Variety is the spice of life, and it is a spice that this year’s A Taste of West Cork Food Festival has in abundance! With 33 guest chefs, and a plethora of events for families, friends, couples, and food-lovers alike, it’s no wonder celebrity Chef Derry Clarke, (of Michelin Star L’Ecrivan restaurant fame) is eager to return.
The 10-day Festival takes place this year from September 8 to 17, with over 230 culinary and adventure events across the region’s 36 towns and villages and eight islands.
Sizing up to be the most cultured and cosmopolitan food Festival to date, visitors are welcomed to a foodie’s paradise, with an array of both national and international chefs preparing culinary-themed feasts in local restaurants, food tastings al fresco, foraging walks, open-air markets, seminars, cook-offs, masterclasses and intimate evenings with local artisan food producers imparting their culinary wisdom.
Guest chefs include TV presenters Neven McGuire, Oliver McCabe and Derry Clarke, Danni Barry (Michelin Star chef and RAI Best Chef in Ireland 2016), Kevin Ahern (winner of Best Chef in Munster Awards 2014 at age 24), Rob Krawczyk (winner of the National Restaurants Association of Ireland Best Chef in Leinster 2016), Bryan McCarthy (Head Chef at Greenes – Food and Wine Munster Best Restaurant Award 2016), Decky Walsh (Chef and Pitmaster specialist at Holy Smoke Cork), Ali Honour, Matt Williamson, Chris Hedges, Paul Cartwright, Journalist Joe MacNamee, Gautham Iyer, and Brian Donnelly (Executive chef and co-founder of Belfast based RAMEN).
New events with a modern twist include a gin and tapas night, island whiskey tasting, wine and craft beer pairing dinners, and ‘a night in the museum’ (Michael Collins Museum Clonakilty). While famous cookbook author, food and TV host Trish Deseine will be joined by Virginie Garnier (renowned French food and lifestyle photographer who has had over 20 cookbooks published by Hachette, Ducasse and Mango) to run a unique two-day Cookbook Workshop.
Events set to ‘spice-up’ the Festival line-up even more include ‘Eat, Drink, Sleep at The Castle’, a six course tasting menu, overnight and breakfast at The Castle, Castletownsend; a ‘Milking It’ demonstration and milking competitions at Bandon Farmers Market and Urru Culinary Store, Bandon; and a ‘Step Back in Time to the Roaring Twenties’ night at the Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff – at which two guest chefs will be preparing the 20’s inspired menu while guests arrive styled to suit!
Clonakilty native and CEO of Bórd Bia, Tara McCarthy, who officially launched the Festival last week said; “It is so wonderful to see so many talented food producers, chefs and entrepreneurs from across West Cork, Ireland and the globe, coming together to celebrate Irish food, and particularly West Cork food at its best.
West Cork and food need little introduction, just as West Cork and innovation need very little introduction. When you come in to Sklibbereen, you realise it’s the first gigabyte town in Ireland, and when you look at West Cork from a food perspective it’s very similar. For example, one hundred per cent of Clonakilty’s farmers are the first in the dairy sector where 100 per cent of them have signed up to Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme, which is the world’s first sustainability programme. Another example is that, in Bord Bia we work with 1,000 companies where 190 of them are from West Cork so it just shows you the depth of the innovation that comes from here. In short, it is always with pride that we are associated with events, innovation, commitment and ambition that comes from West Cork.
I feel honoured to have been asked to launch such a prestigious and exciting Festival and very much look forward to September’s jam-packed series of events.”
As part of the Festival, the West Cork Creates exhibition will open at the O’Driscoll building in Skibbereen at 1pm on Saturday, August 5 and run throughout the festival. This creative display will be launched in Cork airport on Thursday, August 3 showcasing what the exhibition will have to offer in West Cork.
Conferences, forums and talks are an integral component to A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, with this year being no exception by hosting ‘The Future of Fairs and Markets in Ireland’ conference on Friday, September 8 in West Cork Hotel, Ilen Street, Skibbereen. Presented by Madeline McKeever, in conjunction with the Skibbereen Farmers market Committee, speakers will include Darina Allen, Ciaran Casey, Gerald Kelleher, and more.
Back to motivate and inspire, the ever changing and ever relevant ‘New Directions for West Cork’ forum, chaired by Lord David Puttnam takes place on September 16 at Baltimore Sailing Club. The forum takes a local focus this year and examines new developments for the West Cork area.
Also returning is last year’s hugely popular ‘Fiction Fads and Phonies’ conference – held by Paul Treyvaud of Treyvaud’s Restaurant, Marie Power of The Sea Gardener, and Niamh O’Connor of Cork Nutrition. And for health conscious foodies, nutritionist Majella O’Neill will discuss key dietary and life-style changes that can have a fundamental impact on health and vitality at the Our Food; Our Future Food is Medicine, Medicine is Food talk.
A Taste of West Cork Food Festival Chair, Helen Collins told us “I am so proud of the unity that West Cork has displayed in coming together to promote this unique region of which we love and want to share. Year in, year out, it never ceases to amaze me that there is such a plethora of talent and support around the Festival. Our fabulous supporters and ambassadors will take A Taste of West Cork Food Festival to yet another level by putting their own unique stamp on the best of West Cork’s produce.
We have three cornerstones to our annual Festival and they include; the unity of West Cork from Bandon to Beara across thirty six towns and villages and eight islands; the magic ingredients of West Cork from food producers, restaurants, stately homes, islands and gardens, and of course; our Guest Chef Programme which creates excitement for the customer, the venue and the local food producers, making these visiting chefs natural ambassadors for our great produce.
I look forward to a busy September ahead and I hope that the visitors to this year’s Festival will enjoy all it has to offer – especially the food glorious food!”
The Festival is supported by Cork County Council, Fáilte Ireland, Fields of Skibbereen, Bord Bia, Sean and Rose O’Driscoll and many other supporting sponsors and patrons from the region and elsewhere.
To book accommodation/events, to see the full A Taste of West Cork Food Festival programme online, or to buy a recently launched West Cork Artisan Food Guide featuring the best that West Cork has to offer, see www.atasteofwestcork.com.