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Blas na hÉireann

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Blas na hÉireann / Irish Food Awards

October 2015 was a busy month for GMIT students. Twelve of our Bachelor of Business in Culinary Arts students participated in the Blas na hÉireann awards in Dingle, at the beginning of the month.

Blas na hÉireann events are fast becoming recognised as the key networking and showcase events for folks invested in the food industry in Ireland today. Now known as the largest blind-tasting food event in Ireland, GMIT students volunteered their services at the concluding phase of judging Blas na hÉireann finalist products.  

Seventy-two judges worked their way through the arduous task of taste-testing food entries from the finalists, all whittled down from a massive list of over two thousand entries of this year’s awards.

Ninety finalists were picked based on the high quality of their entries, which covered a wide selection of food. Everything from soups, to sweets and fresh meats to charcuterie to name a few.

The short listing is co-ordinated by Joe Kerry from UCC with the help of his MA and postgrad students.

Day one:

On Thursday October 1st, the Skelligs Hotel in Dingle was bursting at the seams as the tasting sessions got underway. GMIT students assisted with:

  • Welcoming and registration of the judges
  • The plating and service of the food samples
  • Co-ordination of the sensory analysis score cards for analysis.

The judges, carefully selected industry experts, were all presented with a different food sample to ensure non-biased tasting. Chefs and food producers from large and small companies all came together in the name of celebrating excellent Irish Food. The range of industries represented across the judging panel was quite diverse with giants like Muller Foods alongside Brigitta Curtin from The Burren Smoke House in County Clare.

Also not shy in numbers, food writers showed up in droves to taste the latest and greatest in Irish Food products:

  • The Irish Times
  • The Irish Independent
  • The Examiner
  • The Farmers Journal (Food Supplement)
  • Food and Wine Magazine
  • Speciality Foods Magazine (UK)
  • Food buyers from Harrods and several other retail chain stores.

Day Two

Friday October 2nd got off to a busy start as our GMIT students assisted with the merchandising of the finalist products. This phase of the event is designed to showcase the products that have made it to the shortlist. This is an opportunity for judges, and volunteers, to experience the products from every region in Ireland, representing the very best quality in food.

Each product was displayed in its shop-ready state and the overall aim of this event was to:

  • Help promote the use of Irish products
  • Support the producers as they grow their business
  • Help buyers source the highest quality products available in Ireland.

Day three

On Saturday the 3rd of October, four of the twelve GMIT students volunteered to assist with the tradeshow showcase and presentation of the awards.

Celebrating their eighth year of the Blas na hÉireann awards, this event gets better and better every year. Artie Fallon, Chairman of Blas na hÉireann commented on the professionalism of our GMIT students: “They showed great initiative, with a very strong work ethic and were an invaluable support to ensuring the smooth running of this event.”

Each of the students will receive a letter of reference from the Chairman to include on their CV’s which will no doubt aid in their job search later in the year.

The coordinator of the showcase event, Cara Murphy from Muller Foods explained that: “the students were outstanding. This year was the smoothest merchandising of producer’s food thanks to GMIT students, who were given the responsibility for preparing the venue for product showcase. The students only had to be asked once and rose to the challenge to be creative when presenting foods.”

In summary

A three day event experience like the Blas na hÉireann awards is a unique and excellent chance for our students to experience. Our students were provided with the chance to meet MA and postgrad students from UCC’s food science department. An informal setting like this allows and encourages our students to consider further areas of study. They participated in hands-on sensory analysis and embraced the opportunity to experience some of the finest foods in Ireland.

This practical knowledge, for any student but especially for 4th year students, is invaluable as they now have to develop their own innovative product and conduct sensory analysis on the same. Participating in this event dropped them into the heart and soul of food product development in Ireland today.