The climate in West Cork is unique and exotic and luxuriant vegetation grow in abundance here. Coupled with a long seafaring tradition, this part of the world has garnered a reputation as a centre of excellence for artisan food production.
Taking in the tropical-like coastline, where locals forrage for seaweed amid visiting grey seals, it’s hard to conceive of PR plans and long-term strategies. But that is exactly what Stephen Sage has in his sights when he talks through West Cork Food Trails & Holiday Breaks.
According to Stephen, their aim is to bring this craftmanship to people who ‘appreciate good food, how it’s produced and how it’s cooked’ through food-themed holidays, corporate outings, individual foodie pursuits or group outings. A large part of their efforts are focussed online, promoting what the rgeion has to offer. Stephen wants to create a ‘grass roots network for news, events and views that enables local people to directly input to the flow of information about West Cork on the web.’
The initiavite comprises a cohort of food aficionados, producers and long-term advocates of what this region has to offer. Participants include artisan producers, offering meat, cheese, seafood, craft beers and even a locally-produced whiskey. Visitors can also partake in coastline kayaking tours.
Not confined to West Cork alone, the organisation is keen to explore the building of a ‘mutually beneficial promotional networks’ with other Celtic areas such as Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, and the Basque country. To date, they have made forays into this network building through the Celtic Cook Off competition. The premise is simple: one chef representing each of the Celtic territories: Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany. The chefs are pitted against each other tasked with preparing a dish using only local produce.
‘We value local business and recognise local produce and local suppliers’, Neil Grant, manager of the West Cork hotel, where the event is hosted is keen to promote what the area has to offer. The Celtic Cook Off event are very much in keeping with the aims of West Cork Food. As Stephen puts it, ‘Our objective is to continue to be able to make enough of a living in this beautiful place to carry on living and working here.’
Renowned food expert and co-author of the eminent Bridgestone Guides, Sally McKenna has been able to do just that. Her and her husband John have been living in West Cork for over 20 years now, having initially visited to learn about the food culture as part of their work with the Bridgestone Guides. ‘The key to our food culture here is high standards, and longevity. West Cork now has a second generation of modern artisans creating world-class food in this unique, unspoiled environment’
She would love to see more interconnection between the various tourism activities, citing the Mayo Gourmet Greenaway initiative as a great example of this. She sees opportunities for ‘greater connection between walkers, markets, boat operators, kayakers, bird watchers, food producers - the whole community.’
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