Five Irish producers were honoured at the 2017 Euro-Toques Food Awards on Monday July 31. Although Euro-Toques itself was stablished in 1996, the awards were set up in 2005 to recognise producers of “food of notable flavour and quality” and are the only awards which are bestowed by Irish chefs. They are held annually to celebrate food produced in Ireland, no shortlists or nominations are published. Instead, the committee selects the products or producers whom they believe most deserve to be singled out in any particular year, based on the nominations of its members, with usually only five awards being presented annually.
No producers can be in the running unless they have been nominated by a Euro-Toques chef, who in turn subscribes to the highest standards in sourcing ingredients and culinary excellence, and who believes in and buys that product to put on his/her own menu. Producers cannot choose to enter the awards or canvass for consideration. In order to be considered a number of stages take place, including farm visits and information about production methods and environmental impact.
This year the awards received the highest number of nominations from chefs for artisan food producers since it began in 2005. The nominated producers covered an astounding array of categories, with winners ranging from new to multi-generational businesses. One of these winning companies was Galway’s own Gannet Fishmongers, with Stefan Griesbach accepting the honour for their locally sourced Irish wild fish. Owner Stefan is a familiar sight at the Galway Market and seafood supplier of choice to many of our best restaurants here in the city and further afield. He came here from France in 1997. He had first-hand experience of the fishmarkets in France and, on his arrival here, he worked his way through salmon farming and fish wholesaling and learned the industry from the bottom up. Shopping at the Gannet stall on a Saturday morning is one of life’s little pleasures, the Gannet team pride themselves on a well-stocked fish counter that caters for a wide range of customers from tourists to busy families. Every one of the team has all the skills needed for filleting and preparing a range of fish and shellfish as well as demonstrating the passion that makes a successful fishmonger.
Those who follow on social media are regularly alerted to the availability of blue ling, porcupine prawns, and line caught squid, kept informed on the Irish tuna season, the new Japanese style tuna knife, custom made in Cork, and the occasional early morning removal of a car unlucky enough to have chosen to park on their Market Street pitch.
Not only does Stefan strive to supply the best quality and best value in locally sourced, wild, Irish fish, he is also a great source of information about fish and the fishing industry. The crew at Gannet are among the few in their business to treat fish as a seasonal product and strive to educate their customers about it as such. If it were not for Stefan every menu in Galway would still be filled with cod, plaice, and the occasional darn of salmon. Gannet Fishmongers has introduced diversity and persuaded restaurants to try more exotic fish like megrim and sweaty Betty. Stefan does not keep up with the trends, he creates the trends himself.
Stefan is an experienced fishmonger who has a passion for developing his business further. Gannet’s green vision for the company puts a strong emphasis on local and seasonal sourcing, the bonus is that sourcing local is also the most sustainable and the carbon footprint of their fish is very small. The colourful electric van is now a familiar sight, brightening up Galway’s streets and roads as it delivers its fishy cargo to markets and restaurants with zero emissions. Gannet is the first Galway business using a van of this kind, but the team hope to see others follow suit — the new generation of electric vehicles covers a longer range and would suit many businesses.
The Euro-Toques award is more than an accolade. It acknowledges the personality and expertise behind Gannet’s quality seafood. It tests all of the requisite skills a good fishmonger must possess, from product knowledge and customer service to filleting and, in doing so, hopefully raises the bar across the sector. Gannet Fishmongers represents a bright future for this business sector which, after a difficult few years, has seen a recovery with seafood sales again on the increase. France’s loss is Galway’s gain.
Gannet Fishmongers, 5-6 Royal Rock, Ballybane Industrial Estate, Galway. Email:[email protected]