It was a surreal experience,” he says. “You’re up there on the stage getting your picture taken and all you can see are Asian, Chinese, Korean people … It showed me the huge demand for good food on a global scale.”
Butchers from 134 countries competed in Frankfurt, with a total of 7,000 food products and 70,000 people attending the event.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” says James. “I was coming home on the Tuesday night after we won the four golds but was told that if we won a fifth gold on Thursday then we’d be in the running for the outstanding achievement award. Back I went on the Thursday and couldn’t believe it when they announced our name.”
Winning was a huge reaffirmation of the high quality and consistency of our products
Nolan’s of Kilcullen, Co Kildare, craft butcher since 1886, took five gold medals, four silver and one bronze in total. The golds were for their white pudding, traditional sausage, jumbo barbecue sausage, chilli sausage and their cooked corned beef.
“Obviously, winning was a huge reaffirmation of the high quality and consistency of our products,” James says.
“While we may be small, we have that farm-to-fork story – our own farm, abattoir, boning and processing and curing facilities and a full EU licence for everything we do.
“There are very few businesses left that have the farm and do their own slaughtering.”
James pays special tribute to his 25 staff in the context of this achievement.
“While the product has to be there, it’s the staff who make the business. We have a fantastic team. Many are with us a long time and they work incredibly hard to make it the unique place it is to shop.”
James is the fourth generation Nolan in the business.
“I love doing it,” he says. “My father, Andy, died three years ago but spent his life creating and perfecting sausage recipes. I remember coming back from a sausage competition in Limerick one day with him where we had won the puddings (competition) but were beaten by one mark for the sausage prize. There was no chat on the way home. He had his recipe books out the minute we got back. Needless to say, we were back the following year and won all three categories.
The business is my whole life
“It was his whole life – creating and perfecting sausage and pudding recipes as well as all the other aspects that make butchering what it is, be it a judge of livestock, the way you slaughter to the way you bone to the way you hang your sausages and cure your bacon … He was a great all-rounder and I feel that winning this award is a great reflection on his life.
“The business is my whole life, too, and I’m lucky that I have the interest to follow on from all my father’s years of hard work and that my wife Emma has such a great interest in the business as well.
“Who knows, maybe our son, Andrew James, who’s three now, will continue the tradition.”
James will be familiar to readers of Irish Country Living from the health pages, where he has featured as a kidney transplant recipient and winner in world and European championship competitions for transplant and dialysis athletes.
“I received a kidney from my sister Catherine 29 years ago and I’ll be forever grateful to her for that,” he says.
“At the end of the day, I know how lucky I am to be here and to be able to do so much. I love the shop, the athletics, my family and being able to build the unit for Temple Street. Yes, life is pretty good.”
The Nolans have raised €1.3m with their Punchestown Kidney Research Fund annual race over for the last 27 years. This year, Temple Street will be receiving €150,000 towards their new kidney unit from this fund.
In 2015, Nolan’s Butcher’s won the Best Butcher Shop in the UK and the Republic of Ireland Award presented in London, competing against 35,000 businesses.
For more information, visit www.nolansofkilcullen.com or call 045-481229.