A labour of love at Camo’s in Caherciveen

Award-winning dressings, chutneys and marinades that pique the taste buds 
A labour of love at Camo’s in Caherciveen

Rory McCarthy of Camo's Artisan Foods in Cahersiveen with his award winning 'Honey & Mustard' salad dressing. Picture: Don MacMonagle.

Rory McCarthy has been running Camo’s Restaurant — a family business — for 15 years in Caherciveen gaining huge respect along the way for the calibre of fresh produce and the in-house selection of dressings, chutneys, marinades and glazes that he uses in his dishes.

He has a passion for high-quality food and local produce in particular which means that most of his ingredients come from producers in the area.

During his years at the restaurant he has also seen a growth in the artisan food sector and sensing an opportunity, he set about creating a commercial premium product line to cater for the growing consumer desire for products and brands that have real, authentic and honest origins.

Rory McCarthy keeping a close eye on home-grown produce. Picture: Don MacMonagle 
Rory McCarthy keeping a close eye on home-grown produce. Picture: Don MacMonagle 

His products have become extremely popular in Munster winning coveted awards such as Blas na hÉireann and Listowel Food Fair in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The move has also resulted in a new business, Camo's Artisan Foods.  

The name for the restaurant comes from Rory’s grandfather James Devane who earned the nickname ‘Camo’ because of his calm demeanor.

And while the name stuck and became the family name within the town, the seeds for today’s enterprise were sown by Rory’s mother Mary when she first introduced hot food in the 1970s serving soup, sandwiches and boiled crubeens after the dances.

Later she established the restaurant which Rory proudly runs today.

Marketing drive 

Meanwhile, Rory’s ability to see the need to undertake a comprehensive marketing drive to market his products led him to the Rural Development (LEADER) Programme funding which has been a key driver in getting Camo's Artisan Foods Ltd off the ground.

Because of the closure of his restaurant due to Covid-19 restrictions, he found he was able to focus more on this side of the business and the products are now available at Supervalu and Centra stores throughout Co Kerry.

His hope is the business will grow both locally and nationally from here on in but it hasn’t been an easy 14 months.

When he spoke to the Irish Examiner earlier this week, Rory highlighted how the restaurant was at the heart of the community in Caherciveen and the customers were who he has missed most.

A selection of the award-winning marinades and dressings that are available in shops and at Rory McCarthy's Camo's Restaurant in Caherciveen. Picture: Don MacMonagle. 
A selection of the award-winning marinades and dressings that are available in shops and at Rory McCarthy's Camo's Restaurant in Caherciveen. Picture: Don MacMonagle. 

“The tourist thing keeps us going in the winter but really the restaurant is in a local community and it's the locals that we cater for mostly,” he said.

“We would have regulars that come in most days and I miss seeing them and having the chats to be honest — that has been one of the hardest things to deal with since we closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When I meet people on the street they ask me when are we opening up again so the staff and customers are all very anxious to get back.

“The closure of the restaurant has had a knock-on effect including with the producers that I would source my fresh food from.” 


He said he found it very difficult to adapt to his new situation when the restaurant first closed because he was so used to working hard and keeping the restaurant going.

“I’m probably a little bit institutionalised at this stage but nonetheless, I found it hard not getting up for work every morning and the structure that brings with it," he explained.

It was at that point, however, that he started to focus on the artisan food side of the business, and he hasn’t looked back in the intervening months.

In fact, the last 12 months have proven very successful in that domain and Rory has managed to market the products and most importantly get them onto the shelves of supermarkets.

But it was only when customers started asking him about his dressings and sauces that the idea to ‘bottle’ them began growing again in Rory’s mind.

“That side of things began when people started asking me about where they could get the dressings and chutneys we were using in the restaurant,” he continued.

“To be honest, I wanted to do it 15 years ago but I got sidetracked with the restaurant; we use a spiced-apple chutney here, people loved it and so I started bottling it.” 

Enticing customers 

The chutney which Rory uses in the restaurant’s black pudding salads went on to win a silver Blas na hÉireann award.

“We also have a balsamic and honey dressing (Gold Blas na hÉireann, 2019), caramelised onion jam, and pepper and red onion relish — all of which are available in Supervalu stores across Co Kerry as well as in stores in Waterford and West Cork.

“Over the past few months I have been able to push myself in relation to all of this; Leader funding really helped with regard to the marketing side of things and it came at the right time as well for me — just as everything was shutting down.

“All of this gave me a chance to build that business and it also gave me something to focus on.” 

At this stage, Rory sees light at the end of the tunnel and expects his restaurant to be opened by July.

“The worst thing that could happen now is that we open up and have to close again; we need to reopen our businesses and get on with it,” he added.

“Here in south Kerry it’s tourist season and the money it generates for businesses carries us through the winter months.

“So really June, July and August are the big business months for us and if that’s not going to happen, we will find the winter very tough down here.”

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Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

Law of the Land


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