This is the eighth year of the 10-day A Taste of West Cork, which is said to be worth in the region of €600,000 to the local economy.
A Taste of West Cork begins on Friday with a buffet supper and photographic exhibition, and runs until September 18, and is a major showcase for local producers who take the opportunity to introduce their wares to foodies.
The 2011 programme boasts the traditional open-air food and craft market with over 100 exhibitors, a visit to Sherkin and Heir Islands for local tastings and Vintage Tea Afternoons.
There will be a seaweed cookery and tasting demonstration with Sally McKenna of Bridgestone Guides as well as Japanese, Sri Lankan, Australian, Thai and Italian evenings.
The festival will also feature the up-and-coming food maestro and winner of TV3’s Head Chef programme, Harry Marquart, who will judge a special young chef’s cookery competition.
He will also host the “Irish Night with Baltimore Fish” event on the 15th at the Station fish shop in Skibbereen.
This year will also see a Celtic Cook-off in The West Cork Hotel, which will host chefs from the six Celtic territories of Scotland, the Isle of Man, Ireland, Cornwall, Wales and Brittany.
The chefs will be assessed by a panel of judges as they take part in a cook-off in front of a live audience.
Local producer Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen Cheese said: “Artisan food makers have so much to thank Taste of West Cork Food Festival for.
“It is the key food event where so many of artisans in West Cork started out.
“The festival understands how important local food is and the organisers always find ways of making it a wonderful event for everybody.
“The festival has something for everyone including art, music and, of course, the finest of locally produced food.”
This year the festival comes with a musical flavour — there will be a special performance on the 16th in Abbeystrewry Church by the highly acclaimed Irish Three Tenors and the Dublin Gospel Choir.
Festival chairwoman Clare Gallagher said Skibbereen was recognised as the “food capital” of Ireland with world-class food artisans and an abundance of talented chefs.
“A Taste of West Cork Food Festival makes for the perfect festival for all the family. Every year the festival gets bigger and better to deliver the perfect visitor experience.”