Macroom Buffallo is one of 44 shortlisted Cork producers. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

44 of the best for Cork producers

This year has been the weirdest I have ever encountered. 

It started off so well with successful contracts in training, a very interesting event series called Match.Cork and then in March, everything just stopped.

What was considered a two-week lockdown is in some form still going on six months later. Now I feel a bit out of sorts, not sure what to do and how to plan ahead.

In all this confusion, it was wonderful to see that the team behind Blas na hÉireann has adapted their approach and have been able to organise a pre-judging to create a shortlist for the Irish Food Awards.

Normally, the final judging takes place in October during the Dingle Food Festival but according to the awards organisers: “After the initial first round of judging, the top scoring products from a number of categories went through a second round of tasting, both in Dingle and at satellite venues across the country. In conjunction with UCC, these results were studied and the findings showed that the results based on two entirely separate panels returned the exact same rankings.”

A total of 44 Cork producers have been shortlisted across a range of different categories: Baked 4 U, Bandon Vale, Bó Rua Farm, Caherbeg Free Range Pork Ltd., Centra - Inspired by Centra Made in store Salads, Clona Dairy Products Ltd, Coolmore Foods, Fitzgerald’s Butchers, Follain, Fresh Fish Deli, Glenilen Farm, Gloun Cross Dairy, Hanley’s Puddings Ltd, Hodgin’s Sausages, Irish Yogurts, JDS Foods, Joe's Farm Crisps, Keohane Seafoods, Kepak, Kinsale Mead Co., Longueville House Beverages, Macroom Buffalo Cheese Products Ltd, Maher’s Coffee & Co Ltd, Nohoval Drinks Co. Ltd/Stonewell Cider, North Cork Creameries, Ó Crualaoi Feoil Teo, O'Keeffe's Bakery, O'Herlihy’s Bacon Ltd, On The Pigs Back, Praline Pastry Ltd, Rebel Chilli, Saturday Pizzas, Shellfish Ireland, Silver Pail Dairy, Skeaghanore West Cork farm, Spice O Life Ltd, St Patrick's Distillery Ltd, Susan's Sweet Sensations, Tex-Mex Addict, The English Market, The Good Fish Company, Trace Of Cakes, Velo Coffee Roasters and West Cork Eggs Ltd.

I am especially delighted to see my friend Avril Allshire with her Caherbeg Free Range Pork products among the well deserved producers. Same goes for Isabelle Sheridan of On the Pig’s Back as well as some of my favourite products like Longueville House Cider and Stonewell Cider – two completely different flavours but both utterly delicious.

As a cheese lover I am very happy to see Macroom Buffalo Cheese and Bó Rua shortlisted.

I am disappointed not to be able to visit the food festival this year and see the winners receiving the awards, eating my way around the town and catching up with many of my chef and producer friends.

For the producers, it will also be a different experience, just being given the awards without the buzz of the whole affair but I am sure they are as happy as I am that Arti Clifford and his team have been able to recognise the beauty of Irish food.