IRELAND’S largest food festival, A Taste of West Cork, was launched on Wednesday night in the historic Castle Freke near Rathbarry.
The festival, which runs from September 7th-16th, was last year awarded the title of No 1 Foodie Destination 2017 by the Restaurant Association of Ireland.
This year’s highlights include the visit of six chefs from the USA, including the winner of US MasterChef, Shaun O’Neale.
The US element is a nod to the welcome introduction of the Cork to Providence/Boston flights, giving the festival an international flavour.
With 34 guest chefs, 23 guest speakers, and over 250 events for food-lovers, organisers expect over 30,000 visitors to the region during the festival.
The 10-day festival now spans 41 towns and villages, and eight islands.
Popular Irish guest chefs participating include Ballymaloe’s Rachel Allen and Martin Shanahan of Kinsale’s Fishy Fishy, with the Michelin-Star chef Derry Clarke returning for his eclectic food extravaganza on Sherkin Island.
New additions to this year’s programme include the Happy Pear brothers from Wicklow, Dave and Stephen Flynn, Andrew Heron and Damien Grey of Michelin-starred Heron & Grey restaurant and Ken Doherty and Gwen McGrath of Assassination Custard, along with Eddie Attwell of the Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff.
They will be joined by award-winning food ambassadors including Diana Dodog, the Courtmacsherry-based MasterChef Ireland winner 2014; Tessa Perry of Baltimore’s Glebe Gardens; Robbie Krawczyk of newly-opened restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob; Caitlin Ruth, of Deasy’s Harbour Bar & Restaurant in Ring, Hugh Hyland of Roly’s Bistro in Dublin, food columnist Carmel Somers, as well as Enda McEvoy (Best Chef in Ireland 2016) and Ross Lewis of Michelin-starred Chapter One in Dublin. Chefs from Providence, Quincy and Scituate (which is twinned with West Cork and where 60% of its inhabitants have an Irish background) in the US will guest chef at a number of restaurants across West Cork during the festival.
European visitors include Belgian chef Daphny Hilven, Lyon-based chef Olivier Maindroult and Italian/Argentinian chef Florencio Fons.
Sustainability, foraging, and home-grown produce will be among the workshop themes. The burgeoning vegan population and those interested in the health food lifestyle will find vegan chefs Suzanna Melinn (Banana Melon Kitchen) and Jena Malone (vegan, Korean and Vietnamese chef) sharing their menus.
The West Cork Forum ‘West Cork Paradox – Famine to Feast – Survival to Innovation’ takes place on Saturday September 8th at Baltimore Sailing Club, chaired by Lord David Puttnam and featuring guest speakers EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, Intel Ireland general manager Eamonn Sinnott, Aniar Galway owner JP McMahon, and Glen Dimplex president Sean O’Driscoll.
Speaking at the launch, festival chairman Helen Collins said the festival had three cornerstones: the unity of West Cork from Bandon to Beara; the magic ingredients of West Cork; and the exciting Guest Chef programme.