Food earns its place on tourism map

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - KINSALE - Liam Ed­wards FOOD & TOURISM

These days, the cur­rent Kin­sale Good Food Cir­cle chair­man Liam Ed­wards (of Jim Ed­wards gas­tropub) is also chair­man of the Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land — hav­ing been an RAI coun­cil mem­ber for the last five years.

The new role has def­i­nitely added to his knowl­edge, says Ed­wards.

“It’s been great to see what’s out there, es­pe­cially all the new ini­tia­tives, the new food net­works such as the Bur­ren Food Se­ries, the Sligo Food Trail, the Boyne Valley Se­ries, and to see the amount of work they are put­ting into it. Kin­sale is just one place with a food rep­u­ta­tion, con­nect­ing all the dots around the coun­try. First and fore­most, I’m a foodie and I love my food and I love what Ire­land is pro­duc­ing at the moment.

“Sur­veys of tourists used to say they were com­ing for scenery and the craic agus ceoil but food is creep­ing up the lad­der all the time. As a na­tion we are be­com­ing a food des­ti­na­tion.

“Tourists are sur­prised at how good food is around the coun­try and I don’t think there should be a sur­prise. We have the best in­gre­di­ents and the cook­ing is good and al­ways im­prov­ing — we are chang­ing the per­cep­tion. The Wild At­lantic Way ini­tia­tive is not all about food, but it has been mas­sive for the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor. Fáilte Ire­land have upped their game. The in­gre­di­ents were al­ways there; we just needed to high­light it.

“It has been quite a rev­e­la­tion. It’s the net­work­ing part is that I like — and keep­ing track of the rest of the coun­try and the amount of hard work that the groups are do­ing.

“With­out be­ing ar­ro­gant, food was a huge rea­son why peo­ple came to Kin­sale but there are now ar­eas on a par with us and some ar­eas that maybe even have by­passed us a lit­tle.

“It just goes to show, no area or town can be­come com­pla­cent and we need to al­ways be look­ing to shift a gear in Kin­sale. We’re do­ing that any­way, if you don’t keep it go­ing you’ll def­i­nitely fall be­hind. It doesn’t mat­ter what area of the coun­try, if they make the noise about what they’re do­ing, peo­ple will travel and Kin­sale might be skipped.

“When we started the Good Food Cir­cle, no one said ‘food tourism’ but that’s In­ter­view: Joe McNamee

what we were do­ing — our gourmet fes­ti­vals were ahead of their time, no one was hav­ing them any­where else re­ally. Now we sit down and talk about ‘food tourism’, there are ini­tia­tives we are try­ing to get up and run­ning. For ex­am­ple, Suzanne Burns’ food tours have been a good plus for Kin­sale.

“A bit like the coun­try, we’ve had our ups and downs and keep­ing to­gether over 40 years was never go­ing to be easy. At the moment, en­thu­si­asm is back in town and in the Cir­cle.

“Philip Hor­gan’s [of Man Fri­day’s] son, Dan, has taken over, he brings new ideas, new en­thu­si­asm— fam­ily names might be the same but there is new blood com­ing in all the time. It’s all very for­ward think­ing at the moment — just be­cause we are in Kin­sale, peo­ple are not just go­ing to come to your door. We still have to get them here.

“For the 40th fes­ti­val we looked at bring­ing in lo­cal ar­ti­san pro­duc­ers, we had peo­ple like Blacks craft beer brew­ery, and we all came to­gether to show­case what Kin­sale is all about and the lo­cal cook­ery school at Bal­li­nacurra House came on board — head chef and teacher David Rice is do­ing great work out there.”

One great for­mer friend of the fes­ti­val who is still greatly missed is the late, lamented RTE broad­caster and bon viveur, Derek Davis, who for years acted as MC and, in his own words, ‘Chief Head­case’ for the fes­ti­val in a town he loved so dearly.

“It’s still tough to think of the fes­ti­val with­out Derek,” says Ed­wards, “he was the chair­man’s best friend and made my life very easy. He was just like a lo­cal, and we treated him the same, just gave him his job and he got on with it.

“At the last fes­ti­val, we in­vited all the fam­ily. He’ll never be for­got­ten and, in time, we’ll do some­thing for him, he was a foodie ahead of his time, talk­ing about food tourism.”

Liam Ed­wards, chair of the Kin­sale Good Food Cir­cle and Coun­cil, a group es­tab­lished in 1971 to pro­mote the town’s eater­ies and food stan­dards na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. Jim Ed­wards Bar and Restau­rant is fa­mous for its seafood dishes and has won nu­mer­ous awards for its food and ser­vice. Pic­ture: John Allen

Bill Finn with Ai­dan and Jamie Ed­wards pick­ing a lob­ster for their fa­thers’ restau­rants — John Finn from Finn’s Ta­ble and Liam Ed­wards from Jim Ed­wards — at a spe­cial Fa­ther’s Day event, all lob­sters were €20 in Kin­sale Good Food Cir­cle Restau­rants. Pic­ture: John Allen

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