Small vendors bought out of big festivals this summer

The Maître D’ understands that many small Irish producers will not be able to afford to participate in ‘the big’ Irish music and food festivals this summer. Most enforce a card machine policy (no cash transactions allowed) where on-site vendors must rent out card machines from the festival organisers. We are told that these machines can cost up to €220 each; meaning smaller producers have already spent nearly €500 before they have even made their first transaction.

All money made goes into the bank account of the festival organiser, who usually takes around 20% from each sale (as the trading fee). One producer spoke anonymously to the Maître D’, saying: “During the festival, they send people around to make sure you’re not taking cash or using your own cash machine. If they find you have, they can fine you and throw you off site. Then, you leave the site having paid your staff and owing thousands to your suppliers without a penny in your pocket.”

It is understood that producers are then at the mercy of the promoters as to how quickly they get the money they made during the festival (minus the trading fees) returned to them.

“It’s usually around ten days – some are quicker,” the vendor says. “It’s not just an unfair system – it also means that if you’re producer who focuses on really good, quality food, you can’t afford to trade at [these] festivals.”

We are assured that many smaller, regional food and music festivals do not follow this practise and allow cash transactions.

Rural chef appointments

Keith Boyle is the new executive chef of Mountain View in Co Kilkenny.

Gary O'Hanlon will be the new executive head chef of The K Club in Co Kildare.

If you’re a fan of the RTÉ series The Restaurant, it will interest you to hear that Gary O’Hanlon, who features in the series, was recently announced as the new executive head chef at The K Club in Co Kildare. He has taken up the position at the estate following five years as head chef of The Condor, which is found at Chateau du Coudreceau in France. Prior to that, he was head chef at Viewmount House in Co Longford. After years spent cooking abroad, it’s nice to see him making a return to Ireland. It will also be interesting to see how his K Club menus rate with the judges.

A bit further south in Co Kilkenny, Mountain View in Ballyhale have announced that well-known local chef Keith Boyle (formerly of Restaurant Lady Anne in Castlecomer and, briefly, the River Court Hotel) will be taking up the reins as executive chef. Previously crowned best chef in Leinster and Munster at the Irish Restaurant Awards, he plans to host a series of pop-up dining events with the first announced as ‘Dinner with the MasterChefs’ on 4 May. Given the date, maybe they should be called “Jedi Chefs” (May the Fourth be with you).

Festival conundrum: Ballymaloe or Burren Slow Food?

Ballymaloe House is celebrating their 60th anniversary.

Birgitta Curtin is the festival organiser of the Burren Slow Food Festival / Eamon Ward

Festival season is well and truly underway and there is no better day out than to one of Ireland’s many excellent food festivals. With two taking place on the same weekend, the Maître D’ is having a hard time deciding where to go.

First up is The Burren Slow Food Festival, organised by Slow Food Clare. This is Ireland’s longest running food festival and will take place on 19 May at the Pavilion in Lisdoonvarna. It is part of a month-long festival of wellness, hosted by the Burren Ecotourism Network.

According to festival organiser Birgitta Hedin Curtin (pictured left), “An important part of wellness is the food that we eat. The Burren area offers a range of small batch production high nutrition food produced in pristine limestone soil and Atlantic coastal water. Many of these foods will be sold at the Burren Slow Food Festival directly by the producer.”


Meanwhile, Ballymaloe House is celebrating their 60th anniversary and are celebrating with the new Ballymaloe Festival of Food, which is taking place from 17-19 May. The folk at Ballymaloe are promising a festival “jam-packed” with demos, pop-up dinners, talks, walks, producers, exhibitors and activities. Pictured is chef Rachel Allen who will be at the festival.

• For dates, prices and line-up see

Big wins for rual producers

Co Tipperary-based food business Crossogue Preserves / Jennifer Molloy

I’d say there wasn’t a cow milked in Co Tipperary these past weeks as two local and well-loved producers were awarded some big accolades. Ballycahill-based Crossogue Preserves took home several top prizes from the World Marmalade Awards, while Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers (who are now celebrating 40 years in business) won big at the British Cheese Awards with their classic Cashel Blue

Crossogue’s Veronica Molloy laughingly told the Maître D’ that they have been entering – and winning – the Marmalade Awards since they first began, and each year they enter a new flavour (among this year’s winners was their Bertha’s Revenge Marmalade, which they make specially for Ballyvolane House, where the gin is produced).

Speaking of booze (and cows), Co Meath-based Coole Swan Crème Liqueur have taken the top spot in digital media company Tasting Tables’ recent ranking of Irish cream liqueurs, with the tasting panel apparently saying it’s “worth every penny of its higher-end price point.” If you ask me, it’s just that good aul’ Irish dairy shining through (I’d say the Sadlier family, who own Coole Swan and are dairy farmers themselves, would agree with me).

Here Fishy, Fishy

What is it about us Irish and our percieved aversion to seafood? I think my crew would rather eat nails than a beautifully prepared prawn or scallop. Luckily, there are some Irish seafood superheroes out there who might help me change their land-lubber ways. Chef Aishling Moore is surely one of them.

In recent years, Aishling has been honoured with a growing list of accolades for her gastronomic prowess at Goldie Restaurant in Co Cork. Now, she is adding “author” to the list with her new book Whole Catch. As part of her “gill to fin” approach to seafood, and her efforts to encourage diners to try new ways with fish, Whole Catch is the latest Blasta Book in the popular Irish cookbook series.

The book features dishes that feel familiar, like scampi katsu curry or fried Karaage hake nuggets. Sure, my kids love a nugget. There is hope for them yet.


Read more

Spilling the tea with Maître D’

Myrtle Allen and her Irish Farmers Journal legacy