Cork wins big at Irish ‘Food Oscars’

A regular contributor to The Echo, KATE RYAN, of takes us through the big Cork winners at the recent Blas na hEireann awards — from chilli sauces, to eggs and craft drinks
Cork wins big at Irish ‘Food Oscars’

William O'Callaghan of Longueville. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

2020 has been the year of learning lessons, adapting, overcoming and innovating. That’s especially true of our Irish food and drink producers, and in the process highlighting how vitally important our local food chains are.

The team at Blas na hÉireann have been working tirelessly since March to ensure the 2020 awards went ahead, maintaining their commitment to celebrating the best in Irish food and drink.

Blas na hÉireann, affectionately known as the Irish food “Oscars”, now in their thirteenth year, have always championed small, artisan and local producers across Ireland. But for 2020, a year like no other, there was heightened determination to showcase the need to protect and support our food and drink producers - now more than ever, and to shine a light and give that all important boost to the talented producers dotted around the island.

A huge response of food and drink producers from all 32 counties entered the awards this year.

Across 140 food and drink categories, 468 Gold, Silver, Bronze and Chefs Larder awards were announced, as well as the coveted Supreme Champion and Best Artisan Producer awards. Cork, always a strong performer at Blas na hÉireann underpinning its status as a premier food region, produced 34 winners scooping a total of 67 awards - a great achievement in what has been a hugely challenging year.

Cork winners ranged from breads and cakes, to crisps and yogurts, chili sauce and jam; meat, poultry and fish, coffee and eggs, milk and cream; and a range of craft beverages with mead and cider.

In more usual times, judging of finalists and the awards ceremony take place in Dingle, coinciding with the hugely popular Dingle Food Festival. But with the annual pilgrimage for food producers, writers, chefs, restauranteurs and cooks to Dingle stalled, this year's winners tuned in from every corner of the country for a virtual celebration of the very best in Irish food.

The Blas na hÉireann awards are an all-island food awards recognising the cream of the crop of Irish food and drink products and the passionate people behind them. The biggest blind tasting of produce in the country, the criteria on which the product is judged as well as the judging system itself, was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Department of University College Cork and the University of Copenhagen, and now recognised as an industry gold standard worldwide.

Speaking after the announcements, Chairperson of Blas na hÉireann, Artie Clifford, said: “The founding mission of Blas – establishing quality benchmarks for Irish produce on a level playing field – was strictly adhered to and measurably applied again this year despite the challenges we have all faced. We thank all our judges for their rigour and commitment, and as always, we thank all our wonderful participants, producers and sponsors. While we missed our annual gathering in Dingle, we will join together to cheer on our colleagues and friends that were successful in this year’s awards and hope that it won’t be long before we can gather together once again.”

Winning a Blas na hÉireann award has been proved to impact positively on product sales by 20%. So aside from the prestige of being recognised as a top food and drink producer in the country there is the real, tangible benefit of additional sales, vital for continued sustainability and innovation.

What do the winner say about their Blas 2020 win?

Tracy Desmond  of Trace of Cakes.
Tracy Desmond  of Trace of Cakes.

Tracy Desmond, Trace of Cakes Winner: Bronze, Belgian Milk Chocolate with Peach and Raspberry Biscuit Cake

“Winning a Blas Na hÉireann award is just incredible for any Irish food business and especially for smaller food producers like myself. In my business, taste is equally as important as the overall look of the cake design, and that’s why I’m so hugely proud to be included amongst the very best of the Irish food elite. Winning an award like this has got to be the highlight of 2020 for Trace of Cakes.”

William O’Callaghan, Longueville House Beverages Winner: Bronze, Mór Cider

“We are thrilled to be named among such well deserving winners again this year at Blas na hÉireann, the most credible and trusted food awards in Ireland. It means so much and will be a very welcome boost to a small family run business like ourselves.”

Caroline Murphy, West Cork Eggs. Paul Moore, Rebel Chilli, English Market.
Caroline Murphy, West Cork Eggs. Paul Moore, Rebel Chilli, English Market.

Paul Moore, Rebel Chili Company Winner: Gold, Korean BBQ Marinade. Bronze, Jalapeno and Raspberry

“We’re delighted to win Gold and Bronze for two of our products. It’s even more special for our new Korean BBQ marinade as we have only just launched it! Having the Blas sticker on our sauces will really help with our sales and is a great way for getting people to try them, especially if they haven’t tried any of our sauces before!”

Kate and Denis of Kinsale Mead.
Kate and Denis of Kinsale Mead.

Kate and Denis Dempsey, Kinsale Mead Co Winner: Silver, Wildflower Mead

“We’re thrilled and humbled that our Irish Wildflower Mead has been awarded Silver and has joined our Hazy Summer Mead in the Blas Medallists Club! The Blas na hÉireann competition has been very important to us as independent recognition that our Meads are a really great product, delicious and refreshing. The stickers on the bottles certainly draw the eye on the shelf and mentioning our awards helps get the foot in the door into new stockists as well as discerning restaurants and bars.”

Caroline Murphy, West Cork Eggs.
Caroline Murphy, West Cork Eggs.

Caroline Murphy, West Cork Eggs Winner: Gold

“Beyond thrilled to have been awarded Gold at Blas 2020. This is the third year we have won an award, and two out of three Golds isn’t bad! Thank you to all our customers and to everyone who makes West Cork Eggs great!”

All 34 Cork winners of a 2020 Blas na hÉireann award:

Baked 4 U, Bandonvale, Bó Rua Farm, Caherbeg Free Range Pork Ltd., Centra - Inspired by Centra Made in store Salads, Coolmore Foods, Fitzgerald’s Butchers, Follain, Fresh Fish Deli, Glenilen Farm, Gloun Cross Dairy, Hanleys Puddings Ltd., Irish Yogurts, JDS Foods, Joe’s Farm Crisps, Keohane Seafoods, Kepak, Kinsale Mead Co., Longueville House Beverages, Nohoval Drinks Co.Ltd T/as Stonewell Cider, Ó Crualaoi Feoil Teo, O’Keeffe’s Bakery, O’Herlihy’s Bacon Ltd., On The Pigs Back (La Charcuterie Irlandaise Ltd.), Rebel Chilli, Saturday Pizzas, Skeaghanore West Cork Farm, Spice O Life Ltd., The English Market, The Good Fish Company, Trace Of Cakes, Velo Coffee Roasters and West Cork Eggs Ltd. with Kepak winning best in county.

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