50 heroines of the Irish food and drink scene

March 5, 2022 by No Comments


We name 50 women who are shaping Ireland’s food scene, and make the business the vibrant sector it is today

Ireland’s food and drink scene has come a long way in recent years, and in many ways women have been at the heart of this culinary revolution. We’ve selected 50 women in Ireland’s food sector to highlight their valuable – and often very tasty – contributions.

Suzanne Rigby, co-founder Click & Collection
Suzanne Rigby, co-founder Click & Collection

Suzanne Rigby, co-founder Click & Collection

As co-founder of clickandcollection.com, which supplies software to restaurants, cafes and shops that enables them to sell online, Suzanne Rigby helped many food businesses to pivot their business model during the pandemic and avoid closure.

On March 19th, 2020 Rigby and her husband and co-founder Mark Hooper bought the domain name clickandcollection.com and on Good Friday, April 10th, they took their first order for the software, which is simple to use and cost-effective.

Originally developed to allow restaurants to sell takeaway and meal boxes, the business has grown and expanded to encompass a range of ecommerce functions, with the aim of simplifying the process of sales, collection and delivery. Marie-Claire Digby

Eva Pau, commercial director Asia Market
Eva Pau, commercial director Asia Market

Eva Pau, commercial director Asia Market

Asia Market is Ireland’s biggest Asian food retailer, wholesaler and distributor, with outlets in Dublin city centre and Ballymount in Dublin 12. The company was started by Eva Pau’s parents, Howard and Helen, in 1981 and employs 160 people.

The brand’s online shop has been operational for about five years but the product range has grown from around 100 items to more than 3,500, overseen by Pau, who has a MA in information and communications technology from Trinity College and a MSc in information technology management and organisational change from Lancaster University in the UK. Before becoming commercial director of Asia Market, she worked in finance in Hong Kong. Marie-Claire Digby

Sarah Kelly, joint-owner of the Village Butcher, Ranelagh. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Sarah Kelly, joint-owner of the Village Butcher, Ranelagh. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Sarah Kelly, joint-owner of the Village Butcher, Ranelagh

Sarah Kelly is one of a small number of Irish women who are full-time butchers. She works alongside her husband Michael Madden and their daughter Jessica in their shop in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Their meat and poultry is impeccably sourced from small farms and suppliers they know personally. The shop also carries an extensive range of gourmet groceries and artisan food products and condiments that Kelly personally sources from all over Ireland and beyond. Marie-Claire Digby

Lily Ramirez-Foran, cookbook author and co-owner Picado Mexican
Lily Ramirez-Foran, cookbook author and co-owner Picado Mexican

Lily Ramirez-Foran, cookbook author and co-owner Picado Mexican

A passionate advocate for authentic Mexican food, Ramirez-Foran runs a boutique Mexican grocery store, Picado Mexican Pantry, in Portobello, Dublin 2. The shop stocks the best Mexican ingredients, carefully chosen by Ramirez-Foran and her husband and business partner Alan Foran. The space is also a kitchen, where small groups can explore Mexican food and cooking under her tutelage. She is a regular guest chef on Irish television, sharing her knowledge of her country’s cuisine, and has just written her first cookbook, Tacos (Blasta Books) which was selected by Nigella Lawson as her Cookbook Corner, book of the week. Ramirez-Foran is also a chef-member of Euro-Toques Ireland. Marie-Claire Digby

Majken Bech Bailey, operations manager Cliff at Lyons. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Majken Bech Bailey, operations manager Cliff at Lyons. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Majken Bech Bailey, operations manager Cliff at Lyons

As well as being general manager of Aimsir, the Michelin two-star restaurant where her husband Jordan Bailey is head chef, Majken Bech Bailey is also operations manager for the entire Cliff at Lyons restaurant and accommodation venue in Co Kildare. She recently oversaw a complete renovation of the property’s guest rooms and expansion of the spa, The Well at Cliff. At Aimsir, she developed sophisticated and complex non-alcoholic drinks pairings to accompany the restaurant’s tasting menu. Marie-Claire Digby

Domini and Peaches Kemp, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs
Domini and Peaches Kemp, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs

Domini and Peaches Kemp, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs

Sisters Domini and Peaches Kemp are prolific and dynamic restaurateurs with a constantly evolving portfolio of hospitality brands including Itsa, Alchemy Juice Co, Joe’s, Hugh Brown’s restaurant in Brown Thomas, Dublin and Table restaurant in Brown Thomas, Cork. They also run a catering and events company, Feast. Both sisters have a strong record of philanthropic work. Domini ran an entrepreneurship programme for inmates of Wheatfield prison and Peaches has worked with the Hope Foundation in Kolkata. Domini is the author of five cookbooks and writes a column in Food & Wine magazine. She was an Irish Times Magazine columnist for eight years. Marie-Claire Digby

Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School
Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ask anyone who the doyenne of Irish food is, and the likely answer will be Darina Allen. Having founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School in east Cork in 1983 with her brother Rory O’Connell, she started the farmers’ market movement with Myrtle Allen and a number of others in 1997, and has over 10 television series and 21 cookbooks to her name. More enthusiastic than ever, her latest mission is to get practical cooking back on the curriculum, so no child leaves school without knowing how to cook. Her latest book, How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know (Octopus), is focused on making cooking as accessible as possible. Corinna Hardgrave

Aisling Rogerson, co-founder of the Fumbally. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Aisling Rogerson, co-founder of the Fumbally. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Aisling Rogerson, co-founder of the Fumbally

In 2012, Aisling Rogerson opened a community cafe with her business partner Luca D’Alfonso on the edge of Dublin’s Liberties. Initially serving falafel, the cafe grew into a community of people who care about food, where there is no hierarchy in the kitchen and everything on the menu earns its place, with impeccable sustainable and organic credentials. Probably most notable is the fact that the Fumbally has always been a supportive environment for nurturing culinary and hospitality talent. Chefs who have worked there include Shane Palmer and Charlotte Leonard Kane of Scéal Bakery, Rossa Cassidy of Elmhurst Cottage Farm, and Katie Sanderson, Jasper O’Connor, Laura Caulwell and Harry Colley. Corinna Hardgrave

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Iseult Ward, chief executive and co-founder of FoodCloud

Iseult Ward, chief executive and co-founder of FoodCloud

Think food, technology and business and Iseult Ward should surely come to mind. She is the co-founder and chief executive of the award-winning social enterprise, FoodCloud. In 2017 she was included on the Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs European list. Ward developed FoodCloud into a business with Trinity’s Launchbox Programme and it was awarded a programme place at the National Digital Research Centre and from the Arthur Guinness Fund. Since its launch, Foodcloud has helped reduce food waste by using technology to connect business to charity and community groups who may need it. Adesewa Awobadejo

Ellie Kisyombe, Our Table co-founder and hot sauces producer
Ellie Kisyombe, Our Table co-founder and hot sauces producer

Ellie Kisyombe, Our Table co-founder and hot sauces producer

Ellie Kisyombe is a Malawian-born activist and direct provision campaigner living in Ireland. She is the co-founder of Our Table, a community-based, social enterprise that facilitates migrants with employment skills in Ireland. OurTable provides pop-up cafes in Dublin and catering services in the rest of the country. Kisyombe uses Our Table as an avenue to supply immigrants with employment and to allow them develop their culinary and hospitality skills.

Successes in the past years include winning The Irish Cafe Awards and launching its own range of hot sauces and hummus. During lockdown in 2021, Ellie launched her African-inspired and Irish-made hot sauce range. Adesewa Awobadejo

Pauline Cox, managing director of Gather and Gather
Pauline Cox, managing director of Gather and Gather

Pauline Cox, managing director of Gather and Gather

Pauline Cox heads up a workplace catering group that is notable for employing a high number of chefs who previously held senior positions in restaurant and hotel kitchens. She has more than 20 years’ management experience in the food service industry. Gather & Gather has been successful in the Irish market, providing great food to numerous workplaces. The company under Cox’s leadership strives to keep sustainability to the forefront of its operations. Adesewa Awobadejo

Tara McCarthy, chief executive Bord Bia
Tara McCarthy, chief executive at Bord Bia

Tara McCarthy, chief executive at Bord Bia

You can’t talk about women in the food and hospitality industry without mentioning Tara McCarthy. As chief executive of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, she brings more than 25 years’ experience in the wider food industry. Previously chief executive of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the seafood development agency, she has lived and operated in overseas markets such as Germany, France and Belgium for more than 10 years.

She has led initiatives for students, early career executives and entrepreneurs within the food industry for more than a decade. In 2019 she co-founded Agdif, an industry initiative championing diversity in the Irish food industry. She has represented Ireland’s food industry globally, and in 2021 led the establishment of the Origin Green Global Council. Adesewa Awobadejo

Alison Abernethy started making butter 13 years ago
Alison Abernethy started making butter 13 years ago

Alison Abernethy, Abernethy Butter

When Alison Abernethy started making butter 13 years ago, travelling to vintage shows with her father’s churn, she had no idea that her hobby would lead to her handmade butter appearing on the menus of some of the world’s best restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in England. Realising there was a potential market for the butter, she and her husband Will began producing Abernethy Butter 11 years ago, and have received accolades from restaurant critic Jay Rayner and Nigella Lawson, who said that Abernethy Black Garlic Butter may be the best thing she has ever eaten or will ever eat. Corinna Hardgrave

Maria Flynn, of Ballymakenny Farm, Co Louth, grows Purple Violetta, Red Emmalie and Pink Fir Apple potatoes
Maria Flynn, of Ballymakenny Farm, Co Louth, grows Purple Violetta, Red Emmalie and Pink Fir Apple potatoes

Maria Flynn, Ballymakenny Farm, Co Louth

Revolutionising the potato that lands on your plate may sound like an odd ambition for an Irish farmer’s wife with a background in finance, but the roosters and queens which were traditionally grown on the inherited family farm were making margins so low, they were hardly worth it. Flynn looked for a niche in the market, and discovered that she could sell directly to chefs if she grew heritage and speciality potatoes. Her first crop was in 2016, and now you can find her Purple Violetta, Red Emmalie, and Pink Fir Apple potatoes on the menus of the country’s top restaurants. Corinna Hardgrave

Jenny McNally at McNally Family Farm in Co Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Jenny McNally at McNally Family Farm in Co Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Jenny McNally, McNally Family Farm, Co Dublin

Selling vegetables to the multiples was a tough business with little return for the effort that Jenny McNally and her family were putting into growing cauliflower, courgettes, cabbages and swedes; so in 1996, she started selling directly to consumers, trading in farmers’ markets, and then converted to organic growing. An investment in polytunnels meant that they could increase the range they grew each year, which now extends to more than 50 lines of vegetables throughout the year outdoors and in polytunnels. If you see McNally’s name-checked on a menu, you know you’re in a top place that really cares about what they put on the plate. Corinna Hardgrave

Eavaun Carmody has the largest herd of Dexter cattle in the country
Eavaun Carmody has the largest herd of Dexter cattle in the country

Eavaun Carmody, Killenure Castle Dexter Beef

With a background in fine art, sculpture and antiques, Eavaun Carmody started researching her local area after buying Killenure Castle in Dundrum, Co Tipperary in 2007. She discovered that it was from here that the Dexter breed of cows emanated, having been commissioned by Lord Hawarden, the Earl of Dundrum. Bred by crossing Kerry cattle with Ruby Devon, the Anglesey Welsh, and a local generic mountain breed, it was well suited to the more mountainous smallholdings in the area. Practically extinct, after a reduction in subsidies made raising a herd unprofitable, in 2014 Carmody set about building up her own herd to ensure their survival. She now has the largest herd in the country, and total numbers have grown to approximately 2,000. Corinna Hardgrave

Suzie Cahn, of Carraig Dúlra Permaculture Farm, Co Wicklow, teaches about permaculture, biodiversity and regenerative land and community
Suzie Cahn of Carraig Dúlra Permaculture Farm, Co Wicklow

Suzie Cahn, Carraig Dúlra Permaculture Farm, Co Wicklow

In 2007 Suzie Cahn and her husband Mike set up Carraig Dúlra, a social enterprise space on a four-acre smallholding on a Wicklow mountainside, on marginal land, to teach people about permaculture, biodiversity and regenerative land and community. They have sensitively worked with the land to begin the regeneration of the site, food production, and have an education facilitation space so that groups can come and learn there. In ways it functions like a large community garden, but their flagship work is in an eco-creative permaculture design course, which Cahn developed with two other women bringing a very strong people-care ethic. Corinna Hardgrave

Siobhan Ní Ghairbhith, St Tola Cheese, the Burren, Co Clare

Keeping their 60-acre family farm in the Burren viable and vibrant, and providing full-time employment for up to nine people producing her range of St Tola goats’s cheese, makes Siobhan Ní Ghairbhith very proud. The cheeses were originally made by Ní Ghairbhith’s neighbours, Meg and Derrick Gordon, running a cottage industry, but when they decided to retire in 1999, she saw the perfect opportunity to leave her job as a primary school teacher and move into cheese making. Her range of raw milk goats’ cheese produced from the family goat herd has national and international recognition, is stocked in premium retailers around the country, and features on the cheese boards of the country’s top restaurants, including Chapter One. Corinna Hardgrave

Birgitta Curtin of the Burren Smokehouse, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward
Birgitta Curtin of the Burren Smokehouse, Co Clare. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Birgitta Hedin Curtin, The Burren Smokehouse and Visitor Centre, Co Clare

It should probably be no surprise that Birgitta Curtin is the woman behind The Burren Smokehouse, as she grew up with one close to her family’s farm in a small fishing village near Stockholm in Sweden. Starting out small in 1989, Birgitta and her husband, Peter Curtin, have grown their business and they now smoke Irish organic salmon, wild salmon, mackerel and trout, supplying some of the top retailers and restaurants around the country, including McNean House, The Merrion Hotel and Ashford Castle. In 1994 they opened an immersive visitors’ centre, where you can learn how to smoke your own salmon. Corinna Hardgrave

Cynthia Fortune-Ryan has a small herd of rare-breed Kerry, Dexter and speckle park cattle in Johnstownbridge, Co Kildare and in Derrynane, Co Kerry
Cynthia Fortune-Ryan has a small herd of rare-breed Kerry, Dexter and speckle park cattle

Cynthia Fortune-Ryan, Metcalf Park Farm, Johnstown, Co Kildare

When Cynthia Fortune-Ryan returned to Ireland in 2014 after a fashion career in London, a visit to Raymonde Hilliard in Killarney, who is head of the Kerry Cattle society, sparked her interest in this native breed which was close to extinction. She invested in three Kerrys and a bull and now has a small herd of rare-breed Kerry, Dexter and speckle park cattle, in Johnstownbridge , Co Kildare and on the hillside in Derrynane, Co Kerry, where regenerative farming is at the heart of what she does. She delivers beef boxes directly from farm to customer and also supplies a number of restaurants in Dublin, including Asador in Ballsbridge and Vietnom in Stoneybatter, and plans include a pop-up beef restaurant. Corinna Hardgrave

Cáit Noone, hospitality academic

Cáit Noone has had a notable impact on the tourism and hospitality sector in Ireland. She is the vice-president for international engagement and head of Galway International Hotel School. She previously worked in China where she was the dean of the first international hotel management school there. Arriving back in Ireland as head of the department of hotel and tourism management in GMIT in 2007, she later became head of college in tourism and arts in 2012. She has worked in higher education since 1993 and brings a wealth of experience and insight to GMIT. She has also been a part of research projects in the tourism sector in Ireland, the UK, Switzerland and Asia. Adesewa Awobadejo

Deirdre Doyle, the Cool Food School
Deirdre Doyle, the Cool Food School

Deirdre Doyle, the Cool Food School

Teaching children about food through fun and interactive workshops is at the heart of what Deirdre Doyle and her team at the Cool Food School do. Their workshops in schools and pre-schools have helped thousands of children to learn more about healthy eating and how to make positive choices around food. The focus is on vegetables and fruit, and Doyle encourages participants to touch, taste and prepare things that they might otherwise avoid. She recently launched an online course, Food Fun for Pre-Schoolers, aimed at three- to five-year-olds, and her cookbook for children will be published by O’Brien Press in May. Marie-Claire Digby

Manuela Spinelli, secretary general of Euro-Toques Ireland. Photograph: Fergal Phillips.
Manuela Spinelli, secretary general of Euro-Toques Ireland. Photograph: Fergal Phillips.

Manuela Spinelli, secretary general of Euro-Toques Ireland

Perhaps best known as translator for football legend Giovanni Trapattoni when he was manager of the Irish soccer squad (and Pope Francis during his 2018 visit to Ireland), Manuela Spinelli’s twin obsessions are sport and food. The Italian, who has a black belt in judo, was once a member of her country’s national team, has been in Ireland since 1993. She now heads up Euro-Toques Ireland, a “community of chefs, cooks and food producers” and has promoted and fostered the careers of many young culinary stars through the association’s young chef competition. A proud exponent of Irish food, she also maintains loyalty to her own culinary heritage. Tell her at your peril you put cream in your carbonara. Marie-Claire Digby

Annette Sweeney, culinary studies academic and promoter of mindful kitchens. Photograph: James Forde
Annette Sweeney, culinary studies academic. Photograph: James Forde

Annette Sweeney, culinary studies academic

A culinary arts academic, Annette Sweeney co-ordinates programmes at TU Dublin Tallaght campus and is programme lead in the MSc in applied culinary nutrition. She is the creator of The Mindful Kitchen module – a first of its kind that’s delivered to first-year culinary arts students at TUDublin. It won the 2019 Jennifer Burke Award for innovation in teaching and learning. This module focuses on mindfulness for chefs by equipping them with healthy habits to deal with kitchen culture and to influence it. This is achieved through mindful resources, such as yoga and breath work. It also focuses on mindfulness and innovation in regards to food production, presentation and eating. Adesewa Awobadejo

Dr Mary Farrell, chef and campaigner
Dr Mary Farrell, chef and campaigner

Dr Mary Farrell, chef and campaigner

Mary Farrell is an independent researcher whose interests include gender equality, justice, health and food. She has made a mark highlighting issues of gender equality in the chef profession. She is also executive head chef at Morton’s Food Store in Ranelagh, Dublin 6 where she embraces the challenges of working in a full-time managerial role alongside her self-funded academic research projects. Keen on sustainability, she works rigorously to improve working conditions for her staff while offering high-quality food for customers. Adesewa Awobadejo

Gráinne Mullins, chef and founder of Grá Chocolates

Former winner of the Euro-Toques Ireland young chef of the year, Grainne Mullins took her career in a different direction when she launched her range of handmade chocolates in her home town of Kilchreest, Co Galway in July 2020. The range is made with premium Irish ingredients, and Valrhona chocolate, and each is individually hand painted. Mullins sells online in Ireland and Europe and has a concession in Brown Thomas, Dublin. Mullins is a self-taught chef, who broke away from her science studies at university to work in the pastry section of a Michelin starred restaurant in Aix-en-Provence. After two years there, she returned to Ireland and took up positions in high-end kitchens. After winning the Euro-Toques competition she had planned to travel and had a job offer in Indonesia, but the pandemic kept her at home, and she came up with the idea for her new business. Marie-Claire Digby

Grainne O’Keefe opened Mae, named after her late grandmother, in August 2021
Grainne O’Keefe opened Mae, named after her late grandmother, in August 2021

Gráinne O’Keefe, chef and restaurateur

A whirlwind of energy and ideas, Grainne O’Keefe has held down multiple roles while making her way up the kitchen ranks. At one time she was head chef at Clanbrassil House as well as culinary director of Bujo in Sandymount; now she is chef patron at Mae restaurant in Ballsbridge as well as retaining her role at Bujo. O’Keefe opened Mae, named after her late grandmother, in August 2021 and made it in to the 2022 Michelin Guide. On International Women’s Day, March 8th, O’Keefe and fellow chef Danni Barry will cook at a sold-out fundraising dinner in Mae, with the aim of funding the creation of an online directory of women producers in Ireland. Marie-Claire Digby

Paula Stakelum is director of chocolate and patisserie at Red Carnation Hotels
Paula Stakelum is director of chocolate and patisserie at Red Carnation Hotels

Paula Stakelum, director of chocolate

Formerly executive head pastry chef at Ashford Castle, Paula Stakelum has been promoted to director of chocolate and patisserie for the South African owned Red Carnation hotels group, which has 20 properties around the world. She collaborated with Beatrice Tollman, matriarch of the family that controls the group of hotels, to create a bespoke chocolate for the castle. Manufactured by Valrhona, it is called Legend, and is made with cacao sustainably sourced in Africa. In 2018 Stakelum, who is from Tipperary, reached the final eight in a worldwide patisserie competition and represented Ireland at the final of the Valrhona C3 championships in New York. Marie-Claire Digby

Aishling Moore, head chef Goldie Fish & Ale, Cork, brings vibrant flavours to her dishes
Aishling Moore, head chef Goldie Fish & Ale, Cork, brings vibrant flavours to her dishes

Aishling Moore, chef

Sustainability is at the core of everything Aishling Moore does at Goldie restaurant, which landed a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2021. She adopts what is commonly known as a fin to tail approach, seeking to use as much of a fish as possibly, but critically, it is about a whole catch philosophy. Whatever the day boats land on the shore in Ballycotton lands on the plate in Goldie. This means that it could be ling, pollock and hake one day and the next, it might be just one species of fish. She’s a skilled cook who brings vibrant flavours to her dishes, and is on a mission to get more children eating fish. On the first Wednesday of each month, younger diners accompanied by grown-up guests eat free. Corinna Hardgrave

Tara Gartlan was was part of the team that landed two Michelin stars for Chapter One
Tara Gartlan was was part of the team that landed two Michelin stars for Chapter One

Tara Gartlan, chef

From the moment she learned the significance of Michelin stars, Tara Gartlan knew that was the direction she wanted to take in her culinary career. As a pastry chef, she set out to work in top-end restaurants, where precision, dedication and artistry are required for very exacting work. Starting out in the Greenhouse with Mickael Viljanen when it had one star, she was part of the team that achieved two stars there in 2020. She moved with Viljanen to Chapter One by Viljanen and once again, was part of the team that landed two Michelin stars for what has become Dublin’s most celebrated restaurant. Her latest plans are to launch her own chocolate business, which will be gluten-free as she is a coeliac. Corinna Hardgrave

Eman Akarajeh, Izz Café, Cork

Eman Alkarajeh, from Jordan, and her Palestinian husband, Izzeddeen, arrived in Ireland as asylum seekers with their four children in 2016, living in direct provision in Dublin before being moved to Cork. She started cooking her food from home, manousheh and flatbread, which she had learned from her mother, in the communal kitchen of the direct provision centre. Word of her food spread, a friend introduced her to Darina Allen, and following her advice, she started selling her food at the farmers’ market at Mahon Point and Douglas. Seeing that there was a huge appetite for what they were doing, the couple opened Izz Café in Cork city in May 2019. She has plans to develop more dishes and products and wants to use their platform to encourage other refugees to start their own business. Corinna Hardgrave

Róisín Lawlor created the Saucy Cow food truck and is soon to open a restaurant on Crane Lane in Temple Bar, Dublin
Róisín Lawlor created the Saucy Cow food truck and is soon to open a restaurant on Crane Lane in Temple Bar, Dublin

Róisín Lawlor, Saucy Cow food truck

In 2019 Róisín Lawlor, who was working in the bank by day, opened a Saturday food stall in St Anne’s Park in Clontarf, selling the vegan food that had people drooling on her Instagram feed, particularly her recipes for “Big Dirty Hangover” curing vegan food. She now owns and operates the Saucy Cow, a vegan fast-food operation that specialises in combining food and fun, with a permanent location at Eatyard in Phibsborough, and a restaurant set to open on Crane Lane in Temple Bar. Corinna Hardgrave

Jess Murphy is the co-owner of Kai, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Jess Murphy is the co-owner of Kai, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Jess Murphy, chef

Jess Murphy is the co-owner of Kai in Galway city. Born in New Zealand, she has lived in Ireland since 2003 and recently became an Irish citizen. She opened Kai with her husband, David Murphy, in 2011. The Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant retained its Michelin green star in the 2022 Guide, just one of three restaurants in Ireland with this award. Murphy is committed to work supporting UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and is developing an idea for a book of recipes written by people who came to Ireland as refugees. Adesewa Awobadejo

Alexis Bowman, Fermoyle Pottery

In some restaurants, the plate or dish it is served on has become almost as much of a focal point as the food. Interest in unusual and unique ceramics is at an all-time high in gastronomic circles, and the name on everyone’s lips is Fermoyle Pottery, in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry. Alexis Bowman, originally from Sydney but living in Ireland for 15 years, and her partner Stephen O’Connell, create highly individual pieces for restaurants including Aimsir in Kildare, Aniar in Galway, Ichigo Ichie in Cork, Allta Wine Bar in Dublin, Ox in Belfast and Restaurant Chestnut in West Cork. Their first major client was Aimsir, and Jordan Bailey and Majken Bech-Bailey surprised them with an initial order of 800 pieces for the restaurant, that took the couple six months to complete. This year they will be working on new collaborations with chefs in Singapore, Paris and London. Marie-Claire Digby

Tara O’Connor, founder of The Designed Table
Tara O’Connor, founder of The Designed Table

Tara O’Connor, founder of The Designed Table

Not content with running her public relations and events business, Tara O’Connor Consulting, the Kildare-based businesswoman branched out during the pandemic and launched The Designed Table, a one-stop online shop for those interested in the art of tablescaping. The seasonal collections of tablecloths, runners, placemats, napkin rings and accessories, are designed by O’Connor and made in India. Fully immersed in the business, from design to delivery, she recently arranged a photoshoot for the upcoming range to be photographed while on a family holiday in the Maldives. Marie-Claire Digby

Aramide Oluwole, Sparkles Cocktail
Aramide Oluwole, Sparkles Cocktail

Aramide Oluwole, ‘upcoming entrepreneur’

Oluwole is chief executive of Sparkles Cocktail, a bespoke mobile bar service, specialising in alcoholic and non-alcoholic mixed drinks. Oluwole began making cocktails and mocktails in 2015 at a friend’s bridal shower. She won the “upcoming entrepreneur” in the Hergenuity Afrika Award in 2020. She now offers numerous products and packages that can be delivered all over Ireland. A popular product offered by Sparkles Cocktails is a West African drink called Zobo, made with hibiscus flowers. Adesewa Awobadejo

Felicia Awe, Awe-Some Productions
Felicia Awe, Awe-Some Productions

Felicia Awe, creative director

In 2017, Felicia Awe launched her business Awe-Some Productions. Since then the company has made a mark on the events industry all over Ireland, providing cocktail and dessert services for events, as well as party planning. Awe-Some Productions also runs cocktail masterclasses and desserts classes. Awe is chief executive and creative director of the company, which is based in Co Kildare. Adesewa Awobadejo

Morgan VanderKamer, sommelier

The year 2021 was a significant one for Morgan VanderKamer, the Canadian sommelier who has worked in restaurants in Dublin, London, Australia and Canada, and now owns and runs Barrow’s Keep in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny with her partner, Stephen McArdle. She was elected as the president of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers in October and went on to win the Sommelier of the Year at the 2021 Food & Wine awards. Generous with her time, she has the innate ability to inspire, particularly those new to the industry, running study groups and creating a supportive network for a sector of the industry that is growing in importance. Corinna Hardgrave

Róisín Curley, winemaker. Photograph: Jib Peter
Róisín Curley, winemaker. Photograph: Jib Peter

Róisín Curley, winemaker

An interest in wine and frequent trips to Germany’s wine regions in the Rhine valley to visit friends led to Mayo pharmacist Róisín Curley sitting the WSET wine exams and heading to Montpellier in 2010 to study for a MSc in viticulture and enology. In 2015, she set about achieving the seemingly impossible, making her own Maison Róisín Curley wine in Burgundy. Without a vineyard, she set up her own négociant vinificateur business to source and buy grapes, making 1,800 bottles of highly-acclaimed wine for her first vintage, later growing to 9,000. In 2020, after completing years of intense study, she joined the elite 418 in the wine world and was awarded a Master of Wine and now provides mentorship for Master of Wine candidates. Corinna Hardgrave

Lynne Coyle, Master of Wine
Lynne Coyle, master of wine

Lynne Coyle, master of wine

Lynne Coyle, wine director of family-owned O’Briens Wines, will be a familiar face to television audiences from her time as the wine expert on RTÉ’s The Restaurant. Born into a family of Scottish hoteliers and restaurateurs, she is a hotel management graduate and joined the wine trade in 1988, passing the WSET and Master of Wine exams while working in the UK and Ireland in the buying, marketing, and on- and off-trade sectors. Apart from being one of the best mentors in the business, and setting up Wine Spirit Woman with Justine McGovern, she also makes two of her own organic wines in Spain, with fellow female winemakers in Bodegas Tandem in Navarra and Lagar de Costa in Galicia. Corinna Hardgrave

Katherine Condon, distiller. Photograph: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography
Katherine Condon, distiller. Photograph: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Katherine Condon, distiller

For some reason, whiskey has traditionally been associated with men, but not anymore and there are now a number of women shaking up the industry, moving into the business of pots, stills and cask aging. Katherine Condon, a chemical engineer from west Cork, joined Irish Distillers in 2014 as part of the graduate distiller programme. After getting a diploma in distilling, she cut her teeth as a distiller at the Micro Distillery in Midleton, which is used as the Irish Distillers’ innovation hub, moved to the main distillery as a process technologist, and in 2020, was appointed distiller, responsible for the production process, from brewing to distillation. Corinna Hardgrave

Brigid O’Hora, Virtual Vineyards

As if she hadn’t enough to be doing, Brigid O’Hora, the mother of three lively young triplets, lit up the grid on Instagram during lockdown when she launched Bridey’s Wine Chats where she hosted engaging and informative live tastings, taking people through the art of tasting and spreading a load of love and fun with it. An accredited WSET wine teacher, she now runs Virtual Vineyards, an online wine tasting business, which includes six-week courses, staff training, corporate team-building events and mini masterclasses. Future plans include opening a permanent wine education school with courses that range from entry level to the WSET exams. Corinna Hardgrave

Emma Devlin, brewer
Emma Devlin, brewer

Emma Devlin, brewer

Emma Devlin and her husband Cathal O’Donoghue started homebrewing when they lived in New Zealand, where the mircrobrewing industry was thriving. Returning home to Ireland, they opened Rascals Brewing Company in 2014 and in 2018 renovated an industrial unit in Inchicore in Dublin, trebling their brewing capacity and adding a pizza restaurant, bar and off-licence to their business. They now have 13 taps pouring their own core beers, limited-edition one-off brews as well as small batch unique beers brewed on their 300-litre pilot kit, which can only be sampled in their HQ. Their beers are on tap in a number of Dublin bars and their canned beer is stocked by Supervalu, O’Briens Wines and independent off-licences. Corinna Hardgrave

Kristin Jensen, cook book editor and publisher, wants her publishing house to ‘enable more voices to be heard and more niches, topics and cuisines to be explored’. Photograph: Nathalie Marquez Courtney
Kristin Jensen, cook book editor and publisher. Photograph: Nathalie Marquez Courtney

Kristin Jensen, cook book editor and publisher

With more than 20 years’ experience as an editor and writer, Kristin Jensen took the plunge and launched her publishing house, Nine Bean Rows Books, in 2021. Blasta Books, an imprint of Nine Bean Rows Books, has just launched its first cookbook, with three more on the way. The new imprint features in a recent list, “50 things we love in the world of food right now”, in the Observer newspaper.

Jensen has said she wants her publishing house to “enable more voices to be heard and more niches, topics and cuisines to be explored”. Originally from Chicago, she came to Ireland “for love”, one week after graduating from university in 1991. Jensen is also former secretary and chair of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild. Marie-Claire Digby 

Órla Dukes, creative director, Host & Company
Órla Dukes, creative director, Host & Company

Órla Dukes, creative director

Some of the best hotels and restaurants in Ireland, including two of the country’s two-star Michelin restaurants and several five-star hotels, entrust their public relations campaigns to Dublin public relations firm Host & Company, where Órla Dukes is creative director.

Dukes has oversight of the firm’s events, campaigns and social media activities, as well as hospitality consultancy projects in Ireland and abroad. Describing herself as “a serious cook”, she brings considerable expertise to the food and beverage team at Host, where she is co-founder. Previously, she worked in arts administration and was food and travel writer for Business & Finance magazine, writing as Stella Morris, for six years. Marie-Claire Digby

Suzanne Campbell, journalist and broadcaster. Photograph: Paul Sherwood
Suzanne Campbell, journalist and broadcaster. Photograph: Paul Sherwood

Suzanne Campbell, journalist and broadcaster

Ask a food or farming question in an Irish context, and Suzanne Campbell will have the answer at her fingertips. She is co-author of Basket Case: What’s Happening to Ireland’s Food? and is a campaigning journalist contributing food and farming stories to RTÉ radio and television, the BBC, The Irish Times and the Independent. She is also co-founder of the Irish Food Writing Awards. Marie-Claire Digby

Lorraine Fanneran, restaurateur and digital creator
Lorraine Fanneran, restaurateur and digital creator

Lorraine Fanneran, restaurateur and digital creator

With 206,000 followers on Instagram, Lorraine Fanneran’s healthyfitbella account shares quick, easy recipe videos she films herself on her phone in her kitchen in Limerick. They are watched by viewers all over the world.

“They’re nothing new,” she says. “I put my own spin on them and make them as simple as possible and full of flavour.” Keeping on top of trends, especially online, is a feature of Fanneran’s slick digital content. Next up, she hopes to secure a book deal.

An early adopter of social media, Fanneran was one of the first to spot its potential to promote her business, and she was one of the first Irish food personalities on Twitter. She and her husband Bruno Coppola run two restaurants in Limerick, La Cucina and La Cucina Centro. Marie-Claire Digby

Dr Sally McKenna, food writer and publisher
Dr Sally McKenna, food writer and publisher

Dr Sally McKenna, food writer and publisher

As well as co-writing and publishing the McKennas’ Guides, with her husband John, Dr Sally McKenna is a photographer and videographer. She also curates the Theatre of Food programmes at Electric Picnic. She is based in west Cork, but often found out on the road, seeking out the best things to eat and drink and places to stay, all over the island of Ireland. She is also a leading authority on Irish seaweeds, having written Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweed in 2013. Marie-Claire Digby

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Caroline Kennedy, public relations. Photograph: Leon Farrell

Caroline Kennedy, public relations

Working at the luxury end of the public relations market, Caroline Kennedy, a DCU Communications graduate, television researcher and radio producer, founded Kennedy PR + Brand in 1992, and her client list is quite the little black book.

The Merrion Hotel, which is celebrating 25 years in business, has been on the books since day one, and other premium names include Ballyfin Demesne, Mount Juliet Estate, Sheen Falls Lodge and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. They are also the PR team behind the recent opening of The Cashel Palace Hotel, which has been lavishly restored and is probably all that anyone in the hospitality business is going to be talking about for the rest of the year. Corinna Hardgrave

Audrey Cahatol. Photograph: Naoise Culhane Photography
Audrey Cahatol, chef. Photograph: Naoise Culhane Photography

Audrey Cahatol, chef

A particularly light dessert at my recent dinner in Library St in Dublin had me wondering, whose idea it was to add a slightly textural note. It was an espuma of sheep’s milk and Velvet Cloud yoghurt with clementines and a refreshingly zesty clementine sorbet, but the slight bite of the ground mix of dehydrated zest and sugar was what made the dish so individual and special. The chef behind this inspired embellishment is 24-year-old Audrey Cahatol, who came to Ireland from the Philippines when she was 10. She studied at DIT, worked as a chef in The Pig’s Ear and Forest & Marcy, and front of house at the Grapevine in Dalkey, before joining the opening team at Kevin Burke’s exciting new restaurant and wine bar. Burke is the sort of mentor you want if you’ve got talent, so it is going to be very interesting to watch Cahatol progress and develop what seems to be a very intuitive style. Corinna Hardgrave





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