Thursday 17 October 2019

Food producers taste glory!

Model county producers win most awards at top food awards

Lee Kelly, Tom Sinnott, Paula Ronan, Clodagh Davis, Paul Kelly, Laura Sinnott, Mary Stafford, Brendan Stafford and Anthony O’Toole
Lee Kelly, Tom Sinnott, Paula Ronan, Clodagh Davis, Paul Kelly, Laura Sinnott, Mary Stafford, Brendan Stafford and Anthony O’Toole
Stafford family with staff members pictured at their bakery in Gorey after winning 12 awards at Blás na hEireann 2018

David Looby

County Wexford food producers were the cream of the crop nationally at the Blás na hEireann awards, winning the most awards per capita in the country.

The Model County businesses set the standard in the celebrated Irish food awards, with 27 awards being won by 12 different food producers.

The bronze, silver and gold winners from Wexford across a range of different categories are: Irish Country Meats, Macamore Buffalo Ltd, Killowen (which also won Best in County), Glanbia Plc (Wexford Cheddar), Zanna Cookhouse Ltd, Cooney's Bakery, Staffords Bakery, Atlantis Seafoods, Zaeire Artisan Chocolates, Wexford Home Preserves, Naturally Cordial and Wild About, which also won Best in Farmers Market for Wexford.

Per capita, County Wexford out-performed all other counties in Ireland. Only Dublin with 70 and Cork with 80 had more awards but when compared to the populations of these counties, Wexford did better. This year there were a total of 49 Wexford products that made it to the final of these prestigious awards from 18 different Wexford makers - the strongest year yet for Wexford.

Other finalists include Atlantis Seafoods, Ballycross Apple Farm, Ciara's Artisan Foods, O'Neill's Dry Cure Bacon Co., Scúp Gelato and Tasty Parlour.

Staffords Bakeries, based in Clonattin, scooped an amazing 12 awards at competition. They fought hard off competition and managed to bring home five gold, four silver and three bronze awards for a variety of baked products.

Sean Stafford of Staffords Bakeries said: 'A big thank you yo all our incredible hard-working staff. Here at Stafford Bakeries it validates our commitment and passion for developing unique products, such as our Christmas pudding, Halloween brack and mince pies.'

The company won five golds, four silver and three bronzes.

Paula Ronan of Wexford Food Family said: 'The Food Family congratulates all of our Wexford finalists and winners and encourages all residents of and visitors to Wexford to seek out the produce of our wonderful, world class producers which are available in the best shops, restaurants and hotels. Thanks to the Local Enterprise Office Wexford for their support in facilitating the Best in County and Best in Farmers Market awards.'

The Blas na hÉireann awards constitute the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country in one event, and the criteria on which the product is judged - as well as the judging system itself which was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC - are recognised as an international industry standard.

During the first round of judging, which took place over the course of four weeks in June and July, over 2,500 entries were judged in UCC & The Baking Academy, bringing the total number of finalists in each category down to just five. Those five winners in each of 140 categories were submitted to the judging day in Dingle, where all 350 producer finalists had their food products tasted, compared, savoured and judged at the final of Blas na Éireann 2018 on October 4, with over 4,000 samples tasted over the judging day by over 100 judges.

Judges come from all backgrounds, including chefs, academics, trade, buyers and home cooks. The few days around the judging process in Dingle were also an opportunity for the producers and the general public to mingle, taste and enjoy some of the most exciting and interesting Irish food products, to meet and hear the fascinating stories of some of the country's most intriguing new, best loved and long-established producers and entrepreneurs, and to celebrate the winners and participants in this year's Blas na hÉireann awards.

Enniscorthy Guardian