the biggest on a level playing field where taste is king!

Beginning on Monday, 10th February, a new ‘Members’ Fortnight’ has been created as a benefit to members of the Guild of Fine Food who will be able to enter at the same price as last year and ahead of non-members. On Monday 24th February, general entry will be open until 21st March.

“This year we have decided to cap the number of Great Taste entries at 10,000 and we wanted to give a clear benefit to our members who will be able to enter for 14 days at the same rate as last year before entry fully opens” explained John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food and organiser of Great Taste.

Winning a 1-star Great Taste award brings significant benefit to producers with increased sales and brand awareness through extensive consumer and trade promotion by The Guild of Fine Food. Every year the Great Taste team receives positive feedback from producers who may only enter one product and then receive 1-star. That Great Taste logo encourages greater confidence in smaller businesses and often leads to further development of a product and entire ranges.

“Great Taste is not just about the big winners and the trophies – Great Taste benefits thousands of producers each year who greatly benefit from having a 1-star Great Taste logo on their products. We have also introduced more specific classes for wines and spirits to take into account the growing number of producers who have approached Great Taste in the last year. Great Taste classes range from truffles to chutney, porridge to single estate tea and we’re confident that our judges will find the most exceptional food and drink to carry the Great Taste stars,” said John Farrand, MD of the Guild of Fine Food and organiser of Great Taste.

Last year’s Great Taste Supreme Champion was Marybelle Greek-style Yoghurt made in Suffolk, England. “Winning Great Taste 2013 gave us the confidence to push forward into new markets," 
said Katherine Manning of Marybelle. "It presented wider opportunities and gave our brand valuable exposure to millions of people through the media and other channels – it has been a brilliant year for Marybelle." 

New Awards introduced last year included; Great Taste Shop of the Year, Nigel Barden Heritage Award, Small Artisan Producer Award and Deli Chef’s Signature Dish and these awards will continue for 2014.

Since 1994, Great Taste has been organised by The Guild of Fine Food and over the last 20 years almost 80,000 products have been blind tasted by judges including top restaurateurs, chefs, food critics, fine food retailers, buyers and cookery writers. 

What do Great Taste Judges look for?

They look for great texture and appearance. They judge the quality of ingredients and how well the maker has put the food or drink together. But above all, they look for truly great taste. Working in small teams, experts taste 20 foods in each sitting, discussing each product as a coordinating food writer transcribes their comments directly onto the Great Taste website which producers access after judging is completed. 

Over the years, numerous food businesses, start-ups and well-established producers have been advised how to modify their foods and have subsequently gone on to achieve star status. 

Any food that a judging team believes is worthy of a star is judged by at least two further teams. Only when there is a consensus will a star be awarded. For 3-stars, judges attending the session, which can be as many as 30 experts must overwhelmingly agree the food delivers that indescribable ‘wow’ factor. 

Irish Food producers did really well in last year with 496 Irish products being awarded Gold Stars. 16 Irish products received 3-Gold Stars, 61 products received 2-Gold Stars and 419 received 1-Gold Star. Those who recieved 3-Gold Stars were Corleggy Cheese, Burren Smokehouse Organic Salmon, Stonewell Cider, Kilcree Gold Organic Honey, Abbey Farm Gooseberry Preserve, William Carr & Sons Smoked Mackerel, Newgrange Gold Camelina Oil, Cashel Blue Cheese, Duncannon Smokehouse Oak Smoked Haddock, Wilkie's Organic Chocolate & Ardrahan Cheese.

If you are a supplier of speciality food and drink to delicatessens, farm shops, food halls and other 
independent retailers, the Guild of Fine Food could help you promote your products to a wider 
market outside of Ireland. Membership is also open to food producers based outside the UK and the membership fees are:
  • If turnover is below £1m, cost is: £110.00 (+VAT) Total is: £132.
  • If turnover is £1m+ cost is: £210.00 (+VAT) Total is: £252.
  • If based outside the UK with a turnover below £1m cost is: £145.
  • If based outside the UK with a turnover over £1m cost is: £245.
Remember, members can enter two weeks before anyone else!
You can download an Application Form for Membership as a Food Producer to the Guild of Fine Foods here:
where they also free and reduced cost benefits which might help you break into UK and Overseas markets.


New Junior Chamber branch looking for young Business People in Donegal

Junior Chamber International Ireland (JCI) have decided to start a new JCI branch in Donegal. They are having an Official Donegal launch on Thursday the 16th of January in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny, at 7.30pm. 

JCI Ireland is nearly 60 years old and is part of the largest personal and leadership development organisation for young people in the world. JCI internationally is nearly 100 years old. It provides a range of activities and projects in 4 opportunity areas: Individual, Community, International and Business.

JCI Ireland runs activities throughout the year, including The Outstanding Young Person award, Friendly Business Awards and Active Citizenship Week. JCI is a place where young leaders and entrepreneurs meet, learn and grow. JCI Donegal is seeking young people in their 20’s and 30’s who are dynamic and enthusiastic, motivated and interested in increasing their exploitable skills set.

Members come from all walks of life; from university students to corporate executives, from self employed professionals and business people to employees of multinationals or state organisations, but all share a common goal in terms of self improvement and contribution to society.

National President of JCI Ireland, Derek Reilly 

Derek Reilly National President of JCI Ireland commented “We wanted to expand JCI into many different counties. Donegal was an obvious choice as it has a wealth of young motivated people who I know could make a great contribution to JCI. Getting involved with JCI offers an ideal opportunity for individuals to expand both their personal and professional networks, to get involved and give something back to the community, to have fun and to develop the skills to help them in their personal and professional life. I would urge young people in Donegal to get involved as JCI can bring many great opportunities to them.”

Getting involved with JCI offers an ideal opportunity for individuals to expand both their personal and professional networks, to get involved and give something back to the community, to have fun and to develop the skills to help them in their personal and professional life.

Along with a wide variety of projects and training opportunities, JCI offer a wide variety of training programmes that members can avail of. Recent examples include public speaking and debating, sales training, interviewing techniques and time management seminars among others. This is complemented by an array of social events including bowling, barbecues, quiz nights, ballroom dancing, surfing and photography classes, so there’s something for almost anyone.

So if you are between 18 and 40 and feel you would like to get involved in JCI in Donegal get along to the launch night in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny, at 7.30pm.

For more information or call 086-6839709. 
You can also find them on Facebook at
LinkedIn and Twitter @jciDonegal


WIN an Irish Whiskey Haggis from McCarthys of Kanturk

Jack McCarthy and his son Tim (the fifth generation of butcher in the family to run the shop) have become one of Ireland’s most prominent and celebrated meat producers. Their meats have won many national & international food awards.

McCarthy's Blackpudding has received acclaim from La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goûte Boudin (the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Blackpudding). This gave them the highest achievement of any participant in Europe at the event. They received Gold awards for le boudin traditionelle and le boudin a grilliere and the Bronze was for le boudin creatif. It was even served to the Queen at the banquet on her visit to Ireland.

Medal from the La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goûte Boudin

Jack and Tim use traditional techniques but are always leading the field with innovative new food ideas and they have become some of Ireland’s most prominent and celebrated meat producers. Jack developed their "Boars Head" pudding in 2010 and it was named in honour of Kanturk, "Ceann Tuirc" means the head of the Boar in Gaelic.

Jack & Tim McCarthy are some of Ireland's best known Butchers

For several years Jack has been developing his Haggis range. This is a traditional Scottish dish that combines meats, spices and oatmeal. A traditional recipe for haggis would involve the boiled and minced liver, lungs and heart of a sheep mixed with chopped onions, toasted oatmeal, salt, pepper, and spices. The mixture would then be stuffed into the cleaned sheep’s stomach, sewn up and then boiled gently for several hours.

Jack has developed his own special recipe and he won't even tell me what it is!

The Haggis has now become quite popular outside Scotland and is particularly served around January 25th every year to celebrate Burn's Night, in memory of the Scottish poet Robert Burns - click here for info.

Haggis stacked with mashed turnips and potatoes (neeps & tatties)

The dish is usually served with "neeps and tatties" which are mashed turnip and potatoes, a whiskey sauce, a few readings of some poetry and copious amounts of whiskey to toast the Haggis!

Here's your chance to WIN an Irish Whiskey Haggis from McCarthys of Kanturk!

Jack & Tim have kindly offered us a whopping 3kg Irish Whiskey Haggis as a prize for one lucky reader here on the Irish Food Guide Blog and will be delivered to the winner in time for Burns Night, which is celebrated on January 25th.

Sorry but This competition is open for delivery to residents of Ireland and the UK only.

To enter, you must click the button below to
LIKE the McCarthys of Kanturk Facebook Page

AND you must leave a comment here at the bottom of this post.

The winner will be picked by random number generator on Sunday 19th of January. Thanks to Jack & Tim for this wonderful prize. For more from these famous Irish Butchers see

Good luck everyone!

And the Winner is..... Kat Laing. I'll be in contact today. Congrats.

The 20 Best Irish Food Finds to Watch Out For in 2014

I don't review restaurants. There are enough people out there who feel qualified to do so and therefore I don't get involved in that aspect of Irish Food. What I do, is simply share information and news about food in Ireland so that others can discover new foods, learn more about modern Irish food and make up their own mind.

I am passionate about buying as much from local people as you can and I really believe that shopping at a local market must become a regular part of our weekly shop, as happens in France and many other countries. I love helping build up our own Leghowney Country Market here in Donegal and I do what I can to encourage people to buy Irish and buy local.

Over the last few years, buying local and supporting local food enterprises has finally become recognised by Irish consumers as being vitally important to the rest of the economy. This has helped the development of more country markets & farmers markets as people realise that local money, spent locally, stays local. It means that people can take their passion for baking or making their favourite food product to a new level and generate a business from it. It means people are returning to living as part of a community.

Most of Ireland's growing artisan food brands started off at local markets. In the close-knit community that surrounds a market, artisan food entrepreneurs are able to develop their product and streamline their decision-making based on honest opinions from regular customers. This also helps to make the products being offered for sale at a market be of the highest quality possible within a shorter product-development time frame. The food producer will quickly find their optimum price position too, as regular customers that love your product won't be long telling you if it's value for money or not!

For the last few years, over the Christmas & New Year period, I have posted out a question on Twitter.
"What was your Irish Food Find of 2013? #BestIrishFood" went out this year and I had an truly amazing response which I have again whittled down to the twenty most regularly mentioned replies. 

The responses from people all over the country are varied and show a definite confidence in Irish taste buds to try new products. You will see some great new food products and also recognise some familiar names that are growing in popularity though are still only being discovered by many, for the first time. 

In this year's Best Irish Food Finds over 80% of the food products, as recommended by Irish food lovers that responded to my Twitter Question, started off in Farmers & Country Markets around the island of Ireland. This is wonderful news for the future of new Irish Food producers, their products and food markets. 

There were many replies which named restaurants or food shops as favourite finds, but in this particular list we only concentrate on the food product and its producers. County Cork, the acknowledged home of the Irish Artisan Food Revival, shines well in this year's list. One name kept popping up again and again, over the last 10 days, as the food find most requested by so many people around the country - we will, of course, save that for last :)

Remember, this is based on Irish Twitter replies of your favourite food finds! I have included web-links in the product name, the county of origin & the Twitter name or phone number of the producer.

And so, in alphabetical order, 

The 20 Best Irish Food Finds to Watch Out For in 2014 are:

Arbutus Bread Cork Co. Cork @ArbutusBread

Castlefarm Shamrock Cheese Co. Kildare Phone 087-6785269

Firehouse Bakery Wicklow/Cork    @firehousebread

The Scullery Roast Corn Relish Co. Tipperary   Phone 0861744402

And so, based on the huge number of your replies, mentions and requests for it on Twitter by Food Lovers all over Ireland...

The Best Irish Food Find To Watch Out For in 2014

The Real Italian Foodies sauce range was launched in April 2013 by Lorraine Fanneran & Bruno Coppola from the kitchen of their small but award-winning casual dining restaurant, La Cucina, which is situated at University Court, Castletroy in Limerick.

The sauce recipes are based on some of Bruno's old family recipes and their snappy modern branding has captured the imagination of youthful & modern palate-educated food lovers all over Ireland, with it's tag line of "Be Eatalian About Life"!

The couple are looking forward to a busy year ahead of them with plans to extend the range as they build the Real Italian Foodies into a nationally recognised brand. This should attract lots of attention from the smarter multiples as the brand should sit easily in both the ready-to-use and the artisan food aisles. 
Congrats Guys!

I wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year of Irish Food!

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