Despite a struggling economy and all the related problems that arise out of this, here in Ireland we have an amazing food industry that is not only growing and expanding, but is also resulting in an array of exciting food events. For some reason, many of these seem to be concentrated into September/October so it always ends up being a super busy time. This year’s food-crazy autumn kicked off with the Taste Council Summer School 2012 on the 30th August 2012 at BrookLodge in Macreddin Village in Wicklow.
The Taste Council was set up in 2003 and stands for Traditional Artisan and Speciality Trade Expertise in food. It is a voluntary representative group for the smaller food business sector and is made up largely of local, artisan and speciality food producers. The Summer School is the organisation’s annual initiative in conjunction with Bord Bia to celebrate and discuss the contribution of artisan and speciality food producers to the Irish economy.
This year’s Summer school was an incredible day of discussion, debate, sharing opinion and of course, outstanding food.
The focus of the morning session at the Summer School this year was ‘label protection’ for the artisan label producer and the artisan fishing fleet. John McKenna hosted the presentations by Raymond O’Rourke (PDO/PGI Label), Pat Lalor (Farmer), Eddie O’Neill (Teagasc), Prof. Alan O’Reilly (FSAI), Aoife Carrigy (Media) and Kevin Sheridan (Taste Council).
The panel discussed the issues of PDO/PGI’s (Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication) in Ireland, of which there are only 8 at the moment in Ireland. Also discussed was the general public perception of terms such as ‘organic’, ‘natural’ and ‘local’ and what they mean to Irish food. Raymond O’Rourke told us that while 33% of people think that ‘natural’ means ‘organic’, 34% of us buy local (a higher figure than the UK).
Suzanne Campbell then chaired a discussion on label protection for the artisan fishing fleet in Ireland with a focus on better traceability and the increased need for knowledge of seasonality of fish. Following a delicious lunch in the orchard (in gorgeous sunshine), we took part in a world café debate where everyone discussed the issue of labelling with regard to the food story.
Our discussion groups were mini ‘speed meetings’, allowing everyone to give their views on the topics presented in the morning sessions.
Bord Bia then introduced their new ‘Origin Green’ label, presenting a Brand Ireland Product which will encourage export opportunities, domestic sales, food tourism and employment. The ‘origin green’ presentation video with Saoirse Ronan was viewed, showing the level of commitment and work that Bord Bia have devoted to this exciting project for Irish artisan and speciality producers.
Our day ended with an incredible meal. It would be very difficult to pay due homage to the range of outstanding dishes that were on offer at the long table tented meal, suffice to say it was by far the best meal, with the highest quality produce, that I have eaten in a very long time. This was an exciting start to all the events coming up this autumn in the food world in Ireland, and as a taste of things to come, fills me with promise for the future and quality of Irish food.