Hear Food and Drink Voices from the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine (LitFest) 2016
Today’s episode comes from the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine (LitFest) 2016.
LitFest takes place annually in May in both the farmyard grounds of Co. Cork’s Ballymaloe House Hotel and the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
While it’s a relatively young event, LitFest attracts food and drink superstars from all over the world to speak, do tutored tastings, to cook, to eat and drink and to discuss the hottest food and drink topics around.
The hallmarks of LitFest are good vibe and inclusivity, which is fitting seeing that it’s all about the history, production, consumption and future of good food and good drink.
Who You’ll Hear From in this Episode
This episode of the show brings you delicious snippets from:
- Simon Tyrrell, sensitive terroir-ist from Craigie’s Irish Craft Cider
- Helen Willems, Irish artisan cheese vanguardist, from Coolea Irish Farmhouse Cheese
- Sandy Cole, sustainability stalwart from Broughgammon Farm
- Claire Dalton, craft beer sommellier from the Dungarvan Brewing Company
- Harry O’ Neill, local sourcing and healthy kids’ eating champion from Momo restaurant
- Elisabeth Luard, food writer and general Renaissance woman who has just (June 22, 2016) been awarded a Lifetime Achievement award by the Guild of Food Writers (see photos below)
- Ari Weinzweig, not so lapsed anarchist CEO-food producer from Zingerman’s
- Rod Calder-Potts from Highbank Orchards, organic, biodynamic and biodyversity advocate
- Declan Ryan, Irish Michelin star pioneer and sourdough proponent from Arbutus Bread
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Get the Show Transcript
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here: #037: Food and Drink Voices from The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine (LitFest) 2016.
You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Regina Sexton’s Reading of Dorothy Parsons’ “Potato Pie” Recipe
I mention in this podcast episode that, along with meeting and talking to Ari Weinzweig, the other highlight of LitFest16 for me was hearing Regina Sexton read, and verbally annotate as she went along, a recipe for “Potato Pie”. This recipe was written in 1666 by Dorothy Parsons and it might well be the earliest example in Ireland of a recipe devoted to the auld humble spud.
Regina is a food historian, food writer, broadcaster, cook and an academic at University College Cork. Here’s Regina’s wonderful reading of that recipe.
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Links Mentioned in the Show and Other Interesting Links
- Craigie’s Irish Craft Cider
- Craigie’s on Twitter
- Craigie’s on Facebook
- Cappoquin House and Gardens
- Caroline Hennessey’s award-winning food blog, Bibliocook
- Leslie William’s column drinks’ column for the Irish Examiner
- Cider Ireland
- Coolea Farmhouse Cheese
- Coolea on Twitter
- Coolea on Facebook
- Sheridan’s Cheesemongers
- Neal’s Yard Dairy
- Broughhammon Farm
- Broughgammon Farm on Twitter
- Broughgammon Farm on Facebook
- Blanco Nino
- Corleggy Cheese on Twitter
- Dungarvan Brewing Company
- Dungarvan Brewing Company on Twitter
- Dungarvan Brewing Company on Facebook
- Momo Restaurant
- Momo Restaurant on Twitter
- Momo on Facebook
- Elisabeth Luard
- Elisabeth Luard on Twitter
- Zingerman’s on Twitter
- Zingerman’s on Facebook
- Zingerman’s on Instagram
- Zingerman’s Newsletters
- Zingerman’s own publishing house, where you can read about and buy Zingerman’s business books
- The Inc article on Zingerman’s, the “coolest small company in America”
- An excellent review, by Business Insider UK, on Zingerman’s 12 laws of building a great company
- Highbank Orchards
- Highbank Orchards on Twitter
- Highbank Orchards on Facebook
- Gubbeen Cheese
- Millens Cheese
- Cashel Blue Cheese
- The Irish Food Writers’ Guild
- Arbutus Bread
- Arbutus Bread on Twitter
- Arbutus Bread on Facebook
- Beard on Bread
- The James Beard Foundation
- An article in The Atlantic about Donal Creedon’s Macroom Oatmeal
- Middleton Farmers’ Market
- Douglas Farmers’ Market
- Stonewell Irish Craft Cider
- Stonewell Irish Craft Cider on Twitter
- Stonewell Irish Craft Cider on Facebook
- Longueville House Cider
- Longueville House Cider on Twitter
- Longueville on Facebook
Thanks for Listening
Thanks for listening to the show. If you are a food or drink producer who would like to come on the show (it’s free) to talk about your products, or if you are an industry professional who would like to talk about your services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by using the Contact Form on this website or by tweeting me @FoodDrinkShow.
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Photos from LitFest16
Here’s an article by Katy McGuinness about an investment opportunity with Highbank Orchard that was published in the Irish Independent on August 21st, 2016:
Transcript of the Show
Catherine Moran: Hello, and welcome to episode 37 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their brand story and share the secrets of their success. I’m your host, Catherine Moran.
In this episode you’ll hear from food and drink producers and a renowned food writer who were at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2016, also known as LitFest.
LitFest takes place annually over a weekend in May on both the grounds of Ballymaloe House Hotel and the Ballymaloe Cookery School, which are by the coast in Co. Cork in the deep, green south of Ireland.
LitFest is a relatively young event, and yet it already attracts food and drink superstars from all over the world to speak, cook, do tutored tastings and generally chew the food and drink fat with everyone and anyone. Democracy and inclusivity are the hallmarks of LitFest.
I had the privilege and pleasure to speak to:
- Simon Tyrrell, sensitive terroir-ist from Craigie’s Irish Craft Cider
- Helen Willems, Irish artisan cheese vanguardist, from Coolea Irish Farmhouse Cheese
- Sandy Cole, sustainability stalwart from Broughgammon Farm
- Claire Dalton, craft beer sommelier from the Dungarvan Brewing Company
- Harry O’ Neill, local sourcing and healthy kids’ eating champion from Momo restaurant
- Elisabeth Luard, food writer and general Renaissance woman
- Ari Weinzweig, not so lapsed anarchist CEO-food producer from Zingerman’s
- Rod Calder-Potts from Highbank Orchards, organic and biodynamic and biodiversity advocate
- Declan Ryan, Irish Michelin star pioneer and sourdough oroponent from Arbutus Bread
What a truly extraordinary bouquet garni of food and drink people to be able to talk to!
Let’s get on with the show.
Our first voice from Litfest16 is Simon Tyrrell, co-founder of Craigie’s Irish Craft Cider, which is based in Co. Wicklow. Co. Wicklow, if you’ve never been, is directly south of Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland. Simon is responsible for the fermentation and blending side of things at Craigie’s.
I spoke to Simon after the talk on Irish craft cider, one of the many talks at Litfest16. This talk and tasting of cider was chaired by a panel of three writers with heavy-duty credentials in the cider, real ale and wine world, namely, Caroline Hennessey, co-author of Slainte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider, Pete Brown, co-author of World’s Best Ciders: Taste, Tradition and Terroir and Leslie Williams, wine writer for the Irish Examiner.
At this talk and tasting we had the opportunity to taste five Irish craft ciders and hear from the cider makers themselves, one of whom was Simon from Craigie’s Craft Irish Cider.
With a long career in the wine business, Simon brings a focus on the effect of apple variety, climate, soil type and the orientation of the apple tree in the orchard. Let’s now hear from Simon.
I am here with Simon who is one of the founders and co-owners of Craigie’s Cider. Hi Simon. Thank you so much for coming out of the Big Shed where it’s really, really noisy now, to have a chat about Craigie’s Cider. So what do you make?
Simon Tyrrell: We make two ciders at this stage, with a few others in development. And, essentially, what we’re trying to do with our ciders is to try and show how much variation we can get from different varieties across different counties in Ireland, and it’s a really important point for us.
I come from a wine background, and in wine we always talk about how the different grape varieties react in different soil types, different climate, different orientation of the vineyard, etc., and I have a strong belief that apples, because it’s fruit as well, behave in the same way. So our idea is to try and express that from Irish orchards.
Catherine Moran: Well yeah, exactly, why would an apple be different than a grape in that respect? So how would you describe the style of the two ciders that you currently make?
Simon Tyrrell: Okay, so the Dalliance cider, which is a cider that’s based on dessert apples, or eating apples, if you like, is really in essence, a little bit more like sparkling wine. The reason for that is that the eating apples tend to have much higher acidity, lower pH levels. And where we actually source those two varieties, which is the Cappoquin estate in County Waterford, there’s actually a sort of sandstone soil there which is a quite a cool soil as well. And this helps us with our acidity levels. So when we make the cider, it naturally has more vibrancy and more freshness to it whereas Ballyhook Flyer, which is our second style of cider, is made from 85% cider apple.
And cider apples have much lower acidity, or higher pH, and the variety itself has much stronger tannins. Tannins are the antioxidant compounds that are found in tea and wine as well. And so the way that that expresses itself in the finished cider, is we get a cider that’s got more body but also a dry structure around it and little bit less acidity as well. So, they’re really markedly different.
Catherine Moran: Was the Dalliance the one we had this morning at the tasting?
Simon Tyrrell: Yeah, indeed it was. And it’s from 2013, which is, again, something that’s very important to us is to say: “Look, not every year is the same as the next.” Particularly in a climate like the one we have in Ireland and so it’s important for us, like for wine people, to try and express that vintage variation, as well.
Catherine Moran: That was lightly sparkling, if I remember correctly?
Simon Tyrrell: Yes that’s right. Other cider-producing countries do produce still ciders so you’ll find them in the Asturias in Spain and you’ll find them in the West of England as well. The Irish palate generally prefers a sparkling cider and the other thing that is important to say is that the role of carbon dioxide in the cider also is it actually tends to project or “throw” if you like, the aromas and flavours of the cider, so I think it’s actually of benefit as well.
Catherine Moran: Where are you selling your ciders?
Simon Tyrrell: So, our target market, in Ireland anyway, is for independent off-licenses, sorry, wine shops can’t sell them, unfortunately due to licensing restrictions. But, off-licenses, and then really quality on-trade accounts, so we were lucky enough to have it in everything, Chapter One to Thornton’s to really good bistros and restaurants around the place. And then we’ve managed to develop also a good export market so we sell it to the States, Italy, Austria, Finland, Estonia, and a variety of other countries.
Catherine Moran: Goodness, I was going to ask you that but you’ve clearly got that angle covered haven’t you? What one piece of advice would you have for somebody thinking of setting up a cider business?
Simon Tyrrell: I think the thing I would probably… the one piece of advice I would have is don’t think of it like beer. I suppose there are several reasons for that. One is this is an annual crop that we get. We get one shot at this a year and the harvest usually comes in usually in September, finishing in November. If we make a mess of that, we don’t get the opportunity then to try it again a month later. We will have to wait ’til the following year comes around, so be aware of that and be aware of the fact that like wine, the fermentation process and the aging process actually, before we can put into bottle, is actually about 6 months. So again, it’s not like beer. So, I suppose, be careful of the cash flow is one of the things I’m trying to say.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely yes. What is your website?
Simon Tyrrell: We’re craigiescider.ie and then we also, along with my other fellow craft cider producers in Ireland, we have an association called Cider Ireland which also has a website as well.
Catherine Moran: Wonderful. I’m going to let you back into the Big Shed because I’m concerned that you’d be losing some customers. Thank you so much for talking to us.
Simon Tyrrell: Thanks Catherine, thank you very much.
Catherine Moran: Next, we’ll hear from Helen Willems, founder of Coolea Farmhouse Cheese, which is based in west Cork. I was especially delighted to be able to talk to Helen, not least because I have been eating and enjoying her cheese for years, but also because it was great to have the opportunity to speak to one of the pioneers of artisan cheese production in Ireland.
For quite some time prior to the late seventies in Ireland, the vast majority of cheese made was mass-produced factory fare, devoid of flavour, personality and provenance.
Helen and the Willems’ family have won countless national and international awards for their Coolea, a gouda-style cheese that becomes increasingly sweet and nutty the more aged it is. Let’s hear from Helen.
I am here with Helen Willems from Coolea Irish cheese, which is fresh cow’s milk cheese, and you have very kindly stepped out of the Big Shed at Ballymaloe, and you have torn yourself away from the renditions of Johnny Cash to talk to me about your wonderful cheese. Would you tell us firstly what range of cheeses you make?
Helen Willems: It is, as you said, a cow’s milk cheese, and we have been making it since 1980, roughly. We do a young cheese, which would be about six weeks and then we have a cheese of about a year old, we do a cheese with cumin seeds, sometimes herb and garlic, but our best product, really, is when our cheese is matured up to two years. That is mostly sold in England and in better delicatessens; Sheridan’s in Ireland would do it. In some of the English markets, there are a few people who do it. Of course, because it is a specialist product, we don’t make tons and tons and tons. It can’t be everywhere.
Catherine Moran: Right, so two years, that would be your oldest mature cheese that you produce?
Helen Willems: Yeah, that would be. Some affineurs would keep it longer, like Neil’s Yard in London might sometimes mature them up to three years, when the cheese is fit. It’s like a wine, some cheeses will mature that long. Other cheeses will be at their peak at two years.
Catherine Moran: How would you describe the difference in taste and flavour between your very young Coolea and, say, your two-year-old?
Helen Willems: There is a difference in flavour and there is also a major difference in texture. Because, of course, when the cheese matures more it dries a little bit and it gets harder. When it’s very old you often get crystals in it.
Catherine Moran: They are what I call “crystals of deliciousness,” they are delicious, aren’t they?
Helen Willems: [Laughs] That is a lovely way to say it, yes. When they are young they sometimes have “tears of happiness,” our young, that is a year, year and a half, and yes, crystals of happiness.
Catherine Moran: Helen, you actually started the business, didn’t you? You are the person who started making Coolea cheese many years ago?
Helen Willems: Yeah, it’s a long time ago. We came to Ireland in 1978 and I think by the time we had a farm and our own cows it was late 1979. We came to Ireland… I came to Ireland to be self-sufficient, self-supporting, so, you know, I was making jam and wine and I also wanted to make cheese.
In Ireland, at the time, there were not many cheeses. It was mainly factory cheese and these, what you call it… so there might have been a good cheddar, but that was about it. There wasn’t much, especially not in the area where we were living, which is Cork, and quite rural.
So, when I had made the first cheeses people really liked it and said, “gosh you have to do this commercial.” So we said why not, why not try it? So yeah, it started there. Of course, the first years it was mainly younger cheese for the cash flow because, you know, to keep a lot of cheese in stock is costly. The longer we were in production and the better it went, the longer we could mature them. That’s how its been over the years and then our son came into the business, young Dick, and he has taken over.
Catherine Moran: Did you keep your own cows initially?
Helen Willems: Oh yeah, we had our own cows up until, I think, 1999?
Catherine Moran: That is quite a thing, keeping your own cows.
Helen Willems: For Dick and myself it was a lot work. It was. And a farm. And the cows. And the sales…
Catherine Moran: And the distribution, and God knows what else!
Helen Willems: And in those days, Dick had to really go on rounds with the cheese. Now, most of the cheese goes to wholesalers so it’s a lot easier that way.
Catherine Moran: So you have just pre-empted the other question I wanted to ask you, which is where is your cheese available for sale?
Helen Willems: It is available in Sheridan’s. It is available on the English market. It is available in local shops. It is hard sometimes to say where it is available, because we don’t always know where the wholesalers bring it to. A lot of the cheese is exported, it’s going abroad.
Catherine Moran: Nice, fantastic. You have got good markets for your cheese?
Helen Willems: Definitely, yeah.
Catherine Moran: Congratulations for all the prizes you have won. They are very impressive. What is your website?
Helen Willems: www.cooleacheese.com
Catherine Moran: Thank you so much for your time and I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival.
Helen Willems: Yes, we will, we will try. Thank you very much.
Catherine Moran: Thank you again, Helen.
Our next speaker is Sandy Cole from Broughgammon Farm in Co. Antrim, in Northern Ireland. Sustainability is at the core of this business operation, which specialises in kid goat meat, free-range rose veal and seasonal wild game such as venison.
Responding to the fact that, in the dairy industry, male kid goats were put down at birth, the Cole family decided to take these male goats and rear them for their meat, at once preventing unnecessary waste and developing a market for an underutilised resource.
Broughgammon Farm has its own on-site butchery and runs butchery and seasonal cookery classes. They also have a farm shop and sell on line to Ireland and the UK. Let’s now hear from Sandy Cole from Broughgammon Farm.
I am here with Sandy from Broughgammon Farm. Hi, Sandy, thank you very much for having a chat with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your business, what you sell?
Sandy Cole: So Broughgammon farm, we’re a forward thinking farm specialising in the rehousing of surplus billy kids and bull calves from the dairy industry. So what we do is we take what would previously be deemed to be a waste by-product of the dairy industry —so the surplus billy kids and bull calves — and rear them specifically for their meat.
So although they’re not bred to be meat-reared animals, we’re taking them on and trying to create a sustainable food chain and in doing this we realised there wasn’t really a market to do that so we wanted to educate people that it was something that is perfectly palatable, even though it’s not necessarily bred for meat and so because of that we ended up cooking at events as well.
We’ve always had a passion for food, as well as agriculture. My brother, Charlie, the owner of Broughgammon Farm, would be very enthusiastic about farming, and my mother has always been very enthusiastic about cooking, so it worked very well that we ended up cooking all of our wares as well as selling fresh meat at local farmers’ markets all across Ireland.
Catherine Moran: So you do “food to go” plus a range of products. What sort of foods have you got here today at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival?
Sandy Cole: So this year we decided to go for something special. Usually we do goat burgers and the likes, but this time we decided to go for tacos. So we got Blanco Niño tacos from Wexford, I believe they’re from. And we made some chorizo mince goat to go inside and smoked pulled veal as well with a pea guacamole, a beetroot salsa, bit of side salad and some Corleggy goat’s curd as well.
Catherine Moran: Wow, so an absolutely wonderful… vibrant flavours there. And you’re cooperating, collaborating I should say, with a lot of other artisan, local producers?
Sandy Cole: Yeah, so we actually, if you imagine a trail from Northern Ireland, we came all the way down from North Antrim to Cork and on the way we stopped in Dublin and got our organic vegetables from McNally family farm. We went via Cavan to Corleggy to get the goat’s curd who, coincidentally, also gets the goat’s milk from the farm that we get the billy kids from. So that’s a novel little impact there.
And then, my friend Kevin, who’s helping me today, runs a company called Groo Gorilla in Dublin and so he made my lovely beetroot salsa. And yeah, so we’ve incorporated lots of different artisan producers in our menus today.
Catherine Moran: I see you’re selling online? Is that correct?
Sandy Cole: Yeah, so we do fresh meat sales for markets all over Ireland and as well as that, we would deliver through online sales so we do a goat in a box or 25 pound goat box or 50 euro goat box and we deliver all over Ireland and the UK.
Catherine Moran: Oh and the UK as well? Ah, fantastic, so you’ve cracked the shelf life and the chill requirements to get the product out to the UK then?
Sandy Cole: Yeah, so when it comes to shipping, we would use a 24-hour courier, and if that doesn’t work, we use a 48-hour courier and it doesn’t really matter because we would use something called Woolcool and so it’s a sheepskin, biodegradable insulated packaging and then we would pack that with ice cubes, just surrounding the meats, so that works really well. Shelf-life-wise, we’ve started to produce our own goat bacon as well. And we do smoked products as well, so that does increase the shelf life on a lot of things.
Catherine Moran: You’re doing your own smoking, then?
Sandy Cole: Yeah. We would do our own smoking and we would also do our own curing, as well.
Catherine Moran: Wonderful. Sounds like you’re reinventing the goat, which is a great thing. What is your website?
Sandy Cole: It would be broughgammon.com so b-r-o-u-g-h-g-a- double ‘m’ for motel, -o- ‘n’ for November.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely wonderful Sandy. Thanks very much.
Sandy Cole: Thanks very much for having me.
Catherine Moran: Next, we’ll hear from Claire Dalton, qualified beer sommelier and co-founder of Dungarvan Brewing Company, and Harry O’Neill, owner of Momo restaurant in Waterford.
Claire and Harry were soaking up the vibe next to the drinks’ theatre at LitFest and I’m grateful to them both for agreeing to chat all things LitFest with me.
The Dungarvan Brewing Company uses traditional methods to make a wide range of bottled, cask and keg craft beers including a stout, a red ale, a blonde ale, an American pale ale, a bitter, a gluten-free beer and even a beer flavoured with seaweed. Its beers are unpasteurised and are conditioned in the bottle, cask or keg.
Momo is a restaurant based in Waterford, on the south coast of Ireland. Despite being a young business, Momo is already making a name for itself for its local sourcing credentials, including locally caught fish daily and its imaginative and award-winning children’s menu.
Here’s Claire and Harry.
Let’s just get straight into here. I am with Claire Dalton who is the boss of the Dungarvan Brewing Company. Is that true?
Claire Dalton: Along with some family members, my brother and my husband and my sister-in-law, the four of us started it.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely fantastic, so you are one of the co-founders. And you are?
Harry O’Neill: I am Harry O’Neill.
Catherine Moran: You are not only a restaurateur, but also a label manufacturer?
Harry O’Neill: Well, I work for a labels company but I am a restaurateur as well. I am the owner of Momo Restaurant in Waterford. Yeah, I have plenty of hours in the day to do two jobs and we have two kids, a six- and a seven-year-old as well, so yeah, life is good.
Catherine Moran: Clearly a glutton for punishment into the mix, as well.
Harry O’Neill: Of course, of course.
Catherine Moran: I heard the two of you chatting and what’s your impression of the festival so far?
Claire Dalton: I love this festival. It’s really good. We are near enough to it; we are about 45 minutes down the road, so it’s fairly local to us. It’s just such a lovely festival. Okay, it’s just started raining, but apart from that, and yesterday when the sun was out and everyone was just sitting outside. I do a bit here at the drink’s theatre. I help out a little bit so I was pouring at the beer tasting this morning and things like that. It’s just a lovely relaxed vibe. I don’t really get beyond the drink’s theatre to be honest, or the Big Shed, but the guys here, Colm and everyone is really nice and inclusive so I just really enjoy this festival.
Catherine Moran: Have you brought any of your beer here to sell?
Claire Dalton: They have it on sale at the bar in the Shed, so they have our bottles of beer inside there, yeah.
Catherine Moran: And, Harry, what about you, you seem very sort of chilled out with the whole atmosphere here. You’re really enjoying it.
Harry O’Neill: I am on a busman’s holiday, as they say. I’m down for the day looking for ideas, you know, just chatting to people, meeting new people, it’s always a joy when you get people who are like-minded, who have the same passion, be it for drink, or for food, or for production. When you meet people like that, you know that your work is appreciated. Yeah, it’s just great and every little barn, every little nook and cranny has been decorated to the nth degree. It’s fantastic here.
Catherine Moran: Very imaginative. Did any of you guys get to talks, or seminars, or demos?
Claire Dalton: Yes, yesterday I came to the whiskey tasting with Dave Broom, which was fantastic and all about the role that wood plays in whiskey. So, very interesting. The first two whiskeys were the same whiskey, an eighteen-year-old pot still, but one had been matured in American oak and one in a cherry butt. So, totally different colors, everything, so really interesting stuff.
I was here this morning, I was kind of working at it but also sampling at Pete Brown’s talk, the Hops and Glory talk, which was all IPAs, tasting IPAs, so that was great as well.
Catherine Moran: And Harry what about you?
Harry O’Neill: I’ve just come from a real bread talk where I got some lovely rye sourdough starter to bring home with me, so I am going to try to give that a go and bake some bread, either this evening or tomorrow, but we were at a talk about waste management and how you can basically, what people can perceive as waste can actually be transformed into dishes, into food, you know, it can be fermented, you know anything can be done. All that side of it now has been very interesting as well for us.
Catherine Moran: I have just come, probably in the last half hour or, so from a talk given by Ari Weinzweig from Zingerman’s, which is a group of food businesses and other businesses in the States. He has written several books, which he had here, they all sold out. Really, check him out if you can in terms of how to turn doing business as a food or drink producer on its head… and I hate to use the word, highly inspirational guy. Definitely check him out if you can, he was great.
Ballymaloe always seems to attract some quite, what would you call them, inspirational, blue-sky-thinking sort of people. It’s always nice.
Harry O’Neill: There are a lot of people at the top of their game here and it’s always a pleasure just to see how they got there, you know, going to see a food demo from someone I have admired on television for the last four or five years and you just see how they work, how they behave around food, and their techniques. It’s fantastic.
Catherine Moran: Claire, to sign off can you give us your web address and maybe your Twitter account so people can find out about you online?
Claire Dalton: Sure. Our website is dungarvanbrewingcompany.com, or on Twitter we are @dungarvanbrewingco, Instagram the same, and Facebook: Dungarvan Brewing Company.
Catherine Moran: Thank you very much. And Harry, how about you?
Harry O’Neill: Yeah, we are momorestaurant.ie and you can find us on Facebook and you can find us on Twitter with that name as well, @momorestaurant.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely fantastic. Thank you both very much.
Catherine Moran: We’ll now hear from Elisabeth Luard. Elisabeth Luard writes in many genres, but I know her as a recipe book and food writer. It turns out that, in early in her career, Elisabeth became a botanical painter for Kew Gardens. On that note, it was a singular moment watching her paint, in watercolours, the party scene in the Big Shed late on the Saturday night of LitFest16. Where else, as a lovely friend said to me at LitFest, would that happen? You can see an example of Elisabeth’s artwork on my website, which is myartisanbusiness.com. Here’s Elisabeth.
I’m sitting outside of the Ballymaloe literary festival, the Ballymaloe Festival of Food and Drink. We’ve just had a rain shower and now it’s dry and we’ve managed to clean off a couple of chairs and we are both sitting on dry seats. We think we are, anyway.
Elisabeth Luard is a renowned food writer, and she… and you have very kindly agreed to sit and sip some homemade lemonade and just have a chat for a couple of minutes about some of the food books that you have written.
Elisabeth Luard: Well, basically the first book that I ever wrote was European Peasant Cookery, which was a bit different from town cookery or restaurant cookery, because it is what’s available. It is pretty classic. It goes throughout Europe.
And I brought up my children in a remote valley in Andalusia. Four children, went to school on a donkey, you know, they were still grinding the wheat to make the bread and all that sort of thing. I suppose I was a bit of a ‘60s escapee, and really, the first book grew out of that, out of the understanding that you had to respect the way that people lived and that you had to more or less understand what was going on in the landscape, latitude, trade routes, what people were doing in market places.
And because I had small children, I was vulnerable. I could add that I spoke Spanish from childhood myself, so it wasn’t that difficult, because I grew up as a diplomat’s step-daughter so I ran around a lot with the cook and the maids, because diplomats always have cooks and maids. So I learned very early which side the bread was buttered, and it was the other side of the green baize door.
Catherine Moran: Did you always have a desire to either write or to write about food?
Elisabeth Luard: Well, I was married to a writer and writer’s lives are pretty uncertain. Actually, I was married to the man who started Private Eye, but I was working at Private Eye before he even got there. So, I consider myself, you know, it wasn’t just that I was… he didn’t marry the secretary, which is all I was doing at that time.
I was out of school when I was fifteen, I was quite a bright cookie, you know. There was no particular reason why I shouldn’t have an education, but in my family, the boys had the education and the girls didn’t. That’s what it was like in those days, 1960-odd. Started having my children in 1963 and began to write in about 1975, but I had trained, as well, an artist, to some extent. Because I lived in Spain and needed to add something to the family income, I became a botanical painter for Kew [Royal Botanical Gardens, the world’s largest collection of living plants] the Gardens because they were… it’s absolutely about to drip.
Catherine Moran: It is, isn’t it? This is what happens in Ireland. Should we step in quickly to the Drinks’ Theatre so we don’t get absolutely hammered with rain?
It’s coming down fast now. Lovely, we have put our drinks down on these John Jameson wooden whiskey barrels. We have managed to get refuge from the rain at the Drinks’ Theatre. Elisabeth, how many books have you written?
Elisabeth Luard: Probably about a dozen cookbooks, two door-stopper novels, and three memoirs and I’ve got a fourth food memoir coming out. They are basically talking about food in the context of people’s lives and where I’ve lived and that kind of thing.
The first one was called Family Life: Birth, Death and the Whole Damn Thing. Second one was called Still Life: Cloudberries, Klippfisk, and What To Do When the Children Leave Home. And then the third one was My Life as a Wife, and that was basically my life as a wife. I have a new one coming out which is travel with food, which is called Squirrel Pie [laughs].
Catherine Moran: [laughs] Wonderful! I love your titles. They are very hip and sort of happening! Have you come up with all your titles?
Elisabeth Luard: Yes, I always do.
Catherine Moran: Oh, ok. Wonderful. So when is that available, your most recent?
Elisabeth Luard: Well, we had a few copies available at the Ballymaloe Festival but it’s July 14th it’s coming out and it’s got all my illustrations. Oh, I didn’t say I earned my living as a botanical painter, yes I did. Then I was a bird painter and quite a successful one, in its way. But as a painter I had limitations, and so now I use my sketchbook to take notes. I do writing as well, but I still use it for that purpose rather than the very detailed work that I did before. It’s not that I have lost it, it’s just that I use it for another purpose. I usually illustrate my own books, so it’s got a rather pretty cover, I’m happy to say.
Catherine Moran: You are sounding like a Renaissance woman to me. Multi-talented, multi-skilled. Thank you so much for your time. Are you heading back to Wales after this?
Elisabeth Luard: Yes, it’s quite a long way. I thought I’d take the overnighter on the ferry, but actually I’ve got to go to Stansted and then it’s another five hours. On the other hand, actually, if I stand on the headland of Cardigan Bay, I might be able to see Cork.
Catherine Moran: [Laughs] You might, on a clear day, if you are extremely lucky. Thank you very much Elisabeth Luard.
Elisabeth Luard: Thank you very much indeed.
Catherine Moran: You can read more about Elisabeth Luard’s culinary adventures and endeavours at elisabethluard.com, and she’s on Twitter as @elisabethluard. That’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’: e-l-i-s-a-b-e-t-h.
I mentioned Ari Weinzweig in my conversation with Claire from the Dungarvan Brewing Company and Harry from Momo restaurant and we’re going to hear from Ari next. Meeting, talking to, and interviewing Ari was one of the two highlights of Litfest16 for me and made the schlep from Ludlow, England, to deepest Cork so worthwhile. The other highlight was hearing food historian, food writer and broadcaster Regina Sexton from University College Cork talk at Food and Drink In Ireland, one of the panel discussions at LitFest. You can see a short video I made during her wonderful talk in the show notes for this episode, which are at myartisanbusiness.com.
Back to Ari Weinzweig. Ari is the co-founder and CEO of Zingerman’s, a group of ten mostly food businesses — Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) — that operate in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the US. Zingerman’s has a multi-million dollar turnover and its revenue grows by 8-10% annually.
Examples of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are Zingerman’s Deli, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Creamery, Zingerman’s Coffee, Zingerman’s Candy, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms, and ZingTrain, an operation that offers seminars and customised workshops to other businesses and non-profits who want to learn how to do business the Zingerman’s way.
Just before making the upcoming audio snippet with Ari I went to his talk about the philosophy on which Zingerman’s is built. It was engrossing, inspirational, opinion-altering.
What was so meaningful for me in hearing Ari talk about how he does business was that he provided the antidote to a business model that I was told about when I was starting out on my own food business journey. One evening, at a party, a highly successful management consultant who specialised in Lean Theory, hearing that I was just about to set up an artisan food business, advised me to be aware that business boils down to playing one of two roles, and that, in business, you always be either the “effer” or the “effee”. I hope you understand what I mean my “effer” and “effee”. If I use swear words in my show, iTunes will block my podcast in certain countries, and I don’t want that to happen. So, “effer” and “effee”. The Zingerman’s way of doing business is proof that business doesn’t have to be run on the “effer” and “effee” model.
Zingerman’s has an unorthodox way of doing business and shuns the usual hierarchy on which businesses are structured. Each Zingerman’s business is run by one or more managing partners who share ownership of the business. Zingerman’s is an open-book management company, meaning that it shares detailed information about the financial performance of the organisation with everyone.
It re-imagines how the various business functions operate, including human resources, marketing, customer care, customer engagement, product development, and shows that it is possible to run a business ethically.
Put very simply, Zingerman’s walks the walk of putting customers and their desire for great food and drink at the centre of everything it does, and it treats employees and suppliers well.
It’s no wonder that Inc magazine described Zingerman’s as “the coolest small company in America”.
Ari has written several business books and one, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business was described by Inc magazine as “one of the best books for business owners”. In this book, Ari describes the 12 laws on which Zingerman’s is built. Here are some of these laws: “An inspiring, strategically sound vision leads the way to greatness”; “Without good finance, you fail”; “If you want the staff to give great service to customers, the leaders have to give great service to the staff”; “Success means you get better problems”; “Whatever your strengths are, they will likely lead straight into your weaknesses”; and “It generally takes a lot longer to make something great happen than people think”.
You can check out the excellent range of books that Ari has written about Zingerman’s approach to business via their own publishing house, which is at zingermanspress.com.
One final thing I would suggest you to do before we hear from Ari is to check out the Zingerman’s beautiful newsletters. They’re available, free, on the Zingerman’s website, which is http://www.zingermanscommunity.com/category/zingermans-news/.
These newsletters are content marketing at its best and they’ll give you some great ideas about how to create and deliver engaging content for your food or drink company newsletter.
Here, now, is Ari.
Catherine Moran: I’m here with Ari Weinzweig who is the CEO and co founder of Zingerman’s. Ari, thanks so much for having a quick word about, really, I think, turning how to do business on its head. Would you give us three or four, or whatever you fancy, tips and insights on how to run a fantastic food or drink business?
Ari Weinzweig: Well, I do not know how many I can give, but I guess what I would say, especially because of where we are — with Ballymaloe — all of the work that people, in a good way, like us and like everyone at Ballymaloe are appropriately putting into sustainable food sourcing, are equally applicable to the way we run our organisations.
One of the things that is very important that I learnt from the anarchists is that the means we use to achieve something must be congruent with the ends we are trying to achieve. So, if we want sustainability with the food, we need to run our organisations in comparably sustainable ways.
Catherine Moran: Okay, and that is very much on the agenda of, actually, the Irish Government at the moment.
Ari Weinzweig: Absolutely. I love it. I mean, I have been to Ireland, I don’t know, eighteen times? I came to Ballymaloe for the first time in 1989, travelling by myself, this is before the web, we had been open at Zingerman’s for seven years but we were a lot smaller. I had done a bit of homework on where to go and I came here and went to all the cheese makers: Gubbeen, Milleens, Cashel Blue. I had been at Cashel Blue on my way down here. I booked a room, which was not inexpensive, but I really wanted to stay here. And I don’t remember exactly how, but I met Myrtle two hours after I had been here and she said, ” Oh don’t eat in the dining room just wait until after the service and come in the kitchen and eat with the family”, which I did, and I have known ‘em ever since.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely wonderful. I know you have done this fantastic talk, which is called “The Lapsed Anarchists Guide to Building a Better Food Business”…?
Ari Weinzweig: It is just about business [in general]. I think all organisations, whether they are not-for-profit or for-profit, small or large, are the same. We need to honour the uniqueness of them but the basic principles are no different in the same way that an organic farmer in West Cork is doing it a little differently than an organic farmer in the western part of the US, but the basic principles are the same. They just adapt to the ecosystem to what they’re doing.
Catherine Moran: How come all of your books that were for sale here at Ballymaloe, how come they’ve all sold out?
Ari Weinzweig: Well, I don’t know. You’d have to ask the people who buy ‘em! Because they didn’t order enough! [laughs] No, hopefully it is a good message and it’s our experiences, it talks about what we’ve made mistakes on and what we’ve messed up, but we have learned from it and hopefully it resonates. I’ve written food books, too, but there are a lot of good food books here and some wonderful authors and chefs and cooks, but it is probably the only business book and that’s in harmony, I guess, with the way we are all trying to eat.
Catherine Moran: Would you give us two or three titles of some of the business books you have written?
Ari Weinzweig: Yeah, we’re in the interest of working in our own way, we are not really on Amazon, we do all of the book design and printing in Ann Arbor in our hometown, and the best place to find them would be on zingtrain.com, or my email is email@example.com and people could happily email me. There is a series of the business books called Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading. Part I is what you just referenced, which is the Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business, Part II is on being a better leader, Part III is on managing ourselves, Part IV will be out, hopefully, by the end of June and that’s on the power of beliefs in business, which has been hugely interesting.
Catherine Moran: Absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much. I think it’s time to get some nosh now, don’t you?
Ari Weinzweig: I’m with you. Thank you so much, cheers.
Catherine Moran: Thanks Ari.
We’ll now hear from Rod Calder-Potts founder and owner, along with his wife Julie, of Highbank Orchards. Rod and Julie are based in Kilkenny, a gorgeous county in the south of Ireland. They grow apples —organically — on fertile limestone soil. As they say on their website, which is at highbankorchards.com, they are organic to the extent that they will not even use manure from animals fed on genetically modified food. They don’t spray their apples with anything, they don’t use chemical fertilisers and they don’t add sulphites to their ciders.
Rod and Julie make a mesmerising range of award-winning apple drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, including ciders, and apple spirits such as apple vodka and apple gin. Their excellent non-alcoholic cider, Driver’s Cider, is a taste revelation and shows that you can have your cider cake and eat it.
I was also struck by the sheer deliciousness of their Orchard Syrup, one of Julie’s inventions. It’s a great, innovative product that you’ll hear about in a moment, and one that opens up a new market for a cider producer/apple farmer — the foodservice market. Julie’s Orchard Syrup proves that by thinking outside the box you can use the ingredients you’ve already got to create a novel, unique product. How cool is that?
Thank you to Rod and Julie for all the wonderful samples you gave me during our conversation at LitFest16. Here’s Rod; you’ll probably need to turn up the volume for this as we were competing with the buzz in the Big Shed.
Catherine Moran: I am here with Rod from Highbank Orchards cider. Hello Rod. How are you doing today?
Rod Calder-Potts: Great thank you. Yeah, it’s lovely to be here in Ballymaloe with all these exciting products.
Catherine Moran: Have you done this festival before?
Rod Calder-Potts: Yes, I think we’ve been doing it since it started.
Catherine Moran: Ah, right.
Rod Calder-Potts: Very much it would be the same sort of ethos as ourselves. Organic and bio-dynamic as much as possible and artisan and respecting the food, and so on.
Catherine Moran: And you’re based in Kilkenny, is that right?
Rod Calder-Potts: Yes I am. I’m based in Kilkenny on a farm, myself and my wife, but even if was in Australia, I think I would come to the Ballymaloe LitFest. It’s such interesting people here.
Catherine Moran: Yes and it’s early days. You’ve got another day and a half to get through so would you tell us a little bit about your business, then?
Rod Calder-Potts: Well the main reason we’re here, we have a small farm in County Kilkenny. County Kilkenny is a wonderful farming county from ancient times, it’s got exceptional terroir, underpinned by a lovely limestone soil and we’ve been growing apples there since 1969. Just in the last 20 years, we planted cider apples and we went organic, and we’re aspiring towards being biodynamic, so we don’t interfere with the microbes or the insects at all in our orchards and we carry that whole concept through with the juices that we make and the cider that we make.
We don’t use any sulphites or anything, we use as few additives as we can possibly do and recently we put in a distillery as well so we make a very nice apple juice. We also gasify one of our apple juices and we bottle it. It’s an apple called the Blusher, which is really nice in that the juice itself tastes like cider. It’s not too sugary and it’s got a lovely balance of acid and tannin and so without actually fermenting it, we can get an alcohol-free cider.
Catherine Moran: Is that the Driver’s Cider that I just had a taste of that you’re referring to there?
Rod Calder-Potts: Yeah. We call it the Driver’s cider. It goes down really well with people who don’t drink but it goes exceptionally well with 14-year olds who are not allowed to drink and they’re not allowed to drive but they can drink Driver’s Cider.
Catherine Moran: It’s absolutely gorgeous and it’s a beautiful, crystal clear, quite a light coloured cider with a little bit of sweetness but not too sweet and you’d just never know there was no hooch in there so that’s a real triumph.
Rod Calder-Potts: Yeah. And then we also bottle that as an ungasified juice as well. And then we also make a syrup. Basically, we use a cider apple, a very tannic cider apple, and we reduce it to produce a lovely syrup, I don’t know if you’ve tasted that have you?
Catherine Moran: Not the syrup, no.
Rod Calder-Potts: Will I give you a taste?
Catherine Moran: That would be wonderful, thank you. This is like … thank you very much. It looks like maple syrup.
Rod Calder-Potts: Ireland’s answer to maple syrup, you use that instead of maple syrup or honey. And vegans eat it because, you know, vegans don’t eat honey.
Catherine Moran: Wow.
Rod Calder-Potts: We call it vegan honey as well.
Catherine Moran: Actually there’s quite a honey-like flavour to it but you’ve got the bite of the apple at the end. Is this a first? You’re calling it apple syrup?
Rod Calder-Potts: My wife invented that. We were trying to find uses for our apples and Julie invented this and it’s been a huge success. We won the prize, the Irish Food Writers’ Guild gave us a prize for it and we’ve had a lot of different awards for…
Catherine Moran: Absolutely gorgeous. How are you presenting the syrup?
Rod Calder-Potts: I beg your pardon?
Catherine Moran: How are you presenting it in terms of the packaging and the bottling?
Rod Calder-Potts: We sell it in a little 200ml bottle like that. We also sell it in a 50ml bottle.
Catherine Moran: Yes.
Rod Calder-Potts: We also sell it in 2 and a half and 5-litre bottles of catering packs because the chefs have really taken to it big time.
Catherine Moran: Right, wonderful.
Rod Calder-Potts: Very nice for putting an appley flavour in.
Catherine Moran: Yes, yeah.
Rod Calder-Potts: Use in salad dressings and things like that.
Catherine Moran: And very easy for chefs to use, which is very important to them isn’t it?
Rod Calder-Potts: Yes it save them having to reduce. But not only that, you couldn’t make that out of just any apple. We’ve tried making it out of other apples and it just doesn’t work and we don’t tell the chefs which apple we use. [laughs]
Catherine Moran: So it’s a trade secret then is it?
Rod Calder-Potts: It’s a trade secret yeah.
Catherine Moran: Very good. You mentioned that you’ve also set up a distillery recently.
Rod Calder-Potts: Yeah, well what we do with the apples we don’t juice or make into syrup, we just ferment them. So we put them into 1000 litre IBCs [intermediate bulk containers], we use 1000 litres in case there’s spoilage. I’m told if you work things in a natural way, they’re likely to spoil. Some of them might spoil so we like to keep the spoilage to a minimum. But we haven’t had any spoilages yet. Nature’s wonderful if you don’t mess with it at all, you know? So we produce a really first class cider and then we distil that, what we don’t use as cider. And we produce a very nice vodka or schnapps or eau de vie.
Catherine Moran: So here you’re showing me a bottle of Kilkenny Apple Vodka. Organic Kilkenny Apple Vodka.
Rod Calder-Potts: Everything we do is organic and labelled certified organic. And then we re-distil the eau de vie with botanicals and we produce a very different lovely appley flavoured gin.
Catherine Moran: Single Estate Kilkenny Gin.
Rod Calder-Potts: And then we also make a liqueur brandy and a brandy.
Catherine Moran: Wow. You’ve got a lovely range.
Rod Calder-Potts: By aging it with the apple reduction. So we get the tannin, see it’s very high in tannins and when people make whiskey or brandy, they have to get the tannin from the barrel but we actually use a very tannic apple and we get a lovely taste from that as well. Do you want to have a taste of that?
Catherine Moran: That would be wonderful, thank you very much.
Rod Calder-Potts: This is what we call the Orchard Liqueur, for various reasons, the EU won’t let us use coveted names like brandy but it doesn’t matter to us because really we feel the drink should speak for itself.
Catherine Moran: Wow, that’s got an incredible appley kick. And again, not too sweet, really nicely balanced.
Rod Calder-Potts: Yeah. Well there’s a less sweet one, which we call Apple Spirit. It’d be more like a whiskey. This one’s more of a liqueur.
Catherine Moran: Yeah, very much. And it’s a lovely dark… well I suppose it’s sort of a toffee brown colour. It’s a lovely toffee brown colour.
Rod Calder-Potts: Yeah, that’s right.
Catherine Moran: Really delicious. So are you distributing throughout the island of Ireland?
Rod Calder-Potts: We distribute them throughout Ireland through various distributors and we have about 350 direct accounts as well for some of the products. A lot of it we distribute ourselves. We also distribute through Le Caveau and through Larousse. We do the syrup in bulk through La Rousse direct to the chefs.
Catherine Moran: And what about exporting? Do you export to any other countries?
Rod Calder-Potts: Not very much. We have it in Selfridges in England and a few places in the UK. We’re really looking for partners over there so if anybody’s listening who would be interested in getting involved with us… but remember we’re small. We produce about 130 tonnes of apples at the moment. We have more apple trees coming on stream so we will have about 200 tonnes of apples.
Catherine Moran: Right, ok.
Rod Calder-Potts: It’s small, it’s specialist, it’s craft, it’s real.
Catherine Moran: It’s proper artisan cider, really, isn’t it? Yeah, okay. Well actually Rod thank you so much for having a chat to me and I hope sales are tremendous for you. I think they will be and best of luck with the new trees that you’re planting.
Rod Calder-Potts: Lovely, thank you very much. Lovely talking to you and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your time here at Ballymaloe. Have you been here before?
Catherine Moran: No this is my first time.
Rod Calder-Potts: You’re in for a real treat.
Catherine Moran: I keep hearing about it and thought, now’s the year to do it.
Rod Calder-Potts: Great. Okay.
Catherine Moran: Thank you.
Rod Calder-Potts: Cheers, bye.
And now to our final speaker, Declan Ryan, from Arbutus Bread. Arbutus Bread is a wholesale artisan bakery based in Cork. It produces some 2,000 loaves of bread each night using traditional methods. It does not use chemical additives.
Declan was so generous with his time and knowledge — I’m so grateful to him. It was wonderful having the opportunity to talk real bread with him. Declan, who happened to win the first Michelin star in Ireland, tells the story of how he gladly moved out of the restaurant kitchen into the bake house, why he doesn’t do business with the supermarkets, what the difference is between real sourdough and fake sourdough and why sourdough bread is so good for us. You can find Arbutus Bread online at arbutusbread.com. Here’s Declan.
Catherine Moran: So I’m here with Declan Ryan who is the boss of Arbutus Bread. Declan, how are you today?
Declan Ryan: Grand. In great form!
Catherine Moran: It’s Saturday at Ballymaloe Literary Festival and things look like they’re sort of heating up a little bit but how has business been so far for you?
Declan Ryan: It’s getting quite exciting. I’ve talked to more foodies in the last hour than I have normally in a month. [laughs]
Catherine Moran: So would you tell us a little bit about your business?
Declan Ryan: Well, I started off as a chef and in my other existence, I had the first Michelin Star in Ireland back in 1974, not today nor yesterday. And when I retired from Arbutus Lodge, where my restaurant was, in ’99, I set up a mini bakery in a two-car garage. Essentially because I wanted to get away from the dreaded sliced pan, the Chorleywood process, as it’s known. It was a reaction to that.
So I started off doing sourdoughs plus my granny’s soda bread. And here we are now, how many years later, 16, 17 years later and I have 18 staff working with me, a very substantial bakery with 1, 2, 3… 3 large deck ovens, 2 fan ovens and a rack oven. So we do a volume now.
But we’re also doing, still, sourdough. And almost all of our yeast breads have sourdough in them, which is enough to bring down the glycaemic index for anybody who is sugar intolerant so that’s…
Catherine Moran: Okay, so for people with diabetes, you’re aiming…
Declan Ryan: Actually all of our breads, except our soda breads and our brownies, have the minimum of 20% in them.
Catherine Moran: I’ve personally never come across using sourdough in conjunction with yeast, that’s quite interesting. Are you a pioneer there?
Declan Ryan: Ah, no we’re not, absolutely not because even the French pain au levain sourdough bread has a tiny percentage of yeast in it, just to give it a boost. But we do pure sourdoughs with about 40% sourdough in them and our yeast breads have 20% in them. So, you know, we use a lot of it and it’s got a lot of flavour and a lot of character.
Catherine Moran: And so you’re really quite a serious concern now, does that mean… Where are you distributing across Ireland?
Declan Ryan: We have a national distributor who distributes our bread par baked, frozen, to anybody. Essentially, delicatessens or to restaurants around Ireland and they take, oh crikey, 4/5 palettes of our bread in boxes every single week.
Catherine Moran: Wow! What about the supermarket trade? Have you approached them at all?
Declan Ryan: Absolutely not. We’re not in that trade. We’re in the reaction to the supermarket foods. Our trade is the 5% away from supermarkets.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Declan Ryan: I would guess most of my customers are very much into healthy food, not processed foods.
Catherine Moran: What advice would you have for anybody thinking of going in to the bread market, the bakery market, in terms of the business side of things?
Declan Ryan: Well the bakery thing… it’s a question of being an enthusiast I think, which is where I started from. I read a book by and American food writer called James Beard, called Beard on Bread and he turned me on and I started to experiment from there while I was still in the restaurant business. Eventually it became such an obsession and I was glad to get out of the restaurant business because the stress was killing me.
Catherine Moran: Yes. But I’m sure you brought different and new stresses upon yourself with the baking business?
Declan Ryan: No, not really. What that did was it gave me a reason to get up in the mornings and to do things without the worries and the anxieties that the restaurant business has because you’re only as good as your last meal. Whereas, at least if you get something wrong in a bakery, one day, you can tweak it and get it right the next day. And continue it right the next day. The days after that, you see, so it works out well.
Catherine Moran: Declan, we’re surrounded by your absolutely gorgeous-looking breads. Would you give us a very quick overview of what you have here today?
Declan Ryan: Well, they’re a little bit of an eccentric collection. The far one over there is a malted brown yeast, technically known as the Grant Loaf because it was invented by a Scottish lady called Doris Grant. The Grants, the whisky people. Doris hated white flour. And she wrote just after the war, “Ladies if you love your husbands, feed them brown bread. If you don’t, cyanide is quicker.” [Laughter]
And then, the next one, it came out of a little bit of fun with traditional Chinese medicine. It’s a baguette with black sesame and to that, we ourselves added black onion seed. So black sesame’s Chinese and the black onion is, throughout the Arab world, one of the nutritional hits at the end of Ramadan when they’ve been all fasting you see? So with two seeds, we’ve made a health bread for half the world. [Laughs]
Catherine Moran: Right, yeah so I like your thinking there!
Declan Ryan: Then, there’s a white yeast with 20% sourdough, there’s my granny’s soda bread and the only changes I’ve made to that in 60 years are, I put in some of Donal Creedon’s Macroom oatmeal because Donal roasts his oats like you’d roast coffee beans.
Catherine Moran: So a beautiful caramelised flavour?
Declan Ryan: Adds a sort of biscuity flavour, and as well as that I put in a little cream of tartar in to lighten the whole thing.
Catherine Moran: But you have buttermilk in there, don’t you?
Declan Ryan: Buttermilk is part of the basic recipe but we age our buttermilk until it thickens. And the next one is a tomato and herb bread that I devised after going to bakery school in France. It’s vine tomatoes, fresh basil, wild Provencal thyme, sea salt, a little crème fraiche and we throw in a bit of bread.
Catherine Moran: Right.
Declan Ryan: And we have mini sourdoughs and then we do, for the sweet tooth like mine, we do the croissants and the pain au chocolat and the pain au raisin. And then we do a whole range of sourdoughs. We do rye sourdough, wholemeal sourdough, multi seed sourdough and we have fun with them as well.
Catherine Moran: People are really picking up on the sourdough buzz, I think, in Ireland. Have you noticed sales or demand for sourdough going up?
Declan Ryan: Demand for sourdough is increasing all the time. Quite dramatically, actually. There’s a number of reasons for that. One is flavour and another one is, you have to chew the bread. You can’t just swallow it like the Chorleywood bread. You have to chew it. So there’s a good crust to it and there’s a good chew to it. And then the glycaemic index is much, much lower and there’s also trace elements and vitamins in sourdoughs that you can only access through having sourdough breads. And I mean a real sourdough bread. I don’t mean one of these new, fly-by-night sourdoughs where they add a bit of deactivated sourdough flavour and call it sourdough.
Catherine Moran: Yes it’s a little bit naughty that isn’t it? Yes, lots of tricks of the trade going on there.
Declan Ryan: Yes.
Catherine Moran: Which is really bad. Declan, absolutely terrific talking to you. You’re stocks are diminishing rapidly. I hope you have tonnes of bread with you.
Declan Ryan: Well this is what we brought today. After that, we’ll have to see how we’re getting on because we have a market in Middleton today and we have another market in Douglas so if they’ve any left, I might bring it down here later on.
Catherine Moran: Thanks for taking the time.
Declan Ryan: More than welcome.
Catherine Moran: Thank you very much.
Declan Ryan: More than welcome.
Catherine Moran: If you enjoyed this episode you’ll definitely love listening to the podcast episode I made with Darina Allen, who is the chair of LitFest. That episode is number 26, Darina Allen. Carve out Your Career in Food: The Ballymaloe Cookery School.
I’d like to thank all of the people we’ve just heard from who were generous enough to talk to me at LitFest16. To Simon and Emma from Craigie’s Irish Craft Cider, to Helen and Dick from Coolea Irish Farmhouse Cheese, to Sandy from Broughgammon Farm, to Claire from the Dungarvan Brewing Company, to Harry from Momo restaurant, to food writer Elisabeth Luard, to Ari Weinzweig from Zingerman’s, to Rod and Julie Calder-Potts from Highbank Orchards and to Declan from Arbutus Bread. Thank you.
All links mentioned in the show are available on my website, which is myartisanbusiness.com. You can also download a free transcript of the show there.
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That’s all for this episode. You can find me on Twitter as @FoodDrinkShow so please do get in touch if you have any comments or questions.
Until next time, I’m Catherine Moran, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting and thank you for listening.