A chef from Arklow will present the history of Irish cuisine as part of this year’s virtual St. Patrick’s Day festival.
A History of Irish Food with Tadgh Byrne ‘is a short documentary series that takes a look at the culinary history of Ireland and its culinary culture today.
The show will be presented later this month as part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and is produced by The Reelists, a production company linked to Arklow.
“It started as a discussion in a pub at the Arklow Bay hotel,” Tadgh said, explaining how the series came about.
“The festival needed content. I called friends, speakers, and people I wanted to meet. The series combines history with cool things happening in Ireland. ‘
The first episode opens at National Heritage Park in Co Wexford, with a glimpse of the first Irish diet. Subsequent shows include a trip to Co Cork to learn about Ireland’s long love affair with dairy and a visit to Co Galway to experience contemporary Irish food culture.
The series was shot over six days and “explains Ireland’s unknown food history,” Tadgh said.
“Ireland has a rich culinary history, but it has yet to be discovered. The series aims to change that and tell the story of Ireland’s food history. The idea is to tell the story a bit at the start of an episode and then later examine how that fits into the way we eat in Ireland today. It’s about mixing the old and the new.
Wicklow is also included in the series, and Tadgh walks along the Murrough while foraging for wild food.
The Wicklow Naturally Network, of which Tadgh is a member, is also featured in the series.
“It’s great to see local producers helping and helping each other. “
Wicklow Naturally is also useful for chefs, Tadgh said, as it gives them easy access to a list of local producers and suppliers.
“You can go to the website and there is a clear list of local producers. He draws attention to the things on offer around Wicklow. It shows what the farmers are doing and it makes it possible as a chef to be aware of what we grow in Ireland and what we can grow.
Tadgh graduated in Culinary Arts in 2008, before continuing his studies in gastronomy. His first training included stays at Brooklodge, Eden and Clarendon restaurants. After time spent traveling, he returned to Ireland where he took on executive chef roles at Two Pups Coffee, Network Café and Cake Café in Dublin. Promoting local products as a means of sustainable and ethical eating is one of his passions.
“If you eat local, you eat with the seasons. That’s what An Tairseach is. I also made videos with Wicklow Library Service on promoting local food.
“I encourage chefs to be proud of what we have locally in Ireland and to tell its story to the world. It supports the local community and that money goes back to the region. You know where your food comes from and what it contains. And if you don’t like it, you can just tell them.
Tadgh cites Locogrocer, Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese, BrookLodge, and the Wicklow Brewery as some of his favorite local food businesses. However, it was the celebrity chefs of the late 1990s and early 2000s that inspired his career path.
“When I was a teenager, celebrity chefs were on the rise. They were everywhere, like Gordan Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson. It has become cool to be a chef.
“I guess that influenced me, I entered the Culinary Arts program in 2003. I always wanted to travel and I knew cooking and hospitality would be a good career for my travels.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the hotel sector, with many restaurants and pubs being forced to close their doors for long periods of time. Tadgh has also felt the impact of Covid-19 as his burgeoning catering business Fed Up has been put on hold.
“It’s a very difficult time for hospitality right now. I think places that have adapted quickly to get by will survive, but we will lose some. I had my own restaurant business that I had just started before the pandemic. Everything was going in the right direction, but all the work has dried up. I had to rotate and do agency work.
There were, however, a few bright spots. Tadgh said he was able to devote more time to Wicklow Naturally and work on other projects, including the series exploring the history of Irish cuisine.
‘A History of Irish Food with Tadgh Byrne’ will be available online at www.stpatricksfestival.ie. At the time of going to press, the times and calendar of events for the virtual festival had not yet been released.