Cordon d’ Or - Gold Ribbon - Crystal Globe Award

Presented on an Engraved Black Marble Base 

(Photographer - Ignacio Urquiza)


Go for it!  Everyone loves to go for Gold


      I hope you have enjoyed the Summer. Time moves on and everyone is looking forward to another holiday season just around the corner. We did not produce a Summer edition of Culinary Voices of America, so we have a double edition seen here.  



Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon Culinary Academy Awards

Culinary Academy Awards 'Name'  International Contest 2010

Cordon d' Or President Honored by the American Culinary Federation

Ireland and Florida - Observations!

'Spotlight' on Academy of the Culinary Arts Members

History Buffs! The Way We Were    




        Since our Spring Newsletter, much has happened. The transition of the time frame for our annual awards program presentations from January to May, worked well. The weather was still pleasant without being too hot in Florida for visitors, and folk were able to enjoy some beach life too. Previously, holding the event in January was too soon after Christmas and the New Year, and this year it would have clashed with all the razzmatazz of the annual Super Bowl, held in the Tampa Bay area.  We have decided to hold the event again in the late Spring of 2010  The Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon Annual International Culinary Academy Awards will take place on Friday 30 April, 2010 at the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. The Don CeSar, a Loews Hotel has very graciously given us a most attractive sponsorship for the occasion, and we look forward to holding it again at this elegant Pink Palace landmark overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Put the date on your calendar. Plan an extended weekend vacation (or a week) in a beautiful location, and join us for an evening of fun. You will not beat the very special rates on offer by this Five Star hotel resort, at $269 per room per night if you plan to attend the Culinary Academy Awards event. Additional announcements will appear in future 'Culinary Voices of America' editions.

Hollywood California is known internationally for the

Motion Pictures Annual Film Academy Awards - the 'OSCARS'

Tampa Bay Florida is recognized worldwide as home to the

International Annual



          Our Award Winners came from far and wide to the Awards Presentations and Reception. Executive Chef Eric Neri excelled in the colorful delicious selection of food served at the Reception. The Ice Sculpture of Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon was exceptional, and a photo can be seen on our web site.  Our thanks go to our sponsors Irish Dairy Board & Kerrygold, Suncoast Food Alliance, Sysco and the Don CeSar. Also, we express our thanks to other Sponsors listed on our web site. The music played by duo Mike and Daryll added greatly to the enjoyment of the evening; and a selection of wines and champagne provided by Southern Wine & Spirits was enjoyed by everyone.  Dave, our Web Master has placed a Power Point presentation of the Culinary Academy Awards evening on the web site, accessible through a link on the Home Page. Scroll down the screen, click, wait a couple of moments and you can view it.

        Afterwards, return to the Home Page, and click on ENTER. It will take you to the CORNUCOPIA screen, where you can click on links above the horn of plenty, to view information on the Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon 2009/2010 International Awards Program now under way. The deadline to send in Entries is Monday, 30 November 2009. 

There are Four Groups of Culinary Academy Awards:  

ACADEMY OF THE CULINARY ARTS - Academy Members nominate and vote for

Winners for Culinary Hall of Fame - Culinary Life Achievement - Culinary Entrepreneur - Culinarian of the Year - Cooking School - Cuisine (awarded either to a Country or a Culinarian) - Chef of the Year - Chef Educator of the Year


INTERNATIONAL COOKBOOKS & CULINARY ARTS - Entries accepted worldwide in this Annual Contest: Culinary Books - Culinary Photography - Food Stylist - Culinary Magazines - Web Sites - Articles - - Culinary Demonstration (DVD) - 'Potluck' Book (fiction or non fiction) with some connection to food and the culinary world.


FLORIDA - AMERICA'S CULINARY PARADISE - Winners chosen by their Culinary Peers for the Florida based Awards:  Hall of Fame - Winery - Restaurants - Entrepreneur - 'Sustainability' on the Florida Scene - 'Great Tastes' a Florida Product


THE PRESIDENT'S AWARD - Winner selected by Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon  

Navigating Our Web site on the Cornucopia Screen: If you click on Archives, there are slide shows featuring award winners from previous years.  Other links on the Cornucopia screen will take you to Mini web sites for the Emerald Isle - the Jewel in the Culinary Crown, and Florida - America's Culinary Paradise.  




          In the 19th Century, and in the first half of the 20th Century, the Escoffier era was at its height. Traditional French cuisine led the way, and Cordon Bleu - Blue Ribbon became a household name in Europe.  In the second half of the 20th Century, the scene began to change, led by Chef Paul Bocuse, who introduced La Nouvelle Cuisine. Several other cuisines were to follow as notable Chefs put their stamp on the changes. In the early 1970s, Belgium actually surpassed France, receiving more coveted Michelin Rosettes in the competitive world of food. For a short period during those decades, Cordon Bleu in the UK encountered a major problem, when many in Europe tried to pass themselves off as Cordon Bleu trained cooks; having perhaps attended a few afternoon food demonstration sessions, or a short one week course in cookery. Only those who had completed the nine month full time training were, effectively speaking 'trained Cordon Bleu Cooks'. For many years now, Cordon Bleu has expanded internationally. Today, there are many schools open in the USA and as far afield as Australia. Traditional French cuisine is alive and well.  However, changes were in the wind during the latter part of the 20th Century, and into the 21st Century. Eclectic, innovative, contemporary, modern and international cuisines came to the fore, as interest in the world of food went global. Food images of great artistry, initiative and imagination were seen everywhere, and people discovered that upscale delicious cuisine was not solely the domain of the French. Such is the food scene today. Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon Cuisine represents the future, as can be seen from the Culinary Academy Award - a crystal globe with an imprint of a world map. Cleverly balanced on a hand, the globe will 'spin' gently. The Award represents the Accolade of the 21st Century - the future. Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon represents the image of the very best in eclectic, innovative, contemporary, modern and international cuisine from far and wide, while at the same time, retaining the culinary traditions of France and the many counties whose cuisines were eclipsed by France for so long.

          Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon International Culinary Academy Awards plans to hold an international contest next year, to find a very special, appealing and appropriate name for our Culinary Academy Awards. Remember, Hollywood Motion Pictures Academy Awards are known as the 'Oscars'. Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon is on the lookout for a name representative of the Culinary Academy Awards. Put on your thinking caps, and watch for further details in 2010.    


Founder of Cordon d’Or – Gold Ribbon


Culinary Academy Awards

Honored by American Culinary Federation 


Noreen Kinney receives an Honorary Life Membership in the American Culinary Federation in recognition of five decades of contributions to the culinary arts worldwide.


ORLANDO, Fla. July 15, 2009 – Noreen Kinney, founder of the Cordon d’ Or - Gold Ribbon International Culinary Academy Awards, received honorary life membership in the American Culinary Federation (ACF) at ACF’s 2009 National Convention at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center, when the ACF gave her the Lifetime Achievement Award. The distinction was announced by ACF’s outgoing President, John Kinsella, CMC, CCE, WGMC, AAC, on July 11 to more than 1,100 culinarians assembled for the organization’s annual meeting.


In receiving the rare honor from ACF, Kinney joins the ranks of culinary luminaries who have been likewise honored, among them Graham Kerr, Paul Prudhomme, Charlie Trotter, Martin Yan, Thomas Keller,  and the late James Beard and Julia Child.

(Press Release issued from Orlando on July 15, 2009)


       Wow! What an exciting experience. I was thrilled, and felt very honored when the ACF President, Dr. John Kinsella informed me in April that they were going to present me with the Honorary Life Membership to the American Culinary Federation. I spent four wonderful days in Orlando as guest of the ACF, and enjoyed participating at the opening general session. Two Master Chefs, Dr. John Kinsella, and Chef Peter Timmins invited me to join them on stage. I spoke about the New Irish Cuisine from the days when I pioneered the movement, while they did demonstrations and presentations of traditional Irish food in times past, and contemporary Irish cuisine today. Go to the Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon web site. Scroll down the Home page and click on the link about the ACF event, where you can view photos and the rest of the Press Release. The four days gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet so many interesting chefs and other culinarians from across the States and further afield. Ferdinand Metz was charming, Michel Escoffier fascinating;  and the head of the Irish Panel of Chefs Myles Moody arranged for us to get together when I return to Ireland on a visit.  To my great surprise and delight at pre dinner cocktails with a small group of Culinarians before the President's Ball, in walked Fred Ming from Bermuda. Fred, along with some of his colleagues took me out to a lovely dinner when I visited Bermuda last year, and introduced me to Bermudan cuisine. Recently, Fred won the Academy of the Culinary Arts Culinary Academy Award for Cuisine of the Year - awarded either to a Country or a Culinarian.  Fred has done remarkable work in Bermuda to establish Bermudan cuisine, and he was honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for his work. He told me that he has a new book out and will be sending it to our Awards Program. His previous book is superb, and Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon looks forward to receiving the new book.  The ACF people were wonderful to me in Orlando. They were very thoughtful too, and provided me with an electric scooter to get around at the conference. It was a god send as I had damaged my knee. Due to the injury, the 2009 Culinary Tour of Ireland planned for this year was postponed, leaving eighteen people registered to go with me feeling very disappointed. Seven of them had been on the 2006 tour, and were keen to return again, bringing more family and friends with them. We will reschedule a date in due course and enjoy another wonderful visit to the Emerald Isle - The Jewel in the Culinary Crown.




         Those of you who know me will remember my comments through the years that I firmly believe Florida can become a Culinary Paradise. Forty nine years ago, I made a similar announcement about Ireland, when I told Dr. T.J. O'Driscoll, the Director General of Bord Failte - the Irish Government Tourist Board, that I believed "Ireland is virgin territory to become a Gourmet's Paradise", and he threw out a challenge. Tim was a close friend of my father's from their childhood days, and the best man at my parents wedding. Irish tourism was expanding rapidly at the time, but the development of the food scene was being largely ignored. My 'quote' was repeated many times in the Media in Ireland, and is seen in my early cookbooks published by Mercier Press in the 1970s.  I began the Culinary Tours across the Emerald Isle to show people the superb food growing on their doorstep, and pioneered the New Irish Cuisine movement. The 'Tours' or 'Demonars' were entertaining evenings of food demonstrations, combined with chit chat on the folklore, legends, origins and history of the ingredients used in preparing the food. They ran over several years and were a great success. The 'Developers' (as I call them) became active by the mid 1970s and early 1980s. They began to promote the Irish food scene before the public eye. Interest grew and expanded nationwide throughout the Eighties decade. In 1994, the 'Consolidators' Bord Bia, the Irish Government Food Board was established. They put millions into marketing Irish food internationally with great success. Today, Ireland is a Gourmet's Paradise, and a world player on the food stage.  At the end of the Newsletter, History Buffs can read a chapter taken from 'A Culinary Odyssey' - The Way We Were - at the time when the New Irish Cuisine movement began.

          When I first visited Florida in 1981 with my daughters, to stay with their paternal grandmother in Fort Lauderdale,  I saw similarities with the Irish scene - A rapidly expanding Floridian tourism scene, but sadly a lack of interest in the food, which was at the time largely based on the fast foods industry. I returned to Florida several times, after sending my two daughters over to live here in 1986, after they finished their early education in Ireland. Epcot was open, so a colleague and I paid a visit.  We came across a handful of international restaurants featuring fine dining, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, commenting on the potential of Florida becoming a Culinary Paradise. Already, Florida had so much going for it, as a well established destination for tourists who traveled to the State annually. On another visit, my eighty year 'young' mother came too. She was a world traveler from the time of her youth, when her grandfather owned a shipping line. When she traveled through Florida, her comment was: "It's very green, like Ireland." Perhaps not the forty shades of green, but she liked it; loved the heat after living in India for many years, and agreed to move here with me in 1990.

          Throughout the 1990s, and into the early 21st Century, while I was trying to establish my culinary credentials on the American scene, I spoke out on the idea of Florida and its potential to become a Culinary Paradise. Many came, including local press members, to enjoy the many Culinary Soirees with full Buffet, featuring international cuisine.  I organized the events for 60 - 80 people at a time, by the pool, overlooking Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway bridge - a perfect setting for the occasions.  My early Irish cookbooks were on sale over here since the mid 1970s; and the Cork Examiner newspaper weekly features edition, 'Irish Weekly Examiner' that went to 17 countries around the globe had made its way to Florida too in its time.  I was commissioned to do a double page features supplement 'Out & About with Noreen' in the newspaper for six years.  The Examiner is Ireland's leading daily paper. It helped me get a head start in my newly adopted country. In the early 1990s, upscale restaurants were few and far between in Florida. but this began to change slowly but surely. Throughout the decade, interest in fresh food and fine dining developed.  An event took place in July 1995 in the Tampa Bay area - Bastille Day - a Street Fest.  It was organized by SPIFFS - St. Petersburg International Folk Festival Society, an organization with a membership representing fifty two countries. I was asked to do a demonstration on French cuisine,  and on NBC TV too,  promoting the event. SPIFFS was well known in Florida, where they held a very successful annual international festival featuring national cuisines organized by their members. It was the start of many such festivals in Florida.  The annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival began in 1996, and the annual South Beach Food Festival gained international fame after it began in the new Century. Both the Epcot Festival and the South Beach Festival have grown by leaps and bounds throughout the years. The popularity of TV Food Shows and Celebrity Chefs also helped establish a greater interest in food.

         I do not claim to be a pioneer on the Florida Culinary scene, but I am delighted to be a part of it all, and help others in every way possible, to ensure and promote Florida - 'America's Culinary Paradise'. Having 'been there' and through the process to establish a dream, I know it is a long hard road for everyone involved, but the potential is tremendous. Three years ago, Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon incorporated the Florida Program into its activities. and printed leaflets were passed out.  Two years ago, I spoke about it at our annual international awards event, and handed out updated leaflets, outlining plans, to establish a promotional 'umbrella group', whereby those on the Florida culinary scene, can gain recognition locally, nationally and internationally with their culinary activities. In July 2008, a group of interested people met in Ocala at the Rosas Organics Farm, to discuss the program. It was attended by the Mayor of Ocala and several other Culinarians from across the State. Our web master Dave started work on Florida - America's Culinary Paradise web site. Everywhere, people came out of the woodwork, and it is amazing what culinary activities are already well under way across Florida. The down side encountered was the lack of interest shown from the powers that be in the state tourism organization 'My Florida'. I contacted one of their contributors directly. She lives in the Ocala area, and attended the day on the farm, offering general advice which was greatly appreciated.  However, her expertise is in a different area to food.  After many e mails to 'My Florida', an executive informed me they planned to establish someone to cover the restaurant scene in the State, but beyond that, cooperation to become involved in promoting Florida as a Culinary Paradise fell flat. E mails and attempts to communicate further were ignored. Another negative attitude encountered came from a source involved in the Florida cultural scene. "Are you crazy? Florida - a Culinary Paradise! Do you want people to laugh at you?"  was the reaction. Since that happened, I read in the papers that the position held by the person no longer existed.  A couple of years ago, a tourism survey was done on the twelve reasons why people visit Florida.  Topping the list was not Disney or the beaches, but shopping.  Food was no where to be seen on the survey. Negativity is part of the game encountered en route by anyone out to achieve a goal, and sometimes, I see a defeatist attitude expressed when results are not seen quickly. It cannot be allowed to happen. I chose to ignore my own experiences of negativity through the years, and if anything, it spurred me on to go the full course. Encouragement and support to all involved is what will count in the long run. There is much work to do.  Everywhere across Florida, people are hard at it already. Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon has set up the Florida program, enabling us to act as a 'Voice' on behalf of Culinarians, Culinary food producers and Culinary activities throughout Florida. Already, the Florida Culinary Academy Awards are underway, and much is already happening, with so much more to come.




FLORIDA WINERIES   Earlier this year, I heard a Sommelier pay lip service to the Florida wine industry, while he clearly implied a low opinion on Florida wines stating they were just"suitable perhaps to drink socially by the pool on a summer's day".  Talk about Deja Vu! It took me back nearly four decades as the memories flooded back. I have told the story numerous times. I remember in the early seventies when I spent eight months in Australia and California. At the time, Australian and Californian wine was looked down on in Europe.  In the early seventies, French wines, German white wines and Italian wines were the only 'acceptable' wines on the scene. It was a time when 'wine snobs' considered wines in much the same way that pedigree dogs and thoroughbred horses were looked on; with the really aristocratic wines carry a 'kennel' name, from whence they were bred with as much care and consideration, as were the gentry in bygone days - with a list that reads like an edition of Debretts! Everything else was considered thirst quenching social drinks served on ice, that you might enjoy around the pool on a hot day -  nothing more.  I laughed quietly to myself when I heard those similar words again. Look where California and Australia are today on the world stage with their excellent choices of wines, with South Africa in hot pursuit. Florida is now in the mix. Did you know that there are Fifty Wineries in Florida, and Seventeen of them are registered with the State?  I told this story again to a Winery owner earlier this year at the annual Florida Wine Producers Show in Gainsville. His voice perked up. However, he said he probably won't be around when it happens in Florida.....Maybe, maybe not, but it will happen, and I hope that I will be around to see it

FLORIDA SMALL FARMS CONFERENCE   Recently, I attended a very impressive 'Florida Small Farms' Conference in the Orlando area. It was their first conference, and the interest and potential to develop the food scene throughout the State is passionate and impressive. Did you know there are 47,463 Small Farms in Florida? Amazing! When I tell folk about the Wineries and Small Farms in Florida, they are left speechless at the numbers quoted. The guest of honor and major speaker at the two day event was Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson (not the famous Hollywood Actor). Another speaker, Professor John Ikerd emphasized the importance of 'One step at a time is a step in the right direction.'  How true! Every step taken by every individual involved, will with time make things happen on the Florida food scene. Remember what happened in Ireland? Patience is essential - a necessity, as it won't happen overnight. The Consolidators will eventually 'come on board' in Florida too, when the powers that be throughout the State make decisions to get really active and involved. It has begun already, and Commissioner Bronson's participation was a big step in the right direction. The Florida Slow Food chapters organized an evening Buffet at the Conference, and many were invited to attend. They are hot on the trail to make it happen. Slow Food Florida Board members listened to the farmers and food producers, and are initiating plans to establish the FFPC - Florida Food Policy Council. A follow up statewide gathering is to take place in mid October. As the speaker earlier in the day said: 'One person at a time & One step at a time is a step in the right direction'.  It is a very exciting time to be living in Florida, where currently the State is slowly but surely evolving into America's Culinary Paradise.

        Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon is very happy to announce that we have established a Council of Culinary Colleagues, who will advise, nominate and choose winners of the Florida Culinary Academy Awards. The Florida Culinary Academy Awards presentation was a very successful addition to the International Culinary Academy Awards event in May. Henceforth, it will become an integral part of the annual Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon International Culinary Academy Awards program. The goal is to help promote and establish global interest in the future of Florida - America's Culinary Paradise. We are very pleased to announce that statistics indicate that our current Newsletter readership exceeds 18,500 people worldwide.  Culinary Voices of America  provides a golden avenue to spread the word about Florida - America's Culinary Paradise   







          We have received exciting news from members of the Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon Academy of the Culinary Arts. Several tell us that currently their new cookbooks are published or due for publication, and they plan to send them into the Cookbooks Awards Program. Entries are already arriving, and the deadline to receive them is Monday 30 November 2009. Books published during 2008 and 2009 are eligible for entry. There is an increase too annually in entries for Culinary Websites, Culinary Articles, Culinary Photography, Culinary Magazines and the popular 'Culinary Demonstration' DVD. In the meantime, members of the Academy of the Culinary Arts, have put on their thinking caps, and nominations are coming in for the Culinary Hall of Fame, Culinary School, Culinary Entrepreneur, Culinary Life Achievement and other award groups. You can read all about the Academy of the Culinary Arts, if you go to the Cornucopia screen on our website, and click on the link above the colorful fruit and vegetables display.

Margaret and Larry Dickenson  Famous Canadian Cookbook Author & TV personality, and her husband Canadian Ambassador Larry Dickenson sent us their latest news of the exciting and wonderful European trip they enjoyed recently.  They had an amazing culinary experience at the 'Fat Duck' near Windsor Castle. and were entertained personally by the owner and chef.  It is probably England's best known top of the line restaurant, where one has to make a reservation months in advance to get in the door.  The Royal Family are among the famous clientele,  and hold a large family gathering there every Christmas season.  

Michelle Phillips and Tim Wilkins  CBS TV hosts and the very popular Emcees at our Culinary Academy Awards got married four months ago. Our best wishes and congratulations Michelle and Tim. Tim and Michelle did a wonderful DVD of a food demonstration. Called 'The Kitchen Couple', it won a Culinary Academy Award, and was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience when we showed it at the recent Awards presentations. I attended a farewell party for Tim and Michelle in August, as they are now in Minnesota, where NBC TV have contracted them to host major TV shows that will be seen nationally. A very popular couple in the Tampa Bay area, they will be greatly missed here. However, I am delighted and honored to say that they have agreed to return next April and will be the Emcees again at the Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon Culinary Academy Awards on Friday 30 April 2010 at the Don CeSar on St. Pete Beach, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  

Linda Armendt  Successful author and Culinary Academy Award Cookbook winner -  Linda tells us that recently she won a national Muffin food contest organized by the group Mimi's Cafes. Her delicious Pineapple and Coconut Muffins are now on the menu everywhere you find Mimi's Cafe. There are 144 across the nation. I visited some of our Judges in central Florida recently,  and there is a Mimi's Cafe in their area. It was an opportunity to try Linda's Award Winning Muffin. Delicious!  Congratulations Linda!

           Until next time, enjoy the Fall, and let us have news of you when you get a moment to send an e mail, or have time for a chat on the telephone.  History Buffs - Remember to scroll down and read the Chapter on the Irish Culinary Scene in the post WW 2 era before the New Irish Cuisine movement began - The Way We were

Enjoy the upcoming seasonal holidays!

Best Wishes


Noreen Kinney


Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon

Academy of the Culinary Arts

Annual International

Culinary Academy Awards

ACF-American Culinary Federation  Honorary Life Membership & Life Achievement Award 2009

Program Director: Florida-America's Culinary Paradise (2007-2009)

ACF - American Culinary Federation President's Gold Medallion 2008

Culinary Judge: FENI - Chef Educator's Awards

Slow Food - Florida - Governing Board Member

Culinary Ambassador for Ireland (1996-2009)

Pioneer - New Irish Cuisine (1960-1985)

Contact information: 

Tel: 727 347 2437

E Mail:



History Buffs: Read on -




The teenager sat at the table across from her parents and their good friend, who was the best man at their wedding many years previously. Another younger gentleman sat next to the teenager. The conversation was about a ‘Culinary Tour’ of Ireland over the next few days, leaving Dublin that afternoon, after the lunch at the Russell Hotel. The teenager listened intently to her father telling his great friend about the route he had planned, starting in Co. Wicklow. The older man offered some advice about the trip, and the consensus of opinion between the two gentlemen indicated that choices on where to go were very limited. Finally, the teenager interjected.

“Well, I think that Ireland is virgin territory to become a gourmet’s paradise.” She spoke with the authority and

knowledge of youth!

Her father’s friend smiled indulgently at the young woman facing him, and with a gesture of gentle laughter

and mild skepticism in his voice, he replied.

“Then, why don’t you make it a gourmet’s paradise?”

The young lady was not deterred by the amused tone she heard in his reply. It was not an idle comment, which she had made. Her background from early childhood had involved culinary adventures around the world, thanks to her parents, who were connoisseurs of good food and wine. The ‘Culinary Arts’, a phrase she used whenever she spoke of her interest in good food, played a major part in her life. And, her passport already listed her Profession as Gourmet. She knew what she wanted to do, and had already begun a lifelong culinary odyssey.

The year was 1960. I was the teenager at that momentous luncheon in Dublin. The older gentleman seated across from me at the table was Dr. T.J. ‘Tim’ O’Driscoll, Director General of Bord Failte, the Irish Tourist Board (1956-1971).

The Way We Were

One hundred and seventy years have passed since the disastrous famine in Ireland. For several decades in the twentieth century, no great importance was attached to the food scene. Its’ image was still firmly entrenched in a ‘post’ famine era. The quality and choice of fresh foods available was excellent. However, knowledge was lacking on how to imaginatively, and tastefully prepare superb meals. People settled for some traditional dishes, and it did not seem to matter how they were cooked; or the fact that vegetables were soggy and puddings were stodgy. Apathy had settled on the nation.

Until the mid 1970s, the Irish rarely went out to eat. If they did, perhaps to celebrate a birthday, it was usually to a nearby hotel dining room for Sunday lunch. There was a dearth of decent restaurants, with few exceptions found scattered across the country. Hotels brought in food to prepare traditional Irish meals, mainly for tourists and some local diners. Food was overcooked, in particular the vegetables, and little attempt was made to rectify matters. Irish cooking did not have a good reputation. Consumers bought their meats at the nearby butcher; fish at the local markets; and groceries at the village store. Exports of meat, mushrooms and fish flourished in the 1950s and 1960s with help from government agencies. Otherwise, minimal attention was given to the subject of food, except that the tourist was encouraged to buy a gift package of Irish smoked salmon before leaving Ireland.

Prevailing Attitudes

The tremendous potential to do something positive, and create a major food industry nationwide, with the scope for extensive employment in the culinary arts field, was virtually ignored on the home front by the Irish Government. The emphasis was on the development of tourism. The Government, together with Bord Failte, the Irish Tourist Board, established in 1955, seemed unable to equate the important connection between food and tourism. The stance taken was that Ireland was rich in natural fresh food resources; with an abundance of tender meats, fish, butter, eggs, and standard vegetables available. Therefore, as everything was satisfactory, it was unnecessary to change the status quo. Clearly, the world of food, and the vast opportunities it offered on the employment front, took last place to other more important things.

This Policy Directive came straight from the top, and was strictly adhered to by Government organizations. It is borne out in a letter I received from the National Development Association in 1976. The letter categorically stated: ‘The government’s special Directive was to concentrate on footwear, clothing, textiles and furniture, with no budget available to develop activities in the food industry.’ However, the letter does admit to the existence of the National Dairy Council, the NDC, and their specific role to help local producers promote sales of dairy products on the home front.

The letter was one of several I received during the 1970s, while I was actively trying to get Irish government organizations and other groups interested in developing the Irish food industry. I spoke from the floor at many seminars, and questioned government ministers and various guest speakers about their plans to promote and create interest in Ireland’s natural food resources. I emphasized the vast potential to develop a food processing industry, which I maintained, could bring about major employment opportunities. They paid lip service in their answers, but nothing much happened. Everywhere, existing attitudes prevailed – there was no reason for changes. Bacon, cabbage and potatoes or Irish Stew ‘were just fine’. There was no need for a ‘blow-in’ to tell them to change their cuisine. That is the popular expression used in Ireland, for people who come from overseas. Occasionally, I encountered outright hostility, and was told: ‘Why don’t you go back to where you belong?’ Yes, some people thought I was English. I had the dreaded unacceptable English accent. They did not want to hear that my parents came from Cork and Bantry, or that my family is Irish. I found myself hitting my head against a brick wall; and personally encountered some threatening situations, to put a stop to my work, and silence my voice on the public stage. This happened when some well-established organizations, who openly and wholeheartedly supported my activities on the food scene, were threatened with major loss of business, if they did not disassociate themselves from my efforts to create and promote a new Irish cuisine. One group succumbed to the threats, but wrote to me assuring me of the goodwill that existed between us. However, their hands were tied. I understood, but was very disappointed as they were already an integral part of the development of the new Irish cuisine. Another more powerful group did not give in, beat the trouble makers at their own game, and continued to support my work for several more years. Friends explained the political situation, and told me that ‘American Irish’ returning to the old sod, are greeted with open arms. Whereas the ‘English Irish’ returning home, are viewed with suspicion, and not welcomed so readily. It was an issue written about by some journalists at a later date, when attitudes eased somewhat towards ‘foreigners’!

In 1976, Bord Failte revised their book ‘Ireland Guide’, and reprinted it in 1982, without further changes. In the book, they acknowledged that the basic foods in Ireland were of the highest quality, such as mutton, lamb, Limerick ham, Irish stew, bacon and cabbage; plus an abundance of excellent seafood, and game when in season. The book stated that the keynote to native Irish cooking was simplicity; and made brief mention also of a move towards international Haute Cuisine, found in some hotels and restaurants. Thereafter, the subject was dismissed with a statement, that it was unnecessary to use appetizing sauces or elaborate presentations. It is clear that the Tourist Board felt there was little need to change the Irish culinary scene. No further interest was shown on the subject of food other than a mere single line ‘listing’ of the very traditional cookbook by Theodora Fitzgibbon, titled ‘A Taste of Ireland’, published in 1968. Likewise, another book ‘Traditional Irish Recipes’ by John Murphy, was also listed. These items were relegated to the back of the Guide, under a sub heading ‘Domestic Arts’. The entire discussion about Irish food was covered in the ‘Ireland Guide’ on 1 (one) page, in a book that ran to 140 pages, promoting Ireland to the foreign tourists and the Irish. Such was the lack of interest shown at official levels, in Ireland’s best natural resources – its’ food. In the meantime, emigration in large numbers continued throughout the 1950s, and reached new heights by the 1980s, as people left Ireland in search of their livelihoods in other lands.

The mistaken belief prevailed in Europe at the time, that only complicated food, rich in creams and wines was good food, referred to as Haute Cuisine. It was also a time when classical training was very restricted to a very specific format. Chefs were not allowed or expected to side step from the chosen path. As a result, classically trained Chefs would make better or worse versions of Sole, or prepare their hams with a coating of aspic or gelatin, as if they were suitably embalmed in wax! Such were the guidelines observed by Chefs everywhere. Few dared to be different and expand their horizons, or incorporate originality into their cookery. That was the scene too in the Emerald Isle during the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.

The Mavericks: The Irish Culinary Scene in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s

There was minimal culinary activity in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s in Ireland, and cooking training was virtually nil. St. Mary’s College of Domestic Science opened in 1941 in Dublin, and held home economic courses. However, due to the expansion of the tourism industry, the emphasis changed in 1951. St. Mary’s college was transferred to Sligo. In its place at Cathal Brugha Street, the College of Catering began. These students would then take jobs in hotels across the country. At the same time, The Shannon School of Hotel Management (1951) trained hotel staff, but did not provide culinary training. The long established group of elegant Victorian style hotels, many dating from the early 1800s, catered to the surge in tourism during the ‘50s and ‘60s. Two castles had opened as hotels. Ashford Castle in the West of Ireland was refurbished into a hotel as far back as 1939, and Killiney Castle south of Dublin, opened its doors in 1952. Standard Irish food, sometimes called comfort food, was served at lunch time in hotel dining rooms, which closed their kitchens by 3:00 PM. Three country manor houses Ballylickey Manor House, Currarevagh House and Newport House opened their dining rooms to the public in 1946 and 1947. They were the alternative to the old fashioned hotels; and were the forerunners to the bed and breakfast tourist route.

The ‘fast food’ type of establishments of the post war era existed in places like Dublin and Cork, but had a very different connotation to what the term means today. They catered to people with minimal time on their hands (even in those far off days). Owned by the Savoy Cinema group, the Savoy restaurants served lunches to shoppers on the move, and high teas to cinema-goers. In those times, lunch was called ‘dinner’ locally, and high teas, served at 6:00 PM, included mixed grills or cold meats, served with lettuce, tomato, sliced Cheddar cheese or sliced egg, and freshly made Irish soda bread. Delicious fresh cream cakes rounded off the meal, which was always accompanied by a generous pot of Barry’s Irish tea. Supper was a late night ‘cuppa’ with cake or a sandwich, served at home. Coffee shops were popular in the cities. People, mostly women, met for mid morning coffee, fresh cream cakes and a good gossip. The best known one was Bewleys in Dublin, where ‘dinner’ (lunch) was also served. Cork had Thompsons Café in Patrick Street, the main road that ran through the center of the city. A handful of public houses ‘Pubs, provided homemade soup and sandwiches, but most people went home at midday for their main meal of the day.

The icon that stood the test of time was the Oyster Tavern in Cork City. It opened its doors in 1792, and bar food was served. After Woodford Bourne (a local wine distributor) purchased it in 1943, they opened a magnificent elegant wood paneled dining room for lunches. Soon, the Oyster Tavern became the ‘in’ place for dining out in the evenings. Many of its earlier customers combined a shopping trip to the famous 200 year-old open air English market next door to the Oyster Tavern. (The market was renovated and got a roof during the ‘70s.) In the ‘50s, everyone who was anyone walked through the Oyster Tavern’s doors, and reservations for a meal were essential by the early ‘60s. There was great consternation in 1969 when a fire broke out in an upper section of the premises. Restoration work commenced immediately. In record time (sixteen weeks), the dining room was re-opened in all its traditional former glory, much to the relief of the regular patrons, including my parents.

The Annual Oyster Festivals began in Clarinbridge and nearby Galway City in 1954 and 1955 respectively. Oysters have been a popular seafood eaten in Ireland for more than 200 years; and Moran’s Oyster Cottage, which opened in the West of Ireland in the 1800s, is always packed with diners. Reservations made a couple of days ahead were the only way to guarantee a table.

Television came to Ireland in 1961, with one channel. Between 1962 and 1965, Radio Telefis Eireann – RTE, featured a cooking show (black ‘n’ white) with ‘finger licking’ Monica Sheridan who prepared traditional Irish food, and horrified or amused everyone when she kept licking her fingers, then dipped them into the food again! In 1963 Bunratty Castle began serving medieval banquets to visitors, followed by Knappogue in 1967. CERT, (Council for Education and Recruitment Training) opened in Dublin in 1963, to provide a trained workforce for the burgeoning tourism industry. The City and Guild of London programs were introduced, and included cooking courses for Chefs (men) and Cooks (women). These were held at hotels across the country, and were transferred to the Regional Colleges when they opened in the 1970s. In the early 1960s, several more country homes opened their dining rooms to the public; Rathmullen House (1961), Tinakilly (1962) and Ballymaloe (1964), joined the group of early Culinary Entrepreneurs, who were already very successful in this line of work. Like their predecessors, they too established a home based business, catering mainly to the increasing tourist trade, mostly Americans.  One rarely heard an Irish accent at these places until the late ‘70s, as very few Irish people ventured out on long drives, to try out an eating establishment.

Following in the footsteps of the famous Oyster Tavern in Cork, a new trend began during the 1950s. Beaufield Mews, a licensed premises in Dublin, started an afternoon tea and cakes café in 1951, and later began serving meals. The Abbey Tavern in Howth, Co. Dublin, which opened in 1945, added a restaurant in 1956. By the early ‘60s, a handful of new restaurants could be found on the Irish scene. Arbutus Lodge opened in Cork in 1961, and in the ‘70s, went on to become Ireland’s first restaurant to achieve Michelin Awards. Lord Edward’s, Dublin’s oldest seafood restaurant began in 1963. Jammets was a popular choice too in Dublin. In 1962, in the very picturesque seaside town of Kinsale, Co. Cork, Heidle MacNeice owned the only restaurant in the area - the Spinnaker. She served seafood, brought ashore in trawlers that docked at the nearby Trident hotel. A year later, Peter Barry returned to Kinsale, after completing hospitality training in Switzerland. He opened the Man Friday restaurant, and served steaks. Soon, Gino joined their ranks, and opened an Italian restaurant – Ginos. This trio, popularly called ‘the trinity’ locally, proved to be the forerunners of greater things to come on the Irish culinary scene a decade later. Chez Hans, a very popular Dutch owned restaurant opened its doors on the tourist route in Cashel, Co. Tipperary in 1968.

The Bed & Breakfast Scene

By the late ‘60s, many more country homes followed the popular growing trend to cater to the tourism market. Assolas House (1966); Coopershill (1967); Rosleague Manor (1968), Cashel House (1968), Longueville House (1969) and West Lodge joined the ranks of the existing group. Country homes that had previously opened their dining rooms to the public, now opened their homes to the Bed & Breakfast trade. Among these was  Ballymaloe, who began to accept overnight guests in 1967. Opening one’s beautiful home and estate to the public was the way to go, to earn a livelihood, in an otherwise depressed market with mass unemployment. It had become big business by this stage, and was growing by the year. However, this new trend catered to the tourism market (again mostly Americans), as the Irish did not travel out of the cities and towns in those times, and the majority of the population still did not own a car. If they wanted to go out for a meal, they went to their local hotel for lunch, and the hotels still closed their dining rooms by 3 PM in the afternoons. This happened in both the country villages, towns, and in cities such as Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Wexford. The trend only began to change slowly by the late 1970s. In the meantime, it provided me with the golden opportunity to book the dining rooms in the top hotels, with access to use the kitchen; in order that the Culinary Tours 'Demonars' could be held in the evenings.  

Co-operatives in Ireland started to develop their activities on the local dairy scene, with help from Bord Bainne, the Irish Dairy Board (1961). Perhaps the best known at the time was the Mitchelstown Creameries in Co. Cork. The CBF Meat Board began in 1969. More Bars (Pubs), followed the food trend started earlier by Beaufield Mews in Dublin, and the Abbey Tavern in Howth, Co. Dublin. The Purple Heather Bar in Kenmare, Co. Kerry, opened a tea and cakes shop in 1964, and by 1966, started serving lunches.

Food journalists began coverage in the daily national papers in the late 1960s and early years of the 1970s. Some wrote about a subject related to food or cooking equipment, while others provided a regular recipe column. Among them were Theodora FitzGibbon (Irish Times), Deirdre McCarry (Irish Independent), Jean Sheridan (Irish Press),  Georgina Campbell (Irish Independent), Phyl O'Kelly (Cork Examiner), Tony Butler (Evening Herald), Ruth O'Mahoney (Evening Echo); Honor Moore (Woman's Way - weekly magazine), Ruth Kelly (RTE TV Weekly Guide), and Myrtle Allen (Farmers bi-weekly Journal).  The popular cookbooks that appeared at the time were 'A Taste of Ireland' by Theodora FitzGibbon in 1968, and 'The Irish Cookbook' by Carla Blake in 1971.  Both books concentrated on traditional Irish recipes.  

One of the most interesting aspects of life in Ireland in the ‘60s decade, was the age old custom whereby travelers could find a drink anywhere, at any time. When the Pubs closed the doors at night, one only had to drive seven miles distance from one’s residence, knock on a beleaguered Pub owner’s door, and request a drink. According to the law, they could not refuse to serve you. Surprisingly, it was not taken advantage of widely, (as mentioned previously, many folk did not own a car) and people stayed close to home. However, it was useful at times for those who needed an excuse to continue drinking behind locked doors! Pub life and horseracing were the prime interests in the country. Food, while a necessary part of life, was of secondary importance.   More interest was shown in what happened at the Curragh (Ireland’s premier Racing Center) in Co. Kildare. The most famous horse in those days was Arkle. Born, bred and trained in Ireland, Arkle was owned by the Duchess of Westminister. Arkle won twenty nine major trophies at races in Ireland and England; but his name lives on forever, as the only horse to have won the prestigious Gold Cup at Cheltenham, England, three years in a row – 1964, 1965 and 1966.

During the ‘60s, I lived in Rome, Italy, and Kensington, London. I continued my culinary education; married my American husband, and we had two daughters. London was the ideal base from which to travel to Ireland several times a year, and to France more times than I can remember. My regular visits to Ireland provided an opportunity to see my parents, who had retired from India, and returned to live in Ireland, and I was able to keep abreast on Irish food activities. On average, I spent three months every year in Ireland, initiating and promoting ideas to develop a new image of Irish cuisine. There was no interest shown whatsoever anywhere in Ireland to change and improve the food scene in those days. It was a depressed market, and people were more concerned in trying to keep body and soul together, to survive, as unemployment levels were still very high. Other travels were frequent trips to Italy, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Germany; and other parts of Europe, America, Asia and the Pacific. There was an eight-month stay in Australia and New Zealand, and visits to countries in the Pacific Rim. One had golden opportunities to study national and international cuisine first hand from the culinary experts everywhere. Perhaps the greatest influence on my future culinary work came from a neighbor in London, Elizabeth David, whose knowledge on French and Italian cuisine was renowned. It was Elizabeth, who taught me the use of olive oil in cooking, and I have never used any other oil since. In time, I passed on this knowledge at the culinary tours, which I began in Ireland at the start of the 1970s. Olive oil at that time came in tiny bottles, sold only at the Chemists shop, (both in England and Ireland), and was used for beauty and medicinal purposes.

In 1969, the Irish Government made a momentous decision. They decided to turn Ireland into tax-free haven for writers and artists.

My husband and I decided to leave our beautiful Regency  house in Holland Park, London, and we moved with our two daughters to live in Co.Cork, Ireland. Immediately, I established myself as a ‘Culinary Artiste’. I felt the timing was right to move full speed ahead with ideas for a new Irish cuisine. I was fed up with the snide remarks made constantly by ignorant people overseas, that ‘the Irish lived on a diet of potatoes’. Something needed to be done. It was time to make people across the world aware of the wonderful natural fresh food resources available on Ireland's’ door step; and make them realize that there was a great deal more to Irish food, than Irish stew, or bacon, cabbage and potatoes. It would require an educational process, whereby at grass roots level, one could impart knowledge and new ideas on the entire concept of a new updated modern Irish cuisine. How to do it in an appealing and entertaining fashion led to my establishing the ‘Culinary Tours’ throughout the Emerald Isle - 'Demonars' that included table top food demonstrations with chit chat on the legends, folklore, origins and history of the ingredients used.

In another part of Ireland, before the ‘60s decade ended, a young lady whose family ran a pub and grocery shop in Co. Laois, received a diploma at the Cathal Brugha Street College of Catering. She got wind of a country house farming family in Shanagarry in East Cork, where the dining room was open to the public, and they were now taking in B & B overnight guests too.  She applied for a job in their kitchen. The job offer led to her meeting her future husband.  In 1970, Darina O’Connell married Tim Allen, son of Myrtle and Ivan Allen of Ballymaloe House. I met Darina when she attended my Culinary Tours 'Demonars' in the mid 1970s.

The stage was set for changes.