Two words could aptly describe the ambience at the McCambridge food and wine fair on Thursday November 22 - professionalism and loyalty. Both of these elements were detectable from the moment the crowds entered the main hall of the Salthill Hotel - where the fair was held - and they were integral to the success of the event.
Forty stalls were occupied by award winning gourmet artisan food and wine producers. The collective sense of entrepreneurism radiating from McCambridge representatives and the participating suppliers was evident throughout. There was a distinct sense of personable attention from the staff members as they dispersed event programmes to the guests before signalling them to the display of food and wine stands in the hall. Those working on the stalls were equally inviting and helpful. Every passing attendant was quickly assisted by the owners of the individual stalls to help the crowds understand the products they were curious about. McCambridge’s was even able to accommodate those who wanted to buy products which caught their eye on the night by installing a miniature version of its bigger outlet - located on Shop Street - just outside the main hall of the Salthill Hotel.
The loyalty aspect of the evening was reflected in the estimated 900 guests who arrived to appreciate the McCambridge’s brand. McCambridge’s would not have garnered the success that it has done without the aid of the suppliers and their delectable and completely natural produce. This annual fair is an expression of McCambridge’s loyalty to its suppliers. For one night, the spotlight shone on their work and the customers could praise them directly. This is the ninth year of the McCambridge’s fair and it will not be long before food and wine suppliers submit applications to be part of the 10th one. “I’ll be getting phone calls in the morning to request to be part of the fair next year which is brilliant, we’re delighted that so many producers are interested in being involved in the fair,” said McCambridge’s company director Natalie McCambrdige.
The event was a throwback to the Irish commercial practices of years ago. The focus was on locally and naturally developed produce. The stalls were all placed in a way which mimicked the markets where ‘shop local’ was a business principle which thrived. Sadly, this wonderful custom is not as prevalent today, but according to Natalie McCambridge, campaigning for local producers is still integral to McCambridge’s ethos. “The purpose of this event is first and foremost to ensure that everyone has a great time but also to introduce them to something they may never have tasted before and then they might think ‘wow I love that, I’d love to buy a packet of this’, and that’s where we come in to give them access to that product. It’s also about promoting a shop local mentality in people. Galway is a fantastic area for shopping and this night aims to remind people of that.”
Unsurprisingly, Ms McCambridge remarked on the increased profits her business has accrued since the inception of the annual fair, but the suppliers are even more thankful for its existence. Helen Gee, owner of G’s gourmet homemade jam, from Abbeyleix Co Laois is a jam and fruits preservative connoisseur of 14 years and she was delighted to have her products displayed at the fair. “I have been associate with McCambridge’s for years and they have been brilliant to me. My sales have gone up and this type of event is great for getting to know other suppliers and mingling with them. All my products are made from nothing other than fruit and sugar on our farm.” Not only are G’s products of an organic origin but they are also without additives, nuts, or gluten, making them appropriate for almost any palate.
A warm bowl of porridge would be the practical way to prepare your body for winter weather and Kilbeggan Organic Products had its special brand of porridge oats on display at the McCambridge’s fair. Oats farmer Pat Lalor spoke candidly of the importance of the McCambridge’s business for retailing his products. “McCambridge’s have been so helpful to suppliers like myself. There is nothing hidden added to our products, it’s gourmet food and I’m delighted to sell the porridge through McCambridge’s.”
Cookery demonstrations abounded at the fair, including ones conducted by Green Saffron and Bord Bia. Green Saffron were represented by Arun Kapil, a graduate from the Ballymaloe school. His presentation focused on the use of aromatic spices in cooking, while Maire Duffy created beef tagine, pork chops, and chickpea salad dishes. Later in the evening, McCambridge’s head chef Heather Flaherty highlighted some efficient methods for cooking turkey.
The spectrum of products on show was astounding. There were a number of wine stands but pale ale also featured. Organic salmon, pasta, and spices were also available for sampling, and for those with a love of chocolate, there were numerous samples to nibble on. Kileen Farmhouse Cheese stationed in east Galway, Glenilen Farm, Drimoleague, Co Cork, and Pigs on the Green - a free range pork enterprise from Tullamore Co Offaly, were among some of the food specialists to make their premiere at the fair.
The McCambridge food and wine fair always coincides with the approach of the festive season and in many ways, the event is an embodiment of the spirit of Christmas. It offers a platform for indigenous suppliers to showcase their products and all the proceeds are donated to the schools and organisations which sold the tickets for the night, including the Dominican College, St Mary’s College, Galway Educate Together, Scoil Iognáid, Gael Scoil Mhic Amhlaigh, and Children’s Cancer Charity for the West, Hand in Hand.
Professionalism and loyalty are critical traits for a successful business and that is exactly why the McCambridge franchise still shines after three generations of business