“The idea was great in theory,” said CASK spokesperson Declan Cassidy, “but proved to be even better in practice.” He was talking about a one-day international cooking workshop, followed by a public tasting event, that saw top international chefs work alongside a group of participants to cook ten fusion recipes – international ideas with Irish sustainable, local and seasonal ingredients.
The packed-out event, held at Sonairte, the Irish National Ecology Centre near the County Meath coastal town of Laytown, was part of the Climate Aware Seasonal Kitchen (CASK) project – an initiative with the promotion of sustainable food system at its core. The project sees Sonairte team up with Irish non-profit organisation EurAV European Audio Visual CLG and the Mediterranean Agronomics Institute of Chania in Crete, which is the birthplace of the enviro and health-friendly Mediterranean diet.
The day kicked off with short presentations, video and discussion on sustainable food systems and the important role that food service industry professionals can play in the climate fight. The participants were then presented with a lunch created from ingredients harvested fresh from Sonairte’s organic gardens and cooked by workshop mentors – top chefs from Crete and Ireland. After lunch the group were taken foraging, under the expert guidance of Jenny Boylan who is a forager, wildcrafter, apprentice herbalist, and author of The Beginner Forager’s Calendar. The food service industry in Ireland employs more non-Irish nationals than any other, and this was represent by the diversity in the group. It soon became apparent that other countries are far ahead of the Irish when it comes to biodiversity and foraging.
The rest of the workshop was spent in Sonairte’s kitchens, where the ten recipes – inspired by the Mediterranean Diet but using Irish ingredients – included such dishes as a pickled mackerel and seaweed canapé, a pork pie, an apple cake and broad bean falafels. From 5pm the public began to arrive, ready to put the dishes to a tasting test. Fifty tickets had been issued to food industry stakeholders, media, environmentalists, producers and the public, but the packed long hall at Sonairte overflowed into the courtyard, despite frequent showers.
Music, provided by musicians ‘Happy Spuds’ kept the crowd entertained until tray after tray of food was brought out by the chefs and participants, only to be picked clean by the appreciative guests.
The well-fed crowd applauded with real enthusiasm as Ronan, of Sonairte, presented each of the workshop participants with their CASK certificate.
The one-day training workshop will now be distilled into online self-directed training for food service industry professionals and will be available here on the CASK website under the ‘Training’ tab. Those successfully completing this online training will be able to download a CASK certificate to prove that they have taken environmentally positive steps in the area of food.