Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smoke House has become the first Irish person to receive the Walter Scheel Medal, the prestigious annual European culinary prize that recognises outstanding contributions to European culinary culture.
The Walter Scheel Medal celebrates recipients as a valuable and integral part of Europe’s rich cultural heritage and it promotes unique culinary traditions in order to preserve them. It also rewards a commitment to quality by producers considered to be the best in their field.
Previous winners of the award include Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger of Taittinger Champagne and Spanish Chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli.
The award comes as Belvelly Smoke House celebrates 40 successful years in business.
Established in 1982 and located near the town of Cobh, Belvelly Smoke House is Ireland’s only authentic timber smoke house for Irish salmon.
The Walter Scheel judges praised Frank’s traditional smoking methods, as well as his ‘four-decade dedication to producing the finest possible quality smoked salmon’, stating that Frank "redefined one of the most iconic products of Ireland’s culinary heritage."
Growing up in a seaside town, Frank Hederman was inspired by the bustling activity of fishermen and the local boats landing with salmon catches. He began smoking salmon in a cupboard–like room and is a self-taught craftsman and businessman.
A local and family focussed business, Frank’s late father and mother, his brother and children were all involved over the years. Now, Frank and his wife Caroline run the business.
The company employs eight people, a number which doubles during the busy Christmas period.
Products from Belvelly Smoke House have appeared on menus such as Rick Stein’s, and on the counters of food halls such as Fortnum & Mason for decades.
Frank Hederman said the award is recognition for the authenticity and singular quality of the food they make, the skill and hard work that goes into it, and the perseverance that’s required to keep a food business like theirs going.
“It’s an opportunity to pause and take stock of all the people along the way who have worked with us, supported us and believed in us, and to thank them sincerely.
“It’s a great day for Irish food. It’s the first time the Walter Scheel medal has been awarded in Ireland and it also recognises the excellence of our raw materials and food markets and independent shops - all that makes up our food culture.”
Caroline added: “It’s a really harsh world out there and we feel incredibly lucky to have survived and thrived this long and to have all the support and friendships we enjoy through the business. Most of all it is hugely satisfying knowing that so many people enjoy eating what we enjoy making. This award is also for our customers, they are as instrumental as the producers are in creating the vibrant food community that this award recognises.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney offered his congratulations to Mr Hederman.
"I would like to congratulate Frank Hederman on becoming the first Irish person to receive the Walter Scheel Medal. This is a huge honour for Frank and indeed for the Irish food industry as this award recognises outstanding contributions to European culinary culture. It is a double celebration as Belvelly Smoke House is celebrating 40 years in business this year and I look forward to visiting soon. Frank is a true ambassador nationally and internationally for Ireland's food culture and his products are world renowned. This award shows that Frank and Caroline and the team at Belvelly Smoke House are considered to be the best in their field on the world stage."
Established in 2014 in memory of the fourth President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Walter Scheel, the Medal promotes cuisines, wines, regional food specialities and gastronomic traditions, and it emphasises their ability to bring people together.
To celebrate the award there will be a ceremony at Belvelly which will be attended by MEP Deirdre Clune, Dr Christoph Wirtz who presides over the Walter Scheel Medal, his colleague Dr Dominik Dortmann, the German Ambassador, Cord Meier-Klodt and Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. C aroline and Frank will also host a breakfast on the Promenade at Cobh Farmers’ Market with all proceeds going to Amnesty International Ireland and St Vincent de Paul.
The Walter Scheel Medal organisers will also be given to a tour of the English Market by local food historian, Regina Sexton, followed by lunch created by Claire Nash, a keen ambassador for local food at Nash 19, Princes Street.