Simon Coveney named the ‘Producers’ Champion’

There’s an election coming up and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has been given a shot in the arm with a vote of confidence from Irish food producers.

Mr Coveney was named the ‘Producers’ Champion’ at this year’s Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards joining chef Neven Maguire, the inaugural winner of the accolade last year.

More than 1,000 producers were asked who, in their opinion, had done the most to promote Irish food at home and abroad last year, and over 70% of respondents, unsolicited, cited Mr Coveney.

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

Blas awards chairman Artie Clifford said the respondents were not prompted or presented with multiple choices.

“The idea is that we’re building a team of champions that recognises their input in the food industry and we’ll be building on this to put in place a think tank that will influence the food industry going forward. Neven Maguire was our winner last year, again chosen by producers, for his efforts in promoting Irish food.”

Meanwhile, judging is under way in Dingle for the 8th Blas na hÉireann awards which this year had almost 3,000 entries.

The competition is open to products that are made on the island of Ireland, using core ingredients that are sourced in the country. The job of whittling the entries down to 500 fell to Prof Joe Kerry and Dr Maurice O’Sullivan and their team from UCC’s School of Food and Nutritional Science, who devised the sensory scoring system in 2008 in conjunction with the University of Copenhagen.

“It’s a blind test so we don’t know who the manufacturer is or see the packaging or anything that could influence our opinion,” Dr O’Sullivan explained.

The 500 top products are then presented to more than 80 judges who blind taste the products on their appearance, aroma and taste, texture, overall acceptability, and mass appeal, and rate them on a scale of 0 to 10.

The judges come from a range of backgrounds, including producers, chefs, food writers, retailers, buyers, and home cooks.

The winners will be announced tomorrow evening.

The awards are run in conjunction with the Dingle Food and Wine Festival which takes place in the town over the weekend. The event has become one of the most popular weekends in Dingle with many of the town’s restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes taking part in the food trail.

The weekend’s success is built on a huge voluntary effort and, with the good weather forecast to continue until Sunday, it’s set to be an even better festival this year.


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