Meet the Roasters – Saturday 20th September


Date: Saturday 20th September 2014
Time: 6pm (sharp’ish) for 2 hours or thereabouts.

Venue: Highbank Orchard – You will also be able to sample and buy from the wonderful range of Highbank Ciders – Proper, Medieval and Drivers.

Map showing entrance to Highbank –

Link to buy tickets (only €8 to join us)


Brock Lewin, Badger And Dodo

He’s Australian. And have been chatting to him on and off pretty much since he started. Himself and Karl in Coffee Angel were at the first Foodcamp we ran with Savour Kilkenny and it was my first experience of coffee geeks. Haven’t fully recovered.

Jennifer Ryan, Ponaire

I met Jennifer in Clonmel in 2009 and discovered that her beans were fresh and tasty. Shortly after she moved to Limerick and I kinda lost track of her. This will be a catch up for me :-)

Ferg Brown, Roasted Brown

Ferg makes lists. Like Best Coffee Shops in Dublin. He also roasts. Visit his place on Curved Street in Dublin when you are up there. 



For anyone who knows about coffee the subtle mixture of art and science which brings about the perfect espresso or pour over is a thing of mystery. Each of our 3 roasters are masters of the roast. If you can’t tell who’s who in the photo above bring a copy on the night and make notes ;-)

There will be tastings……

Link to buy tickets (only €8 to join us)


UPDATED 21st August to add Ferg and remove Petesy from 3FE who has moved on from being Colin’s roaster.

@riotrye and the Common Loaf

Back in January we hosted Meet The Bakers and one of the 3 was Joe Fitzmaurice

He had an itch and you could sense it. Or hear it if you listened to him carefully :-)

He has scratched it and brought it forth. 

Screenshot 2014-09-01 20.53.26 IMG_8432

Its all about helping everyone to be able to bake #realbread at home. He shared his vision (video underneath), he showed us his locally grown rye (above) and he gave us a live demo of his bread recipe. 

Find out more at


#foodsummerschool2014 : The Artisan and the Consumer – Getting The Message Across

Presentations from:

  • Professor Raymond O’Rourke, University of Ulster
  • Andrew Bradley, Bradley Brand & Design

Floor Q&A Discussion

John kicked off with the hijacking of english language by large food co’s who happily use terms like artisan.

Raymond O’Rourke started.

Food Labels – major ways of getting message across? Ways of improving for the artisan sector:

Mandatory – name, ingredients, QUID, allergens, best before date

So where is there flexibility? 

Country of Origin – we should move to bring in country of origin for lamb, pork, goat and chicken before they are made mandatory by the EU – France has already done something like this. There is a bill in place introduced by Fergal Quinn to do this. This move would help the issue of substantial transformation – where ingredients grown and produced overseas are imported, processed and labelled as Irish. 

Next Raymond moved to the terms ‘artisan’ ‘farmhouse’ ‘natural’ – Starbucks Artisan, Dominos Artisan…. FSAI have drafted a code on the use of 

  • Artisan/Artisanal
  • Farmhouse
  • Traditional
  • Natural

Provenance – PDO’s/PGI’s

We have too few of these – they require active cooperation between potentially rival businesses. The upside is strong legal protection and a good marketing boost to traditional foods from an area/region.

Local Food

His take on this – 75% of food products sold by Carrefour come from local suppliers (that maybe specific to some stores or countries) so there is major room for increasing this share in Ireland.

Andrew Bradley

He reckoned that the hijacking of the terms (mostly artisan) is an opportunity, not a threat. An opportunity to differentiate. You can’t take on the Starbucks on their use of the term(s) but you can own the ‘art’ in artisan – that can’t be copied.

So take that idea and understand the benefit of that – what does that ‘art’ do for the consumer? Get specific in terms of the target market – give your marketing a focus and narrow your brand appeal. 

When you have that target market in place then understand your benefit in the context of their lifestyle? What is your relevance.

A brand is not a name, a logo, a reputation. Andrew suggests that its a promise and that is what you package up. A brand helps margin and the value of a business.

He gave example that Keelings brand was premium priced in Tesco and sold accordingly. Tesco’s removed it and strawberry sales dropped 30% that year. They brought Keelings back.

He now compared Janet’s Country Fayre – gift packaged. Next to that is Wild – more attitude and a different relevance. 

Now Kerry Green Irish Whiskey Marmalade – an undifferentiated brand and label.

Next up he shared photos from Bloom. Looked at Goodness Grains with a little bit of fun together with gluten free. He wasn’t keen on O’Donnells Crisps – not so sure what they stood for. A little impotent.

The Little Milk Company – he did not know what it was about (he was right, not a great stand). 

Keogh’s BBQ Pack – I can BBQ potatoes, clear messaging and could promote an impulse purchase. Against Sam’s Potatoes Heritage Range – whats the benefit, whats it about?

Farmers to Market – Irish Free Range Chicken – no clear benefits for the consumer, not clear why there is a price premium attached to the range/product.

Glenilen – the successful creation of a sub brand for kids. 

He finished with an example of a rebrand of a small butchers (4 stores in Dublin). They moved to The Scarlet Heifer as a business and brand name so that they could begin to stand out and be notable. 

Moved to Q&A

Darryl from Newgrange Gold asked what they can do as a small brand. Andrew said they need to understand how they are different and stand over that. John teased out the benefit of speed for small business and the channels available to get messages out. Andrew asked about their use of social media and Darryl admitted that it is underused (Keith – it is 788 tweets which is basically no use of Twitter at all). He also tried to get Darryl to explain the benefits without using jargon which he was struggling with!

John brought in Kevin Sheridan here – asked him about their marketing. Kevin said that fundamentally they should go back to a market stall and they talk to people. But that can’t be done as you scale – however you can hang onto the building of relationships between consumers and the people within a small food business. Interesting discussion here on story telling and how that can be undermined by its adoption by larger businesses.

Piece by Dermot from MD Bakery in Waterford, part of a PGI group. He reckoned that anything helps you differentiate is extremely valuable – so a 2.5 year process is well worth the time to invest in it. (nicely put). John asked about the difference in the reaction to the blah – and Dermot said that from the time the application went in there was a steady increase in interest and sales because of it. 

John tried and failed to get suggestions from the crowd on other PGI possibilities. But a discussion ensued and a body of work identified as required – do a listing/survey of possibilities and identify people/businesses/groupings who could lead new applications. 

Marian Byrne from the Dept shared a couple of instances where applications on an all Island basis failed in Europe – she and the Department have a dedicated team available to support applications and there are about 10 applications or potential applications in the works right now. 

John summarised. Strength lies in PDO’s/PDI’s combined with the strength of the individual brands.









Chair: John McKenna, McKenna’s Irish Food Guides 

Ross Lewis, Chapter One Restaurant
Jessica Murphy, Kai Restaurant
Evan Doyle, The Strawberry Trees Restaurant
Cait Noone, Head of the College of Tourism & Arts, GMIT
Ed Hick, J Hick & Sons Pork Butcher
Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith, St. Tola’s Goats Cheese
Martina Calvey, Achill Island Mountain Lamb

A discussion on the links between chefs and artisan food. 

panel taste council 2014

John’s Q to Cait – are students thought that the Man In the Van is the source of all or that Artisan Food Producers are place to go? 

Cait responded that the college has changed its procurement policy to deliberately seek out good local and national food producers. She also did a PR piece for the Food Forum that they run in the college.

John to to Evan – Your relationship with framing artisan suppliers goes back 25 years to Kerry. Contrast that with now?

Evan – started by sourcing from local producers and not all organic then. He had to drive to some suppliers to get their produce. Now producers are eager to come and engage with the restaurant and chef’s. He gave examples of Denis Healy, Siobhan from St Tola, Birgitte pulling wild Salmon out of the Nore. Those relationships are a guarantee on the producers side of quality and consistency of supply within seasons. On Evan’s side to commit to purchasing at a fair price and paying in a timely manner.

Next up was Martina Calvey who first spoke about the history of the business with her Dad. Lamb was not part of the culinary experience then. He was a butcher, farmer and also a charmer! So he convinced people to buy the lamb they were not used to. He slaughtered and boxed and branded as Achill Island Mountain Lamb. From then to now they are the only slaughter house on the Islands. A unique provenance – the lamb is born, fed, reared and slaughtered on the Island. 

From there they have developed over 50 years the knowledge and processes required to make their product as good as it is today. They have extended the business by having other farmers raising their lambs to the same standards which the Calvey’s set out.

Ross Lewis then spoke about his business/restaurant and what other Michelin star chefs think about Ireland and cooking here. He shared that a recent visit by 5 other starred chefs revealed that they were in awe of the small scale food production here and the standards implicit in that. Stuff like grass fed cattle.

There is an issue that small scale food producers cannot supply and distribute themselves – the work and scale is not possible. The challenge with a distributor in-between is the break in communications that occurs – the lack of an emotional exchange between the producer and the person who is about to use the product to cook with. He loves the passion of the artisan producer who creates a premium product. 

There has been a revolution in the food business here with more chefs opening up to those kind of products. He also said that the internet is the biggest change in his 15 years – it opens a channel of communication directly between restaurants and consumers who use those channels in planning their visits. Multiple references across a number of channels validate their choice.

He finished by reckoning that the internet may power a business model to support distribution.

Q from John to Ed Hicks. What are the issues today for a small scale producer? 

Ed said the communications breakdowns are a big issue – for example a chef at 11pm placing an order and expecting a delivery in the morning! The micro production runs within artisan are not efficient and do not support Just In Time!

He also made a reference to payment by restaurants – food producers would prefer their name on a cheque over their name on the menu any day! Food producers want to produce, not do paperwork and chase down multiple debtors.

Is there a possible solution in patronage – developing in advance a very close and mutually dependent relationship of supply and use over a full year. John referred to the analogy of Community Supported Agriculture. 

Ed reckoned that the chef moves to being a co-producer of sorts so their understanding of production and constraints is heightened and also food producers will equally understand the life and cycles of a working kitchen.

John moved onto Siobhan and the example of the male kid with no value to a dairy farmer which was seen by herself and Evan as an opportunity to commercialise a waste product. Are there other opportunities like that.

Her answer was yes – the guarantee from Evan made it possible to develop and sell a new product into the marketplace so that more of that close co-operation is a really good thing. 

John to Jessica - how important is her relationship with producers to the reputation of the restaurant in the first 2 years.

She said that it is really important – they cook the products and are the presenters of those products in finished form to consumers. Update – from Twitter her specific quote which is much better “they make my business & I cook purely to represent them” They gain inspiration from them and she considers the producers as part of her extended family.

John with a question to Cait - is it mind blowing for an 18 year old to see the passion that drives a producer. 

She reckons less so now than a couple of years ago – as they have changed their relationship with the food sector and have raised their own standards then the students are exposed to passion from their first day. That emphasis has also changed the profile of the students who come to the college and her courses. She nicely embarrassed Ross by saying she has had students who come to her and say “I want to be the next Ross Lewis”!

Q to Evan - so whats the problem? Why are so many places serve bland imported food?

Evan responded that the kitchens in those places can be lazy – they take the most efficient option. If you move to buying directly from producers they there is a strain on the kitchen, the chef and the consumers – seasonality imposes big constraints and that needs education and extra work and imagination within the kitchen to overcome this.

An ongoing and never-ending requirement to tell the ongoing story of food and work with producers in the sparse times as well as the glut (3 months of root vegetables as an example).

John to Ross - how do you cope with the accountant pulling you up on the cost of supporting and working with artisan producers.

Ross said he calls the shots! But that has taken a lot of hard work and deliberate positioning to get to that position. Good relationships take a lot of work – like a marriage!

John asked him how important to gourmet travellers is his relationship with producers and referred to Noma’s impact on Copenhagen. Ross said that there is a subset of the global population who will travel anywhere to eat and the internet makes it even easier for them. We don’t have the 3 star chef’s yet who will draw in that group but the stage is set for it to happen. And he said that he gets visitors who want to know what an Irish chef is doing with Irish food. He finished by saying that over the last 5 years he has started to see culinary tourists during the summer season which has helped him to fill a quiet time.

John asked Martina how Achill Lamb can assist with tourism and growth. She said that they are part of the overall draw on the Gourmet Green Way (a spin off of the Green Way project) and that does draw visitors. 

John said that Mayo has developed its food culture and sector so well over the last number of years from a very low base – featuring local roll models and supporting them.

Martina agreed and said that the opportunities are there for even part time producers to set up and explore passions on a commercial level and Mayo Co Co have been very proactive in encouraging this. 

John to Siobhan - how does it feel to see St Tola featured on a menu. She responded by saying it is a source of pride – but they referred to the issue of a restaurant naming suppliers whom it no longer uses or only used sporadically. Or once even. So standards around locally sourced and artisan etc need to be maintained and developed. This is hard work and the output of that hard work and the brands that evolve need protection against being undercut by marketing gimmicks and bullshit (last bit mine! Keith).

Ed chipped in here on the challenge of multiple retailers using a soft grain black and white photo of a producer with half a dozen chickens – where the visual has no relationship to their actual production methods. That dumbing down or pandering does not help the education process. 

Evan closed off with a reference to Failte Ireland and Bord Bia – they need to proactively target food tourists as an active opportunity. 

Good discussion, enjoyed that




Meet the Roasters – Ferg ( @roastedbrown ) replaces Petesy ( @3fe )

Colin in 3FE pinged me last week to let me know that Petesy his roaster has departed for a new phase of his caffeine journey. That being the case a gap emerged in our threesome for 20th September so I needed to pull my finger out.

And I did. After a couple of attempts (he was on holidays) I got hold of Ferg Brown today. He’s the founder of Roasted Brown on Curved Street and he roasts for the likes of The Happy Pear and Love Supreme. I’ve been in his place (split my time in that area between there and Staple Foods who use 3FE beans) and its good :-). Colin recommended him too. Nuff said. 

So welcome to Ferg and thanks for taking the time to join us on the 20th.

You can find out more about Meet the Roasters here and also book tickets. 



Meet 2 Chocolatiers and 1 Chocolate Maker on 8th November


Date: Saturday 8th November 2014
Time: 6pm (sharp’ish) for 2 hours or thereabouts.

Venue: Highbank Orchard – You will also be able to sample and buy from the wonderful range of Highbank Ciders – Proper, Medieval and Drivers.

Map showing entrance to Highbank –

Link to buy tickets (only €8 to join us)

Who – and what?

There is a distinction at the making end of chocolate between making chocolate from scratch (from beans) and using couverture to make the finished product. We have (to my knowledge) only one chocolate maker in Ireland (Wilkies – Shana will be at a future event with us if I get my way :-).

Our 3 makers are:

Mary Teehan, Truffle Fairy

I’ve known Mary since she was experimenting with chocolates in her home kitchen and I had a personal interest in her expanding into a commercial setting because that capacity increase allowed her to introduce some vegan dark chocolate bars and truffles :-)

Mary truffles

Karen Keane, Bean and Goose

Karen is the co-founder of Bean and Goose together with her sister Natalie. They are based in Wexford and only kicked off last year (2013). It was their single origin bars that caught my eye – that and catchy branding.


Bean and Goose Chocolate


Alyssa Jade McDonald, Blyss Chocolate

Lyss is someone I have only “met” virtually. Known her for over 3 years and email, Twitter and Skype are how we have gotten to know each other. In one of those weird coincidences she works closely with someone who lives in Kilkenny! She is the first non-Irish based maker in the series and thats because she happens to be in Ireland in the week that this evening is on and her story is really interesting :-)

She is our Chocolate Maker and will share the story of bean to bar – from plantation to mouth.

blyss chocolate

and here are the 3 in person (together with a stray sister)


Thats it – gonna be a great way to wind up the first year of Biabeag :-)

Tickets here for €8 – samples and a chance to buy more on the night.




Teagasc encourages glyphosate use – linked to Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers

I am not comfortable that a state agency here in Ireland actively encourages the use of Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. This was mailed out to their client base in the last month. 


As reports by Reuters in April 2013 a peer-reviewed report expressed strong concerns on the health impact of this chemical

The peer-reviewed report, published last week in the scientific journal Entropy, said evidence indicates that residues of “glyphosate,” the chief ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, has been found in food.

Those residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. Samsel is a former private environmental government contractor as well as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In 2009 Scientific America published the results of findings showing that Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

From Wikipedia:  Glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine) is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops grown around the globe. It was discovered to be a herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970.[3] Monsanto brought it to market in the 1970s under the trade name “Roundup”, and Monsanto’s last commercially relevant United States patent expired in 2000.




A perspective on Outstanding by Design from Dave Donohue


Dave is a Thomastown based writer working on his own craft beer product & when I saw that he was coming to the event I asked him to pen his thoughts on it. Here they are.


David Donohue – guest blog for Bia Beag

When I attended Bia Beag’s Outstanding by Design forum at Highbank Orchards in June, I did so as part of my research for a craft beer which I am currently developing.

Although aware that branding was essentially about communicating to the potential customer ‘what you are’ as a brand, I didn’t necessarily see the investment of money in the branding process as an essential part of launching a new small-producer product.

As somebody who works with a well-stocked little Kilkenny deli (Glasrai & Goodies), on the marketing and sourcing side, I come across a lot of small-producer food and drink products which have been launched without engagement with professional designer/consultants.

..all rely on simple packaging/labelling


Products like Sally Barnes’ Woodcock Smokery’s smoked fish, Goatsbridge’s trout (before its recent ‘branding’), Highbank Orchard’s Driver’s Cider, Orchard Syrup and ciders, Danette Milne’s pesto’s and sauces all rely on simple packaging/labelling.

When I see these products beside the ‘branded’ ones like Paddy O’s Granola, Mella’s Fudge, Mic’s chilli and Gubbeen cheese I don’t necessarily see the branded products jumping off the shelf in comparison.

Siobhan Lawlor, who owns Glasrai & Goodies, always says that the most simply packaged produce does best in her deli. In Siobhan’s opinion anything too fussy, loud, showy or glitzy puts the customer off buying artisan produce. ‘Truffle Fairy truffles come in a plain box with just a tiny sticker with the Truffle Fairy logo. There is no contents information, and yet we can’t keep them in stock.’

Before the Outstanding by Design forum I intended to design my own label for my craft beer, named after Ireland’s most famous philosopher, Berkeley, with the help of a brilliant local artist/illustrator. I was going to do something that looked good, stood out on the shelves and got the story across. If my product did okay in the market I would then look at ‘branding’ to take it to the next level.

…the length and intensity of the branding process

I was interested to me if the forum would sway me from my intended approach. The first thing that struck me as the forum progressed was the length and intensity of the branding process.

Sarah Maguire from Brand Union spent months delving into the branding possibilities afforded by Paddy O’ Connell’s love of the great outdoors, good looks and strong personal story, while the evolution of freelance designer, Steve Simpson’s label designs for Mic Wejchert’s, Mic’s Chilli, incorporating the bar code into his ‘day of the dead’ influenced cartoon-like illustrations, was an eye opener.

As well as being a window into Steve’s artistic approach, the conversation highlighted the lengthy step-by-step process that created a clearly-branded, quirky and memorable product, while fulfilling the producers exacting brief. Steve also brought to light how some freelance designers are willing to be flexible, price-wise, when working with new producers with whom they hope to develop a long term relationship.

…highlighted by the forum was its collaborative nature


Another aspect of the branding process which was highlighted by the forum was its collaborative nature. Mella Mc Auley, from Mella’s fudge and freelance designer, Liz Maybury seemed to delight in the process of working together, with Liz emphasizing how she faithfully incorporated Mella’s one stipulation, that gold foil be used for the lettering of the fudge bar packaging.

Erik Johansson, from The Green Man Studio and Paul O’ Connor of the Trouble Brewing, brewing company also gave a great insight into the to-and-fro between designer and client. In this case the brief was to re-brand a craft brewing company with a stipulation to be ‘rebellious yet not offensive.’ This re-branding has, according to Paul, been a huge factor in Trouble Brewing’s year-on-year growth of 50%.

Christina Moody from Value Added in Africa and Laura Macauley from Navigate by Design illustrated how inspired re-branding gave a small African Community-focused honey-making project a real shot at the International market.

Rachel Kerr from Creative Inc & Liz Skehan (mother of Donal) of Skoff pies talked about Liz and Donal’s newly launched product, and the design brief, which asked her to emphasise that Skoff Pies ‘stand for home cooked food with a funky personality.’ Rachel emphasised the importance of a good name in being identified, recognised and understood, and the role which colour plays in branding.

His advice to me was simple – have a clear idea of what your product is…


After lunch the attendees were given the opportunity to have a one-to-one discussion with a designer of their choice. I chose Eric Johanssen, who had created Trouble Brewing’s entertaining and eye-catching labels. His advice to me was simple – have a clear idea of what your product is, who the customer is, and why they might want to buy it, and to use this information to create a brand image that sets your product apart.

He liked my product idea and especially the products unique twist (I should be in marketing!). He also loved my choice of label illustrator because, Eric said, my designer is a guy with a very individual style, and a great love for craft beer. The Eric gave me his card and told me to call him as the project came closer to fruition.

The concluding talk of the day, following designer Lorenzo Tonti and Gubbeen’s Fingal Ferguson’s warm-hearted discussion about the Ferguson families long relationship with the designer, came from designer, Giles Calver.

Gile’s wrote the book ‘What Is Packaging Design?’ which organiser/host and the man behind Biabeag, Keith Bohanna, had earlier suggested was the product-design bible. Giles bullet-pointed the essentials of good branding, summarising the key points of the day in the process.

…good branding is not just an essential for product success, but a fascinating world in itself


Giles left me with a sense that good branding is not just an essential for product success, but a fascinating world in itself, a world which combines psychology and anthropology, while being ruled by with the basic tenet that humans like nice things in nice packages.

Almost two months on from the Outstanding by Design forum I continue with my product research. I see beer labels that have been through months of design consultancy at great cost and some which have been put together by the brewers teenage art-loving daughter on photo-shop, and I can’t always tell the difference.

…I’m still not convinced that I need to hire a professional designer


So, no, I’m still not convinced that I need to hire a professional designer to take my beer to the shelf, at least initially. Goatsbridge trout thrived and grew for years with their initial packaging, and Highbank Orchards, with a simple label designed by Julie Calder-Potts, can barely keep up with the demand for their Driver’s Cider.

I do know, however, that everything I learnt during the forum will inform my approach to designing the label for my unique beer product, and, if I’m not happy with the results, I just might give Eric Johanssen a call…

David Donohue David Donohue is an author/songwriter/horse racing journalist with a love of food and craft beer. David works as marketing consultant, Facebook manager, with Glasrai & Goodies and the Truffle Fairy Café and Chocolaterie.