Creating a successful local food community

Last Tuesday, the 9th of November, members of the Cavan Food Network and the public came together in The Hotel Kilmore for an evening focused on Cavan Food and Drink under the theme “Creating a Successful Local Food Community”. Under the new brand of “Created in Cavan” the evening featured local producers sharing their story as well as a guest appearance and talk from Darina Allen, founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

On arrival, guests were treated to a showcase of food and drinks from local producers such as Cullys Bakery, The Good Crop Company, HealthTea, Barry Johns Sausages and more. James  served as compere for the evening and introduced Patricia Smith, Food Strategy Co-ordinator for Cavan and Norbert Neylon, Chairperson of Created in Cavan for a brief introduction. Patricia set the tone for the event with a quote from Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

Kristijan Kodric

The Cavan food landscape is constantly growing, and two local producers shared their stories with guests in attendance to substantiate this. Kristijan Kodric of Vanilla Bean Patisserie not only provides quality desserts to 5-star hotels all over the Country, he has also achieved phenomenal success with his range of curds with sales hitting record heights on the ‘Grow with Aldi’ programme. Kristijan spoke passionately about the highs and lows of setting up his business just months before the Country was hit with Covid 19 restrictions in February 2020. His is a story of true resilience and passion for what he loves doing. “We have had to quickly adapt to our changing environment over the past 18 months. But our hard work paid off and we have had over 3000 orders in our online shop since we opened it in 2020” Kristijan shared his 3 tips for anyone looking to start a new food and drinks business. Explore-adjust -adapt, take a chance, and ask for help and support.

Ann Rudden

The second speaker of the evening was well known Cavan Master Chocolatier Ann Rudden. After years in the Chocolate industry working for other people Ann set up her own chocolate business in Dublin but the pull of coming home to Cavan was too strong. In 2005 Ann renovated her father’s old garage in Stradone and since then it has been the home of Áine Handmade chocolate. Ann spoke of the changing landscape of the chocolate industry in Ireland and constantly developing new products to keep up with competition. Ann stressed the importance of local and providing for local retailers and attending farmers markets. “You learn so much from meeting your customers and its important for brand awareness and brand recognition also”. This Created in Cavan producer is flying the flag for our County all over the world- even featuring in the chocolate hall of Harrods in London.  Ann’s tips for attendees were develop your brand, be unique, plan, focus on your supply chain and partners and honesty with your customers.

The last speaker of the evening was Darina Allen and her deep dive into the food scene in Cavan. Darina opened by congratulating all the producers present and the variety of food and drink products on display. She offered many words of advice to strengthen the food community in Cavan. “Buy in from everyone is important- the food producers, the shops, the hospitality establishments and members of the public. Hospitality businesses should be buying direct from the farmers and credit them on the menu.” Other ideas included creating ‘Taste of place’. A menu item that would give you an idea of where you are. A full Irish Breakfast in Cavan should showcase all the producers- and yes- that includes Boxty! Darina shared lots of recommendations for attendees to enhance and promote the County’s food and drink scene. She ended with setting the room a challenge- can we give the food scene in County Cork a run for its money? In the words of Barack Obama- YES WE CAN!

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