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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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