The Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG) was founded by a group of women in 1990. Among them were Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House and Cookery School, former Irish Farmers Journal columnist Florence Campbell and Georgina Campbell, Ireland Guide, who is the guild president.

Their aim was to set up a support network for themselves and colleagues in the industry, to create a constitution for members to adhere to, and to be part of an organisation that highlights their values in food writing and celebrates the best of Irish food and drink, in general. Today, there are over 60 members.

The annual awards, now in their 31st year, were born out of a want to further shine a spotlight on food and drink producers along with members of the hospitality community in Ireland. Sustainability is a consistent thread among the winners. Numerous family businesses have been recognised over three decades, not only for their excellent produce and practices, but also for the lasting and enduring legacy.

2024 awards

Dublin’s Suesey Street restaurant was the location for this year’s awards ceremony which took place last week. Speaking at the event, chair of the guild, Caroline Hennessy said, “Notwithstanding the challenges facing small food and drink businesses right now, we have a sector of which we can be extremely proud. The IFWG Food Awards are a celebration as we shine a light on exemplars of the country’s thriving, world-class artisan food and drink industry. But Ireland’s producers need support from government, from supermarket and restaurant buyers and from consumers who want to eat and drink exceptional and sustainably sourced Irish produce.

“From oysters to organic meats and chicken, traditionally made pastry and Ireland’s first and only vermouth, this year’s winning produce together with our chosen producers and innovators are the heart and soul of our domestic food industry and they deserve our support.”

And the winners are…

Kian and Mary Louët Feisser, Carlingford Oysters, Co Louth.

1 Food Award: Carlingford Oysters, Co Louth – Kian & Mary Louët Feisser are at the helm of this family business that was originally started in the 1960s. Kian’s father Peter and his wife Anna sailed into the Lough on a wooden yacht, made it their home and started to grow oysters. The distinguishable flavour of the Pacific oysters is a sweet nutty flavour that takes more than three years to reach maturity.

2 Food Award: Regan Organic Chicken, Co Wexford – Mary Regan owns and runs the farm with the help of her sisters Helen and Ger and husband David. It’s a case-study of an alternative food system, each step of the process is designed to care for the welfare of the birds and to maintain a close connection to nature and natural food production.

3 Food Award: Roll It All Butter Pastry, Co Meath

Roll It All Butter Pastry, Co Meath. Irish Food Writers' Guild Award winner, Mairead Finnegan.

Mairead Finnegan uses simple and honest Irish ingredients, including Irish butter and locally milled flour, to produce a pastry that is easy to use and free from additives and preservatives.

4 Irish Drink Award: Valentia Island Vermouth, Co Kerry – Ór Valentia Island Vermouth is the first ever Irish vermouth created by wife-and-wife team, Anna and Orla Snook O’Carroll. The base of the drink is Spanish white wine sourced from the Rueda Valley, with locally-foraged Valentia Island plants and herbs among the 20 different botanicals that go into every bottle. The name Ór comes from the golden colour that the gorse infuses into the vermouth.

5 Notable Contribution to Irish Food:

Chef Conor Spacey, winner of an Irish Food Writers Guild Award 2024.

Conor Spacey, Co Dublin – Featured on Irish Country Living’s front cover in June 2023, Conor Spacey shows that a zero-waste approach to food in hospitality settings is not only attainable but cost effective too. He does this through his work with organisations such as Food Space, and as co-creator of The Chefs’ Manifesto. Conor was presented with a Notable Contribution to Irish Food Award.

6 Environmental Award: Rare Ruminare, Co Sligo – Clive Bright’s goal at Rare Ruminare is to produce the heathiest and best tasting meat possible. A mix of traditional rare breeds include Hereford, Shorthorn, Angus, Red Belted Galloway and Irish Moiled. Clive’s holistic grazing management approach uses carefully planned grazing events followed by long recovery periods, moving the cattle around to emulate natural herding behaviour.

7 Community Food Award: Cork Urban Soil Project (CUSP), Co Cork– CUSP was established in 2017 by a collective of forward-thinking activists and creative dreamers who see food as a tool for social change. Their aim was to test and model a “closed loop” community-scale waste system, one that treats food scraps as a valuable resource for the community.

8 Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter and Mary Ward of Country Choice, Co Tipperary

Peter and Mary Ward, from Country Choice in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award 2024.

Irish Country Living was particularly thrilled to hear that Peter and Mary Ward were awarded the coveted lifetime achievement award.

Having been featured in this publication many times in the past, including on our front cover, this couple have been passionate champions of local food since they opened Country Choice in 1982. Based in Nenagh in Co Tipperary, their “country grocer” shop and café is a daily celebration of the best of Irish food, presented in a setting that is full of character and warmth.

Family is at the core of everything they do (as Mary proudly shows us pictures of her 17-month old grandson Alexander- and another grandchild is on the way). Inspired by their parents’ passion for food, their daughters Evie and Eliza have gone on to create their own food business, Nutshed peanut butter, which in our opinion is the best peanut butter on the market, and proves that the family’s future in food is very bright.

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