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Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Originally from Carlow, Mark Murphy went to Dingle for a day 17 years ago and has been there ever since. The Co Kerry gem has that effect on people.

It's a magical place with a wonderful food scene, which Mark became heavily involved with, including the annual Dingle Food Festival, the weekly farmer's market, and the Dingle Cookery School, which he started six years ago with Muireann Nic Giolla Ruaidh. Three years ago, he also took over The Little Cheese Shop, which is a delight.

"When Covid hit, the cookery school had to close. I was very nervous, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had bought quite a bit of stock for the shop, some of which was perishable," said Mark.

"It came at the time of year when Dingle would have been getting ready to get into full swing, but instead it almost emptied, the streets were quiet."

Mark decided to stay open as it was a food shop and was allowed to under the guidelines. He was behind the counter every hour it was open due to the fact that the cookery school was closed.

"The local community were brilliant, they continued to support me and all local shops. I picked up several new customers and during the lockdown did deliveries every evening - cheese on wheels. Our season has been short since lockdown lifted but it has been very busy," he said.

"Like everyone, I am very cautious of the next while. I am hopeful that if I can continue to keep making The Little Cheese Shop better, and can keep my doors open, I stand a good chance of surviving."

Based in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, Jane Russell has been making her eponymous handmade breakfast and dinner sausages for the past 16 years. She told me how she's been coping through the pandemic.

"We had a strong mix of retail and restaurant sales, but, literally overnight we lost all our restaurant sales - about 40pc of the business," she said.

"We have a small team of three long-term employees and we make everything by hand in the traditional way to ensure the highest quality.

"I remember these couple of weeks being quite stressful, but stopping even briefly wasn't an option as we couldn't risk losing our regular, loyal customers. So, with the help of our Local Enterprise Board we launched an online shop and by the middle of April were shipping cool-boxes full of sausages around the country.

"It's a delight to pack a 'birthday' or 'thank you' gift. We also offer a click-and-collect option and participate in the Grangecon and Kildare NeighbourFood markets."

Jane enjoys a good relationship with chefs, supplying a bespoke service making specific recipes for some, a certain size or shape for others, or maybe her fennel and chilli sausages for pasta sauces and ragu.

Food service has been slow to recover, but Jane is hopeful. Retail sales have continued to be strong and it's good to hear that independent retailers have made sure small suppliers are being paid in advance to help with cash flow.

"In such uncertain times, we are grateful our sausages continue to be put on our customers' weekly shopping lists."

Dubliner Vanessa Murphy and her Spanish partner Anna Cabrera own one of Dublin's most popular restaurants, Las Tapas de Lola on vibrant Wexford Street.

"We're an industry of optimists. We're always looking for the positives in the negatives - translating to, 'We're open, let's throw everything we can at it.' We've 45pc less people walking through the door, but it's great to be open again," said Vanessa.

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First Published In The Sunday Independent