Tipperary Food Producers - Special Irish Foods & Drinks & The People Who Make Them

Tipp Food Producers Pop Up Shop

Dee Laffan speaks about Networking Success with Pat Whelan, chairman of Tipperary Food Producers and winner of the Supreme Champion title at the 2015 Great Taste Awards

Community networks are commonplace in Ireland but, more recently, food networks have become more prevalent. One such network is the Tipperary Food Producers and, as they hosted the recent, prestigious, Great Taste Awards in Hotel Minella, Clonmel, it is clear that their efforts are being noticed not just at home but also abroad.

Meitheal is an ancient Irish tradition of a group coming together for a common purpose, working together and for each other to ensure that all succeed in achieving their goal. It is the Irish word for a work team, gang or party and denotes the co-operative labour system in Ireland where groups of neighbours help each other in turn with farming work, such as harvesting crops. At the heart of the concept is community unity through cooperative work and mutually reciprocal support. Meitheal is the Irish expression of the ancient and universal appliance of cooperation to social need.

Meitheal sums up in one word the aims and means of the Tipperary Food Producers, a community of businesses working in the food and beverage sector in County Tipperary. Their 30 current members cover a range of products including preserves, bakery, meat, fruit and vegetables, dairy and sweets and crisps. Some well known brands include Crossogue Preserves, O’Donnell Crisps, Cashel Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers, Crowe’s Farm and Irish Piedmontese Beef.

Pat Whelan

“All our members work to extremely high quality standards with many of our members producing for the ‘Specialty Foods, Organic Foods and/or Slow Food’ sector,” according to Pat Whelan (pictured right), chair of the Network.

“We really want the public simply to consider buying food produced in Tipperary, visiting the local baker, butcher, farm shops, cheese monger, retailers and farmers market. With the natural linkages that the food sector have with the social, economic, tourism and cultural aspects of life in Tipperary, our network is keen to develop further into a regional brand that will highlight what Tipperary Food has to offer.”

The spirit of Meitheal was seen to be very much alive and well during the week of the Great Taste Awards in Clonmel, where the Network welcomed the Guild of Fine Food and a host of Irish and international judges with a series of special events.

This followed the success of Clonmel’s own James Whelan Butchers, who won the title of Supreme Champion for their Beef Dripping at last year Great Taste Awards, leading the Guild of Fine Food to take their show on the road and, for the first time ever, hold the Irish judging process in County Tipperary.

Pat Whelan’s passion for the area and his enthusiasm for having the opportunity to introduce these important international opinion-makers to the best of his home county was a major factor in the decision to bring the Great Taste Awards judging roadshow to Tipperary this year.

Welcoming food experts such as Charles Campion, BBC Radio 2’s Nigel Barden and many of the best chefs, buyers, restaurateurs and writers in the business, the Great Taste roadshow was given a true taste of Tipperary and a genuine sense of Ireland’s impressive and diverse food and drink producers.

GTA Judging

The first day’s judging on Tuesday was followed by an evening at the famous Coolmore Stud, when judges and guests were taken on a behind the scenes tour of the stud generally acknowledged to be the world’s biggest and best thoroughbred racehorse breeding operation.

During their tour they were treated to a special audience with Galileo, the crown jewel of Coolmore. Galileo is said to be the most prized stallion in the world, costing a whopping half a million euro per cover per mare! The champion stud can even muster up to five covers a day so, when you do the sums, it’s not a bad day’s work!

The tour of the stud was followed by a relaxed BBQ supper featuring local products such as the famous James Whelan Butchers burgers and The Butcher’s Daughter sausages, freshly made corn tortillas from Blanco Nino, breads and from Mag’s Home Baking and meringues from The Tipperary Kitchen, all accompanied by delicious wines selected by Gary Gubbins of Clonmel’s own Red Nose Wine. After supper, guests were brought to the atmospheric McCarthy’s of Fethard for some craic agus ceol in the form of the rousing Pheasant Pluckers who soon had the whole crowd singing along.

Aside from the evening entertainment and feasting, there was serious business to attend to during the day. The UK’s annual Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, are considered the ‘Oscars’ of the food world, being an acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink.

The business of judging is a thorough and rigorous one. The Great Taste Awards entries are capped at 10,000 and over 1300 products were entered into Great Taste 2016 from Ireland, including cider, beer, tea, preserves, meats and cheeses. There has been a large increase in Irish companies entering the awards - since last year alone, a jump from 157 in 2015 to 215 in 2016, and over 850 products were judged in the Tipperary week alone.

GTA Dinner

On Wednesday evening, following the second day of tasting, guests enjoyed a tour of the spectacular Rock of Cashel and some traditional Irish dancing by local children. A five-minute stroll downhill and guests arrived at Chez Hans for a Long Table Dinner featuring a stunning six-course tasting menu. Set in a converted Victorian Gothic church, Chez Hans was the perfect setting in which to showcase the excellent quality of Tipperary produce.

The menu included pulled pork ravioli using magnificent Crowes Farm pork, with swede purée, almonds and lovage butter. One of the key dishes was a fillet of Irish Piedmontese beef, with beef dripping fondant potato, made using the famous James Whelan Butchers Beef Dripping, winner of the Harrods Trophy Supreme Champion 2015, a coveted Golden Fork and three gold stars.

“The judges, from all corners of the food world, have had busy days of judging in Tipperary, but have also had three evenings packed full of flavour, colour, welcome and fun in the capable hands of Tipperary Food Producers,” says Pat Whelan.

“This was a wonderful project to be involved with, and it has been made possible by the generous support of all the local and national agencies whose collaboration is immensely appreciated by all at Tipperary Food Producers. Our sincere thanks go to Tipperary County Council, Bord Bia, Local Enterprise Office Tipperary, Tipperary Tourism Company, Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine, North Tipperary Leader Partnership, and South Tipperary Development Company.”

The results of the 2016 Great Taste Awards will be announced later in the year, culminating in a gala prize giving event in September.

For more information and a list of producers, visit: www.tipperaryfoodproducers.com.


Dee Laffan

Dee Laffan is a freelance food writer and editor. Formerly editor of Easy Food magazine, she has written for the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent. She is a proud supporter of Irish producers and their products, and takes part in judging for food competitions including Blas na hÉireann and the Great Taste Awards. She is a member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild and secretary for Slow Food Dublin. Twitter @deelaffan

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