This is a list of 50 New Irish Food Heroes, people in Irish food who were born elsewhere in the world but have made Ireland their home and their larder. What’s more, they have all delivered an important, sometimes even vital, contribution to Irish food culture and cuisine.
Even though several are probably long past ‘new’ status, having lived here for decades, I have borrowed the positive descriptor, ‘New Irish’, from the more general arena of public discourse. After many generations of near one-way traffic outwards, this term emerged as it gradually became apparent that the inward flow of immigration over the last two decades was not a momentary blip but a genuine indication that Ireland was finally arriving in a modern, interconnected, global world.
For over 150 years, this country seemingly served as no more than a breeding station for emigrants, off to begin new lives elsewhere, some only returning for holidays, many never coming back at all.
But, as this new century stirred in the cot, the trend began to reverse in earnest. We began to find on our shores, people born in other parts of the world, near and far, and with no historical or familial links to this country.
They were doing as so many of us have done in the past, choosing to move to another country in pursuit of opportunities and a better life. They also included a minority of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing persecution; ironically, recalling those Irish who sailed westwards on Famine coffin ships in the 1800s, they are the ones we have too often afforded the least hospitable welcome.
And just as the Irish Diaspora—now estimated at 70m globally when including descendants—began new lives and embedded themselves in their host countries, in turn enriching the culture of their new homes with elements of Irish heritage, so have these 50 New Irish Food Heroes fetched up here and added a wealth of ingredients, literally and figuratively, to the Irish cultural stew.
In some cases, particularly, certain cheesemakers, they arrived many decades ago, long before the word ‘immigrant’ was part of the Irish vernacular. They and a few others served as pioneers, taking Irish food to bold, new places, hitherto unimagined, inspiring the native population to first embrace different tastes and flavours and then to attempt their own emulations and innovations.
Back when ‘artisan’ actually meant something, they were outliers and oddities, producing foodstuffs originally regarded with deep suspicion which over decades have gradually become beloved favourites on the Irish table.
In most cases, arriving from ‘beyond’, these New Irish were able to immediately recognise that the Irish larder, a cornucopia of produce from land and sea, was of a world-class standard; with one of the most clement growing climates on the globe, our primary ingredients are superlative.
Sometimes it takes a stranger’s fresh pair of eyes to point out what has been under our noses the entire time and some of these culinary seers have profoundly and permanently altered the course of Irish food culture for the better.
Along with the aforementioned cheesemakers, the list includes charcutiers, smokers, bakers, farmers and growers. Moving beyond primary producers, we have retailers distributing premium Irish produce or expanding palates by introducing new tastes, flavours and culinary concepts from elsewhere in the world. This bracket also includes innovators, educators, writers and activists.
Chefs and restaurateurs deserve especial mention, not just highly regarded names included here but the brigades of unhymned anonymous chefs and kitchen workers from every single continent without whom our hospitality sector would grind to a halt.
Other than those specialising in international cuisines, most are cooking ‘Irish food’, their respective kitchens adhering to a broad but recognisable national template. Done well, it is a good template, primarily based on sourcing premium seasonal Irish produce and doing it justice on the plate.
But, in future years, it is to be hoped we will see others emerge bringing elements of their own original native cuisines to become part of the Irish culinary lingua franca, as is happening with Takashi Miyazaki and Ahmet Dede.
I think of chefs from Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, where there is such an emphasis on preserving, pickling and fermentation — and pierogi should be as popular here as lasagne or curry!
Or how about more influences from the expansive church of Asian cuisines, often infinitely richer culinary heritages yet using meat as an ingredient in a more sustainable fashion, grace note rather than gargantuan centrepiece, a practice essential to the future evolution of Irish cuisine.
This list was first mooted some time ago but, serendipitously, the publication date arrives just as a tiny but very ugly element is feeling increasingly emboldened to broadcast in public their hideous racist, anti-immigrant sentiment, an Irish strain of a virulent populism that has resurfaced in the Western world in recent decades.
It is not only ugly but also very dangerous for Irish society. A huge part of the blame must lie with our own State’s inertia in the face of a need to address housing infrastructure requirements and to actively engage in public initiatives emphasising the positive benefits of immigration, to counter the rise of far-right nativists.
All culture is constantly evolving. Culture is never fixed or immutable. Culture is not forever preserved in aspic, sealed in amber, frozen in ice. Culture is an amorphous, soupy, gloopy blend of all ‘ingredients’ to hand, whether they be ‘traditional staples’ or ‘brand new offerings’. Some times the ‘tastes and flavours’ of a national culture are instantly familiar and clearly identifiable; other times they are new and intriguing and take time to learn but, in the end, become equally as familiar and comforting, eventually defined as ‘our’ culture. Then some other novel difference is added to the pot, and it changes once more — there is no end to the life cycle of a culture, it is a constantly expanding universe.
This applies equally to food culture. Before the arrival of the potato in Ireland in the 1600s, we had probably the best, broadest and most nutritious native diet in all of Europe. The legacy of the potato and the impact of the subsequent Famine was profound and left us with a warped, dysfunctional version of that former food culture until Myrtle Allen began the modern Irish food revolution, soon after joined by a select band of native Irish food heroes and several on this list of New Irish food heroes. And so our food culture evolved in other directions, reaching backwards at the same time as it leapt forward. It will continue to do so. It will never stop evolving.
Undoubtedly, there is a melange of ignorance, anger and fear abroad in a chaotic and often unjust world and it is potent toxic fuel for right-wing anti-immigrant extremism. Hannah Arendt, the political philosopher and holocaust survivor once wrote, “when evil is allowed to compete with good, evil has an emotional populist appeal that wins out unless good men and women stand as a vanguard against abuse.”
In other words, that toxic fuel only grows ever more potent if those of us, a majority who believe all human beings are equal and should be treated as such, remain silent and do nothing. It is important to not only ‘feel’ injustice but to shout out about it in protest and one of the most powerful of activist forces is food and food culture.
Food brings people together like nothing else on the planet. When you sit down at the table with a stranger, you can stand up with a new friend. When you sit down at a table laden with the magnificent fare from any on our list of 50 New Irish Food Heroes, I promise, you’ll be friends for life!
Jeffa, with Giana Ferguson, are two parts of a cheesemaking ‘trinity’ completed by the original pioneer of the modern Irish food producer movement, cheesemaker Veronica Steele, the creator of Milleens cheese and the godmother of the Irish farmhouse cheese movement. Raised in a farming family in England, Jeffa worked in fashion design in London then Dublin before buying a small farm outside Durrus, in West Cork and, aided by Veronica, created now iconic Durrus cheese in 1979.
Next peninsula over, on Mizen, Giana Ferguson, raised in England and Spain, arrived in Ireland in the 1970s, married a local farmer and she too fell in with Veronica and Jeffa. The result was another internationally renowned cheese, Gubbeen, and the birth of an Irish food dynasty.
Sally Barnes Woodcock Smokery, West Cork
Barnes is one of a handful of women who have led from the front in the modern Irish food revolution. Not only a sublime smoker of only wild and sustainably caught fish, but she has found a second wind, committed as an educator to now preserving and passing on traditional methods in danger of being lost forever.
Sally has been mastering her craft for over 40 years and in 2006, was crowned Supreme Champion at the Great Taste Awards in London, recognised for the superlative quality of her smoked wild Irish salmon, the very first producer from Ireland to receive the highly prestigious accolade, one of many awards from a storied career.
But just six weeks after Sally had won the award, a ban on Irish commercial sea fishing for wild salmon was announced, to commence the following year in 2007. Her business was no longer viable.
She sourced from a Scottish fishery for nine years and now sources her small annual quota of wild salmon from Irish draft net fishermen and has greatly expanded her wild fish range.
“As I get old,” says Sally, “the knowledge I’ve gleaned over a life’s work, has become my most valuable resource. Now I want to share the knowledge, pass on the skills of a very traditional process to another generation. The salmon, salmo salar, is a precious resource that we have relied on for thousands of years and there is no argument that it is in real danger of becoming extinct. But if we just forget about it, people will forget that it’s in trouble and allow those without any scruples at all to finish them off entirely.”
The surname may be more familiar to younger readers through his son, Rob, who owns and operates the Michelin-starred Restaurant Chestnut, in Ballydehob. But father Frank is an original West Cork ‘pioneer’ of Irish food since the 1970s, as the godfather of Irish charcuterie and he still helps out with Rob’s own excellent cured meat products. Frank started a supper club, The Barn, in his own home, just outside Schull, years before they became a trend and it attracted an astonishing array of national and international figures, former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald even falling asleep one night on the couch. Frank has lived his professional and personal life by a code of heartfelt commitment to genuine sustainability in food and the environment and a passionate belief in universal social justice.
Cork has always been central to the evolution of Irish food. The modern Irish food revolution began there with Myrtle Allen in the 60s. In the 70s, Cork’s Arbutus Lodge was one of two to receive Ireland’s first Michelin stars; two years later, Ireland’s three Michelin-starred restaurants were all in Cork. In the early 90s, the next big wave in Irish food again took place on Leeside, with the arrival of Cafe Paradiso, serving vegetarian food in a fine dining style, a global first; and the equally radical and often wildly outrageous Ivory Tower, where Seamus O’Connell, born and raised in Arizona, classically trained in France and Japan, unleashed his wildly eclectic fusion cooking on superbly sourced local produce resulting in dishes such as Conger Eel Sausages, Prune Stuffed with Wild Duck Mousse, and Blackened Shark with Banana Ketchup.
Having served as his sous chef for a spell in a previous restaurant in the early 90s, this writer can testify to his roaming culinary spirit. His impact was enormous and immediate on Irish hospitality, a prominent UK critic calling it the best food being cooked in Britain and Ireland. He fronted his own TV show, Anthony Bourdain filmed in his kitchen and his influence birthed a whole new generation of culinary innovators. The Ivory Tower closed in 2019, he opened Malarkey in Killarney, serving ‘Irish food to Americans and fusion to the Irish’ but the pandemic was not conducive and it is now closed. However, that is definitely not the end of one of the iconoclasts of Irish food.
Dede never cooked professionally before coming to Ireland, beginning with culinary training in DIT. But a steely, unwavering resolve was obvious wherever he worked, Chapter One, Restaurant Patrick Gilbaud, The Greenhouse (Dublin), &moshik (Amsterdam), and Maaemo (Oslo). He was the missing link that finally earned late, lamented Mews Baltimore restaurant its first Michelin star and has repeated the feat in Dede at the Customs House, also in Baltimore. He is now on the way to creating a truly original Hiberno-Turkish culinary hybrid, using premium West Cork produce.
Takashi Miyazaki’s opening salvo was the tiny Miyazaki, just off Cork’s Barrack St, serving his take on traditional Japanese street food that soon drew food fans on pilgrimages from around the country. Ichigo Ichie, the follow up, was a different beast entirely, a zen temple of a restaurant serving a traditional ceremonial kaiseki tasting menu and as the central tenet of the kaiseki philosophy is the hyper-locavore sourcing of seasonal produce, it is possible to draw a direct line from Myrtle Allen to Miyazaki; the techniques and recipes may be Japanese but the Irish produce means he is forging a genuinely original Hiberno-Japanese fusion. His work alone with seafood and fish combines culinary alchemy with the precision of a jeweller and it was no surprise that a Michelin star followed within six months of opening.
Majken Bech-Bailey & Jordan Bailey
Cornish-born Jordan is the former head chef of Oslo’s three Michelin star restaurant, Maaemo, who came to Ireland with his Danish wife, Majken, to open Aimsir restaurant in Kildare, and within four months, they earned not one but two Michelin stars.
Majken runs front of house and Jordan heads up the kitchen, producing food, as much as possible, entirely from produce from this island; the more they come to know the national larder, the better the food seems to get and Aimsir is now spoken of as one of a select few restaurants with the potential to become the first Michelin three starred restaurant in Ireland.
Jumoke Akintola Hogan
London born of a Nigerian family, Jumoke started cooking when she first met now husband Peter Hogan in London where both were training as teachers. In 2013, the couple moved to Ireland and opened the first of their Fish Shop restaurants, which combine excellent casual menus of seafood with great wines and sherries. In January 2020 the couple relocated to Hogan’s native Tramore to also open the very gorgeous Beach House restaurant where Jumoke delivers delicious and elegantly simple menus in a very stylish venue, now seen as one of the best restaurants in the country.
Michelin-trained chef Kwanghi was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Buncrana, and first came to national attention as head chef in House Restaurant at the Cliff House, in Ardmore, under Dutch chef Martijn Kaijuiter. The menus were a Michelin star delivery of premium Irish produce but in more recent years, Kwanghi has allowed his Chinese heritage and other Asian influences to come more to the fore in his cooking and now owns Bowls by Kwanghi restaurant, Bites by Kwanghi Asian food truck and recently won Battle of the Food Trucks on RTÉ.
Multi award-winning chef Sunil was born in Northern India and received a French classical chef training before reverting to the culinary influence of his mother’s exceptional home cooking. With business partner Benny Jacob he has established a chain of restaurants that have made him Ireland’s foremost Indian chef, chief among them Pickle, along with Street Restaurant and Tiffin by Sunil, featuring exceptional technique applied to superb Irish produce.
Jess Murphy grew up in New Zealand before eventually arriving in Ireland with husband Dave
Murphy. Her move to Galway began a love affair with the West of Ireland which hasn’t abated and nine years later she and Dave opened the splendid Kai restaurant in Galway, now a national treasure.
Restaurateur Patrick Guilbaud and his French compatriots, Stéphane Robin, front of house, and chef Guillame LeBrun, heading up the kitchen, have delivered a Rolls Royce version of classical French cooking using fine Irish produce to an Irish audience for over 40 years, and it is now one of that tiny and elite club of Ireland’s Michelin two-starred restaurants.
In the late, lamented Deasy’s, in Ring, near Clonakilty, US-born Caitlin’s sublime delivery of premium West Cork produce, resulted in delicious and truly original food and that has continued in her food truck, one of the very finest in Ireland.
Finnish-born Mickael fetched up in Ireland aged 19 and his progress since has only ever been upwards, beginning in The Tannery, in Dungarvan, making a national name at Gregan’s Castle, in the Burren, before gaining his first, then second, Michelin Star at The Greenhouse, in Dublin. Taking over from Ross Lewis at the helm of Chapter One saw him move entirely into the culinary stratosphere, earning two stars at the first time of asking and he has all the potential to make it three.
Australian Damien Grey surprised much of the Irish dining public when he and then partner Andrew Heron garnered an unexpected Michelin star for Heron & Grey but when the partnership ended, Grey started Liath (the Irish for grey, suggested by his young daughter) and came back better again. A brilliant chef, he is also a passionate advocate for genuine sustainability in hospitality and a voice of reason in the industry. Another member of the Michelin two-starred Irish elite, a third is not unlikely in the future.
Izz and Imam Alkarajeh
The entire country fell head over heels for the feelgood story of Izz and Imam, who came from living in Direct Provision to setting up a market stall selling Imam’s very tasty homecooked Palestinian dishes, eventually graduating to a bricks and mortar restaurant, Cafe Izz, now one of Leeside’s favourite eateries, is always near the top of any destination dining bucket list for visitors to Cork.
Morrocan Aziz is head chef at Dublin’s Marrakesh by Mindo, in Capel St. Having cheffed at a very high level in Marrakesh (La Mamounia) and in New York (La Medina), he is now introducing Ireland to the long, slow cooking styles and superb flavours of truly authentic Moroccan food.
China Sichuan is a third-generation Hui family-owned restaurant often described as the best Chinese restaurant in the country, delivering authentic Sichuan cuisine. Now run by Kevin Hui, it continues to offer Irish diners an education in one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cuisines.
There are plenty of Frenchmen working in Irish hospitality but Breton Alain Kerloc’h’s partnership with Belfast-born chef Stephen Toman, formed when working together in the legendary L’Arpège restaurant in Paris, has since resulted in one of Ireland’s finest restaurants, Michelin starred OX, with Alain has also driving the opening of OX Cave next door, offering a superb selection of wines.
Shamzuri ‘Sham’ Hanifa
Sham, originally from Malaysia, moved to Ireland in the early 2000s, marrying an Irish girl and opening the award-winning The Cottage Restaurant in Jamestown, Co Leitrim, in 2008. Ever since he has expanded palates in the West with his contemporary Irish cuisine delivered with an Malaysian-Asian twist.
Gautham, from Tamil Nadu in South India, offers a concise menu of the region’s cuisine in a minute restaurant/cafe, hugely popular on Leeside, with a legion of fans from further afield. All vegetarian, often vegan, and cooked according to strict Jainist principles, it presents as a precise, singular and delicious insight into one of the myriad facets of Indian cuisine.
Damira Levacic & Przemyslaw Muszynski
Croatian Damira and Polish Przemyslaw present a Michelin-recognised menu in their bijou restaurant, The Old Couch Cafe in Waterford that combines modern Irish cuisine with grace notes such as pickled herring with dill and clotted cream, or caraway bread, or borscht, that herald a promise of more of their own Eastern European culinary roots in the future, further expanding the parameters of cooking in Ireland.
Carlos & Gwen Dasco
Carlos and Gwen Dasco, from the Philipines, own and operate Dasco Deli, in the heart of Limerick, across from Mother Mac’s pub and around the corner from the Milk Market, serving up traditional Filipino foods, including vibrant purple ube cake, along with Irish staples, drawing in locals and ex-pats from near and far for their tasty, homecooked fare and selling traditional Filipino ingredients and foodstuffs in the deli.
Along with the blessed West Cork Trinity of cheesemakers mentioned earlier, an early wave of New Irish cheesemakers also had a huge part to play in creating the now world-class Irish farmhouse cheese board, including: Dutch couple Helene and Dick Willems, of Coolea Cheese (starting in 1979) and now overseen by their son Dicky; German born Silke Cropp, of Corleggy Cheese (starting in 1981); Dutch cheesemaker Marion Roeleveld, of Killeens Cheese (starting in 2004), who has gone on to help many other Irish cheesemakers develop their own cheeses; more recently, Jean Baptiste Enjelvin, of Hegarty’s Cheese, and creator of the wonderful Teampall Gall cheese; and Mike Parle and Darcie Mayland’s The Lost Valley Dairy.
Real Bread Ireland
Curiously, considering there was never a tradition of real sourdough bread baking in Ireland, it was Irish bakers who first drove the real bread revolution in Ireland, beginning with Declan Ryan, of Arbutus, followed by Rossa Crowe and Joe Fitzmaurice. But from the first inaugural meeting of Real Bread Ireland in Kilkenny, back in 2015, there has been a rich seam of New Irish bakers embedded in the organisation that has buttressed its astonishing evolution with the baking heritages and knowledge of their birth countries, and present on that first evening in Highbank Orchard were Thibault ‘Tibo’ Peigne, of Tartine Bakery, in Dublin; Kemal Scarpello, of Scarpello & Co, in Donegal; and Josephine Plettenburg, of Speltbakers, in Kilkenny. Since then, they have been joined in the organisation by a whole host of other New Irish bakers including Andreas Haubold’s West Cork Baking Emporium (founded in 1993), Cork-based Benjamin Le Bon and an ever growing group of micro-bakers.
There is a long tradition of New Irish growers, including the Frankl family who were part of a wave of organic farmers who moved from Germany in the 1970s and they established renowned Kilbrack Organic Farm, in North Cork, now run by son Paddy. West Cork is flush with them: Alex Gazzaniga, of the extraordinary Singing Frog Gardens; Lea Miklody, of Coolcaha Gardens; the superb Tim York; and a more recent arrival, Bradley Putze, of Lisheen Greens, a New Zealand mechanic who met his marine biologist partner, Dee McElligot, in London. They bought a farm, at Lisheen, near Skibbereen, and grow for markets and restaurants, including Michelin-starred Restaurant Chestnut.
The Apple Farm
Willem and Alis Traas, from Holland, started The Apple Farm, Co Tipperary, in 1968, now the most important fruit farm in Ireland country, reversing an inexorable tide that has seen myriad heritage varieties of Irish apples vanish over the last 100 years. Son Con now runs it and is one of Ireland’s horticultural gurus, farming organically 40 acres of fruit including 60 varieties of apples, and other fruits.
Klaus Laitenberger, born in South Germany, wound up in Ireland in 1999. He has been Head Gardener at the Organic Centre, Co Leitrim and restored the gardens of Lissadell House, Co Sligo. His crowning achievement is Vegetables for the Irish Garden, the first book written for Ireland’s unique growing environment.
Lucy Deegan and Mark Cribben
Glaswegian food scientist met fellow food scientist, Dubliner and now husband Mark Cribben, while working in Teagasc, in Fermoy. A radical swerve from the mainstream industrial food sector began when she started growing her own shiitake mushrooms, back in 2013. It was the genesis of one of the most revolutionary Irish food businesses ever, introducing superb Irish grown speciality and foraged mushrooms to Irish hospitality and the general public. Since, Ballyhoura Mushrooms has added a whole new dimension to Irish food, picking up countless national and international food awards.
Hitching in Ireland in the 80s, young Swedish marine biologist Birgitta Hedin met and eventually married Peter Curtin, of the family-owned Roadside Tavern, in Lisdoonvarna. In 1989 she opened now internationally renowned Burren Smokehouse and is a key player in the Burren Slow Food movement and a tireless promoter of sustainable food tourism in the Burren and Co Clare.
Canadian-born chocolatier Allison Roberts operates her micro-bean to bar Clonakilty Chocolate Factory with an environmental and ethical manifesto dictating all, using only 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar, and biodegradable, low-carbon and sustainably manufactured packaging.
From an ever-growing band of farmers in Ireland choosing a regenerative alternative to the conventional mainstream farming model, US-born and raised Mimi and her Irish husband, Owen Crawford, run Crawford’s Farm as an excellent example of the alternative in action: a small, certified organic farm focused on diversity and holistic management, integrating environmental stewardship with high welfare animal husbandry to produce healthy soils, diverse pastures, wholesome grains and the highest quality produce.
Using only free-range pork and often foraged ingredients, professionally trained French butcher, chef and charcutier Olivier Beaujouan produces the finest charcuterie in Ireland, His On The Wild Side business’ offering includes salamis, cured and smoked meats, patés, fresh sausages and pickled seaweed.
David and Lydia Bushby
This English-born father and daughter team produce the grand cru champagne of Irish strawberries and even more astonishing raspberries, in their family holding just outside Rosscarbery, and without the use of chemical inputs.
Ellie Kisyombie makes a range of good chilli sauces under her brand, Ellie’s Kitchen, but is included especially for her work as a Direct Provision (DP) activist, food being her chosen medium for engagement. Food in the pampered, privileged Western world is no longer just about taste and flavour or Instagram-able moments. Food is now as much, if not more, about social justice, sustainability and human rights. It is also a political arena where Ellie has worked
tirelessly in Ireland. She is co-founder of Open Table, campaigning for those in DP, initially for their right to cook their own food, to ‘taste’ memories of birthplace homes.
I recently wrote A Shared Table (released later this year), for the Irish branch of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration. The concept is that food is a universal language, an infinitely powerful tool for breaking down barriers between people and cultures. Ellie is featured in the book.
“When you are campaigning,” says Ellie, “and go out and speak strongly about immigrant issues, it is very hard to get through to a lot people because they can look at you in a whole lot of different ways: for example, is this just moaning, shouldn’t you be grateful? But sitting down and eating food together always helps to ease the tone. The first conversation is about breaking bread, how nice the tastes are, how it is made. The second conversation is about how the food relates to your ‘home’, talking about Malawian food, or Irish potatoes and cabbages.
“By the time you start the conversation about how the DP system is not treating you well, the person will look at you differently, because you have shared some common ground. They will look at you as a human being now and it will be easier for them to be compassionate, and sympathetic and have empathy about your issues.”
Virginia O’Gara, from Texas, is included for her profound influence on Irish veganism via the superb plant-based food produced in My Goodness Food which she operates in tandem with husband Donal O’Gara. But this self-described anarchist, originally trained as an ecologist, who has had a long involvement in social and environmental activism, in Ireland, the US and Mexico, is also included for her work with the Cork Urban Soil Project, co-founded with Molly Garvey, using a bio-digester to turn food waste from local farmers’ markets and the My Goodness production unit into highly nutritious soil used to grow produce for My Goodness, a perfect and entirely sustainable emulation of the cycles of nature.
Lily Ramirez Foran
Not only has the irrepressible Lily, backed by husband Alan Foran, made authentic Mexican food part of the Irish national food conversation, but she also provides new born devotees with authentic ingredients from her Picado Mexican food shop in Dublin (also online). Her latest book, Tacos, is a great introduction to real Mexican cuisine.
Mei Chin, born and raised in Connecticut in a family of Taiwanese and Chinese origin, is a multi-garlanded award winning food writer, including the James Beard Foundation’s M. F. K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award in 2005. Married to an Irishman and living in Dublin, she is an authority on Asian food in Ireland and one third of the award-winning Spice Bags food podcast.
Blanca Valenica, born in Northern Spain and growing up between Central America and Andalucia, has spent a life working in food around the world and has probably done more over the last number of years than anyone to promote Spanish food in Ireland and to illustrate the natural affinity between the two countries when it comes to eating and drinking. She is currently studying for a Masters in Gastronomy at TUD.
Frenchman-turned-Galwegian Stefan Griesbach is probably our most progressive and sustainable fishmonger, selling fish, directly to the public and online with nationwide delivery. His canned fish business, eatmorefish.ie, offers gourmet sustainable seafood.
Born in England to an English mother, his Indian father gave Arun his passion for spices and the family links to source them. While doing the Ballymaloe Cookery School course, he met his now wife, Olive, and his premium spice mix business, Green Saffron, was born, a boon for domestic cooking of Indian dishes in Irish homes.
Eva Pau’s parents came to Ireland 42 years and founded Asia Market in 1981 supplying a small number of Asian restaurants and takeaways with then difficult to source authentic ingredients and produce and is now the largest such store in Ireland. Trinity College educated Eva turned it into an online behemoth during the pandemic, now the go-to store for a national audience, domestic and professional, seeking to expand their Asian cooking repertoire.
Italian Manuela came to national attention hovering just over Trappatoni’s shoulder, rapidly translating the former Irish football coach into English, but is included for her tireless endeavours with Euro-Toques, ceaselessly promoting the Irish food and hospitality sector.
Born and raised in the US, Kristin married an Irish man and raised a family here while working as Ireland’s foremost cookbook editor. But last year, her progress elevated her to an entirely different level as she launched two publishing imprints, Blasta Books and Nine Bean Rows, along with a high-end biannual food periodical, Scoop. Within 12 months they had won multiple awards, nationally and internationally, moving Irish food publishing to an entirely different level.
Englishman Toby Simmonds was barely in his 20s when he began importing olives from Europe. Starting in a small stall in the English Market, he has gone on to develop a national Irish food retail empire that has had huge impact on the nation’s palate and played an integral role in the modern evolution of Cork’s English Market with The Real Olive Company flagship retail outlet. His Toonsbridge Dairy is also an award winning cheese making outfit.
Isabelle Roguet Sheridan
Isabelle Roguet from the Loire, in France, came to Ireland in the early 90s, meeting her Irish husband. She was another of the new wave of innovative retailers who set up camp in a then withering
on the vine English Market, powering the iconic institution’s modern revival. Her On the Pig’s Back delicatessen is one of the finest food emporiums in the country, selling a superb range of Irish and French cheeses and charcuterie, and a bewildering array of complimentary specialty food products. A production unit in Douglas rapidly morphed into a cafe/restaurant and delicatessen of equal stature.
English born Steve Collins is a trained doctor who has spent half his life working on the frontline of famine relief in the most troubled hotspots of sub-Saharan Africa but is also an organic farmer, living with wife Claire and their children in a stunning, remote eyrie, halfway up a mountain west of Bantry, raising Dexter cattle but also growing superb blueberries of a quality that makes a great case for designating the unique micro-climate of that part of West Cork as the ideal place to start a native Irish blueberry growing sector.
Along with her Irish partners Colin Hession and Michael Foggarty, Australian born and raised Seaneen opened L. Mulligan Grocer, Ireland’s first proper gastropub and craft beer and whiskey emporium, inspiring myriad imitators. She has since gone on to become one of Ireland’s foremost drinks experts and evangelists and is an especially important figure in promoting the rise of Irish women in the whiskey sector, traditionally an old boys’ club.
Unsurprisingly, considering grapes are not grown in Ireland on a commercial basis, bar a few pioneering experimental offerings, there are more than a few ‘New Irish’ importing wine to Ireland but Burgundy-born Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, based in Kilkenny, is included for the passion and zeal with which he has blazed the trail for natural wine, the most sustainable winemaking option of all when that increasingly matters, his huge portfolio, from all over Europe, built on personal relationships with individual growers, flush with quite superb wines.