seafood journey in donegal

From Sea to Table: A Donegal Food Tale

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Updated on March 20, 2024

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‘If you’ve ever thought that New York is the only place where you can catch the ‘big fish,’ then you’ve clearly never been to Donegal.

Nestled in the rugged landscapes of Ireland, Donegal Food harbours its own tale of a man who traded the skyscrapers for fishing nets, only to find himself in the restaurant business.

His journey, from the tumultuous seas to the bustling dining scene, weaves a narrative that not only reflects the resilience of a man but also the spirit of an entire community.

Care to find out how he did it?’

Origins: A Donegal Food Family

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXZ37FaifTA

Born into a hardworking immigrant family from Donegal, our protagonist grew up in the bustling city of New York, where his mother served up meals in a Fifth Avenue restaurant and his family ran a lively bar in Killybegs, a renowned fishing port. This family heritage and cultural upbringing deeply ingrained a respect for hard work and a love for the sea.

His childhood was a blend of urban life and rural traditions, a testament to his parents’ efforts to keep their Irish roots alive. Witnessing the daily grind of the restaurant and bar business, he developed a keen grasp of hospitality. This, coupled with the constant exposure to Killybegs’ vibrant fishing industry, shaped his future, steering him towards a life where he’d marry his family’s heritage with his personal passions.

Life Amidst Killybegs Fishermen

Donegal Food

Immersing himself in the heart of Killybegs, he quickly became a part of the town’s vibrant fishing community, experiencing first-hand the unique rhythms and traditions that defined life among the fishermen.

The fishermen camaraderie was palpable, their shared experiences and stories binding them together. Traditional recipes were a crucial part of the community, passed down through generations, infusing every meal with a rich culinary connection to the sea.

The fishing traditions were honored, their practices steeped in respect for the ocean and its bounty. From the early morning catch to the late-afternoon mending of nets, he found himself captivated and inspired by this unique way of life, a testament to the enduring spirit of the Killybegs fishermen.

Venturing Into the Fishing Business

Drawing on his childhood experiences, he took a bold step into the fishing industry, trading his teaching career for the ownership of a fishing boat in Killybegs. This marked his foray into the world of fishing entrepreneurship.

The quaint port town of Killybegs, known for its pelagic fish like mackerel and herring, served as the backdrop for his new venture. He brought with him a unique blend of passion and industry insights, learnt from years of observing the local fishermen. He soon tasted success with trawler fishing for monkfish, despite the fishing license restrictions and issues around sustainability.

His venture reflected the spirit of Donegal, a tale of courage and determination, from sea to table.

Navigating Industry Challenges

Donegal Food

Despite his initial success, he soon found himself grappling with the innate complexities and challenges that came with the rapidly changing fishing industry. Market trends were evolving quickly and sustainability practices became paramount.

To ensure his business thrived, he needed to adapt. He embarked on a rigorous competition analysis, understanding the strategies employed by successful industry players. He gleaned insights from customer feedback, identifying what was missing in the market and how he could fill the gap.

His efforts to navigate these challenges were marked by resilience and innovation. He balanced the need for profitability with his commitment to sustainable fishing, proving that industry success and ecological responsibility weren’t mutually exclusive.

His journey presents a compelling tale of adaptability and perseverance.

Impact of Legislation on Business

Legislation changes struck a hard blow to his business, affecting the white fish sector significantly. The regulatory impact necessitated swift operational adjustments. His business strategies had to pivot, ensuring survival in the face of these new legal constraints.

The previously thriving monkfish business was threatened, leading him to reconsider his approach. He’d to contend with the harsh reality that the new laws weren’t necessarily in his favor. However, he wasn’t deterred. Instead, he viewed this as a challenge to overcome. He realized that to thrive, he needed to adapt and evolve.

This necessity of altering his business model, although initially daunting, eventually led to the creation of a more resilient, robust, and diversified enterprise. Thus, legislation changes, while disruptive, sparked innovation.

The Leap From Sea to Table

Donegal Food

Navigating rough seas of change, he smartly steered his business towards the restaurant industry, marking the start of an exciting culinary journey from the sea to the table.

This move wasn’t simply a business decision but a testament of his belief in culinary innovation and an expression of his commitment to sustainability practices.

Using his intimate knowledge of Donegal’s sea bounty, he crafted dishes that showcased the fresh, local seafood in a way that respected both the produce and the sea it came from.

Despite the challenges, he was determined to create a dining experience that reflected the authenticity of Donegal.

The leap from sea to table was no small feat, but the result was a celebration of Donegal’s sea-to-table heritage in every bite.

Birth of The Tea House

Breathing new life into an old farmhouse, he converted it into a charming tea house, aptly named ‘The Tea House,’ that offered breathtaking views of Donegal Bay. This farmhouse conversion wasn’t just about creating a cozy space, but also about preserving the essence of Donegal’s heritage.

With rustic decor that whispered tales of the past and windows that framed the enchanting Irish landscape, ‘The Tea House’ became an embodiment of the region’s history and natural beauty. On the menu, traditional dishes took center stage. Each bite was a nod to Donegal’s rich culinary culture, featuring locally sourced ingredients.

He’d managed a seamless blend of old and new, setting the stage for an experience that was both nostalgic and novel.

Evolving Into Evening Dining

Donegal Food

While ‘The Tea House’ was charming in its daytime glory, the real magic began when the sun set and it transformed into an evening dining destination. This was when culinary creativity truly shone, with a menu that reflected the essence of Donegal’s seascape.

Fresh seafood, locally sourced ingredients, and innovative dishes thrilled the palates of discerning diners. The customer experience was carefully curated, from the warmly lit ambiance to the attentive but unobtrusive service.

Each evening, the restaurant buzzed with the energy of satisfied customers, intrigued by the fusion of local produce and gourmet cooking. The transition from a quaint teahouse to a sophisticated evening eatery didn’t just enhance the dining experience; it told a powerful story of Donegal, from sea to table.

Branding and Operational Hurdles

Despite the success of the evening dining transition, the rebranding to Kitty Callie presented its own set of operational hurdles. The team had to redefine their branding strategies, ensuring that the charm of the old farmhouse wasn’t lost in the modernity of Kitty Callie.

Every operational detail, from menu to decor, was scrutinized to maintain authenticity while enhancing operational efficiency. The shift in brand identity required careful navigation to avoid alienating the existing customer base. The rebranding also meant retraining staff, adjusting operating hours, and recalibrating supply chains.

These operational hurdles, while daunting, were integral to the rebranding process. The team’s commitment to overcoming these challenges was testament to their dedication to the vision of Kitty Callie.

Overcoming Challenges: A Success Story

Facing these challenges head on, the Kitty Callie team turned potential obstacles into a remarkable success story. Their resilience became the backbone of their success, turning threats to the business into opportunities for growth.

They innovated, shifting their focus from daytime to evening dining, and their persistence paid off. Sales quadrupled, demonstrating their adaptability in the face of adversity.

The team’s innovative approach to evening dining and their resilience in overcoming operational challenges manifested in financial success.

The story of Kitty Callie isn’t just about a successful restaurant. It’s a tale of persistence, resilience, innovation, and adaptability. It’s a testament to the team’s unwavering will to succeed amid challenges, and is truly a Donegal success story.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Influenced the Decision to Transition From Teaching to Owning a Fishing Boat?

Their passion for the sea, deeply embedded from childhood experiences in Killybegs, greatly influenced their career shift. Being a teacher offered insights into the world, but their heart yearned for the ocean’s call.

They’d grown up observing the fishing industry’s ebb and flow, a rhythm they found more appealing than a classroom’s structure. So, they traded chalk for nets, embracing a life that felt more authentic, more connected to their Donegal roots.

How Did the Family’s Bar in Killybegs Influence the Person’s Interest in the Fishing Industry?

Growing up, the family’s bar in Killybegs was central to their life. It’s where they learned about bar management and observed the local fishing industry. Being immersed in that environment, surrounded by fishermen, sparked an interest in the industry.

The family influence was strong; their livelihood was intertwined with the sea. This upbringing shaped their perspective, leading to a deep appreciation for the sea’s bounty and a desire to be part of the fishing industry.

What Were Some of the Specific Challenges Faced in Obtaining a Fishing License?

Obtaining a fishing license wasn’t a walk in the park. They faced numerous hurdles. Strict fishing regulations made license acquisition a complex process.

Tricky paperwork, stringent eligibility criteria, and limited license availability added to the challenge. They’d to prove their fishing knowledge, experience, and adherence to sustainability practices.

It was a daunting task, but they were determined to succeed.

How Did the Changing Legislation Specifically Impact the White Fish Sector and Their Business?

Legislative consequences drastically altered the white fish sector’s landscape. New restrictions limited fish catches, affecting their business’s viability. They found themselves battling against shrinking quotas and sustainability requirements.

This forced a sector evolution, shifting their focus away from fishing to other ventures. These challenges led them to transform an old farmhouse into a successful restaurant, proving that adversity can indeed spark innovation.

Can You Provide More Details on the Operational Challenges Faced When Transitioning to Evening Dining at Kitty Callie?

When they transitioned to evening dining at Kitty Callie, they faced several operational hurdles. Staffing needed adjusting, as they needed employees who could work nights. They also had to rethink their menu to suit an evening crowd.

Additionally, there were logistical issues, like arranging taxis for customers. However, they tackled these challenges head-on, ensuring the smooth running of their operations and the satisfaction of their clients.

Conclusion

In our tale of ‘From Sea to Table: A Donegal Tale’, we’ve seen how a resilient fisherman turned restaurateur navigated the tumultuous seas of the fishing industry and restaurant business. He achieved impressive success, transforming a humble tea house into the thriving Kitty Callie.

His journey demonstrates the power of perseverance, strategic planning, and adaptability. Truly, this Donegal story serves as an inspiring testament to the rewards of hard work and determination.

Video Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00)
In this episode of Amazing Food and Drink, I’m going to be talking about my food journey from Donegal, a little fishing port called Killy Bags, in the southwest of the county. We’re looking at my journey through owning a fishing boat, to sheep farming, to inheriting a sheep farm, to opening a little tea house, turning it into a restaurant, and running a pub, and becoming a chef. So bear with me as the story gets told.

Speaker 2 (00:29)
So welcome to Amazing Food and Drink TV. We’re here today with Hugh O’Donnell, the owner and founder of Hugh’s Bar in Kelly Bags. And he also owned a restaurant previously called Kitty Kelly’s. And Hugh is going to tell us all about his story. And Hugh, thanks very much for coming in. And over to you. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

Speaker 1 (00:50)
Thank you very much. Well, I’m from Donegal. I was actually born in New York. My parents were emigrants, and my mother used to work in the restaurant business on Fifth Avenue. She served Marlin Monroe during the seventh Year Rich. My God. And they moved back in ’63, and they bought the pub, the family pub, and we were brought up over the bar. And so it was a 23 and a half hour licence that time. So the bar because of the fishing industry, it would kill me as a fishing port. That’s right. Basically, we very quickly became cannon father for the bar, and we would be thrown in there to wash glasses and stock shelves. And at that time, we used to bottle the Guinness as well and the bottles of Smithwakes and Phoenix and all those double diamond, all those whole brands that are nearly all gone by Guinness and Smithwakes. So it was a pleasant operating and it was really nice. Sometimes during the summer, it would be hard going to try and keep an eye on us. So we were shipped up to our aunts farm up in Longford, which was a great treasure chest of farming and self-sufficiency and And away from the parents.

Speaker 1 (02:01)
And away from the parents, but in the middle of nowhere, really. And what’s the slang word for longford long forgotten county? That is right. So we used to see hams curing and hanging down from ceilings and pigs being killed and horses and cows and milk and dairy and the whole lot up there. So I think I got a great introduction into food. And plus the fact I was being brought up in a fishing town when I came home from longford. So you’re always bags of fish. And the fishermen used bags of fish like a currency. They might give you a bag and you get something in return for it. A couple of pints? Well, yeah. And the other people, everybody was trading with wee bags of fish. And these bags of fish would be lying at the window as you came in the door. And sometimes after a few pints, the owner of the bag of fish would forget to take them with them. So a few locals used to say, see them bags? They’re little bags of worries. People We’ll bring them in and they leave without them. Very good. Without the fish.

Speaker 2 (03:05)
That’s a silly slicker that is absolutely yelling to me, but it sounds brilliant.

Speaker 1 (03:09)
We always have great fresh fish in Kellybags. Kellybags is, by and large, a pelagic town, so it’s landing pelagic meaning oily fish, like mackereel and heron. Mackereel is the main fish at the moment. Heron stocks went under threat, and there was a lot of conservation measures. And so we were always cooking fish, and it was natural food, and it was always a part of the diet.

Speaker 2 (03:35)
Tell me, would they sell the fish locally or is it for the export market?

Speaker 1 (03:39)
Well, at the time, it was locally. There was an auction hall on the pier, and the buyers would come in and buy it and that. But years later, after I came home from college, my father died in 1986. I was 26, so I ended up being sucked into the bar to take over the bar. It Previous to that, I was a teacher in a secondary school, so I was just starting my teaching career, and I came back to do this. And so I then, along with a friend of mine who had a fishing licence for tonnage, there was a a lottery system going for new licences. He applied for it and he got the new licence. He asked me would I come involved in the fishing industry with him. So we ended up buying our own fishing boat called the Mare Dawn. And prior to this, it had been at the Scottish Oil Wells. We had to do a full scale conversion into a fishing trawler. Now, when I say trawler, we started off making it a gill netter first. Basically, a gill netter hasn’t really looked upon as politically correct anymore because it’s just visualised- Trolls everything?

Speaker 1 (04:51)
Well, it’s like a tennis net in the middle of the tennis court, and we’re all swimming in and we get caught by the gill. It’s a very fine mesh, and it’s really probably not eco friendly to fish stocks. So we were doing that, but there were some conditions attached to the fisheries licence, the new one that we just won. And we weren’t allowed. We were only allowed to fish box seven and box seven Sorry, Box 6 and Box 7, which is off Mayo, up to North Donegal. So we weren’t allowed to go down south to Kerry, or we weren’t allowed to get up to the Rock Hall area and that type of thing. So we had to fight away a lot of campaigning and going to politicians to see could we get the restrictions lifted, which we eventually did because they were threatening the sustainability of the boat. And by begging and borrowing, we actually managed to convert it to a trawler. So trawler is like pulling a shopping bag after you and this fish have a choice to swim in or out. You know what I mean? If they’re small enough, they get out at the other side and they don’t get caught by the gillet, you see.

Speaker 1 (05:56)
So that was much more eco friendly. And I have to say we got great success with it. Then a new piece of legislation came into place in the south where the white fishing sector, which is what we were in, Munch Fish, Hake, Haddock, that type of thing. Cod. Cod, yeah. That was those stocks were under threat, and the boats that were out of fishing them were having to go further out into the Atlantic beyond the continental shelf. Okay. They were really not fit for purpose, and they were unsafe. So the government came in with this safety measure to upgrade these boats so you could qualify for a 50 % grant. So my partner wanted to go on to the next level, and he wanted to buy a seven million boat, and we were going to get 3.5 million on grants, but we would have had to borrow 3.5. Come up with a 3.5 million, yeah. So I was getting nervous at this stage, and I decided now I needed to get out and let him go further on his own, which he did. But the boat was built in Denmark, and by the time it arrived in Ireland, the actual stocks that it was fishing and had based all its sustainability on, I think Orange Ruffy and that, they were ex-quota, and suddenly quotas were slapped on them while the boat was being constructed.

Speaker 1 (07:21)
So by the time that boat sailed in the Killebags on his maiden voyage, it was doomed. It didn’t have a financial viable future. Oh, my God. So I was very, very Very lucky to get out of it. And my friend, my ex-partner, was very lucky to eventually get out of it after selling it off on that.

Speaker 2 (07:37)
Thank God.

Speaker 1 (07:38)
But I had turned my energy to opening a little restaurant. It was a little farm house that we had. My father also had a farm, which I had taken over. It was basically a hill sheep farm. I’m not saying it was the best sheep farm, but I learned how to put in lamb in beds back into the yows and do their feet. It’s my good God. Do the inject them and dose them and that type of thing for worms. So it was pleasant doing it, but it suffered from hay fever and it wasn’t a great occupation to be doing with hay fever. But we had this little house, and It was just the old farm house that had been basically restored. And the council had developed a little viewing point overlooking Donegal Bay, which is just about 100 metres away from the house. So I decided to turn it into a tea house. Amazing. So it was just called the tea house, and it’s on the worst bend in Ireland. I mean, you would have to really bless yourself to get off the road. But it did a huge business, and we started off doing Irish stew and cod, salted cod and white sauce.

Speaker 1 (08:47)
All traditional stuff. And creamy mashed potato, that type of thing. No airs and graces. We made our own tea racks and brown breads and scones. It was really, really busy. But in hindsight, when you I look back on it, it was really hard to make money because you’re getting low spend and you’re busy washing all these cups and saucers and everything has to go through the washer again. So by accident, I stumbled in to be taking it on as an evening restaurant and I could see the huge increase.

Speaker 2 (09:18)
And were you doing both simultaneously?

Speaker 1 (09:19)
No, at first, I started off as the. And after a couple of years of that, I decided the money was in the evening because, let’s face it, you can sell a starter, a pre-dinner drink, starter, a main course, a dessert, a bottle of wine, maybe an Irish coffee, and phone them a taxi. So the sales were quadrupled for the same effort and energy and all that. And so in order to move away from the tea house, we had to come up with a new brand. I was just a great believer in anything like Dirty Nellies with two Ys. I came up with Kitty Kellys. Yeah, it was very catchy. It was catchy, but I spent an awful lot of time explaining who Kitty was.

Speaker 2 (10:06)
She had to make a backstory for her. It was your great grandma.

Speaker 1 (10:09)
Yes. And we came up with a lot of stories, but I think we stretched the credibility of a factor on it. So basically, I started at about ’89, and I only sold the restaurant two years ago, in about ‘217. And I sold it to a really nice couple, a French man, Rémy Dupont and his wife Donna, who’s local. But Rémy was the head chef in Castle Moray House Hotel, which a lot of people would know about.

Speaker 2 (10:36)
He had been there a many a time.

Speaker 1 (10:37)
And he’s French-style cook, and he’s taking it now, and he’s taking it to a new level where it’s very much fine dining. I love it. I still like going up there. But the fine dining, when you say fine dining, it’s not a rip-off fine dining. It’s very affordable. The last time I was up, it was 26 euro for Sunday lunch. For three courses and coffee. Fantastic.

Speaker 2 (11:02)
If it’s anything like the food was in Castle Mary House, it’s out of this world. He does a dish with monkface tails, Prawns and garlic on top and give you bread to dip in.

Speaker 1 (11:12)
Oh my God. We had. We stole that dish off him originally and put it on our menu. It was really lovely and a big cellar. But we had loads of lovely dishes at the time, and we were very experimental. We were doing macril in Seville style, and we were marinating it in orange and segments of orange. It really bleached the orange. The acidity of the orange bleached the fish. The fish was nearly white. It was nearly like chicken. It broke down the bone texture and made it-Cutting edge stuff.

Speaker 2 (11:45)
It was really lovely.

Speaker 1 (11:47)
Of course, we did our own desserts and everything was homemade, and I think we were a bit ahead of the policy. But the fact that I had such strong links with the fishing, I was able to get really good quality fish fresh off the boat into the restaurant.

Speaker 2 (12:03)
And nearly design your menu around that then. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (12:05)
And then we used fish that you wouldn’t really see, like gurnard. I mean, gurnard is such a lovely fish. I’ve had gurnard. Yeah. And it’s like mugfish. Mugfish years ago wasn’t appreciated by local people. And the head of the mugfish is quite ugly. And they used to think it would call it the devil’s fish. And nobody really wanted to touch it.

Speaker 2 (12:30)
They used to verbate if I’m not wrong, I think. The ones did.

Speaker 1 (12:31)
They would think it was bad luck to have on the hook. I think it was the French that introduced us to mugfish. And what else? The garnet brought in. And garnet’s used as bait for lobsters. And that’s how much… There’s a hierarchy of respect amongst the fish world. And the fishermen don’t have much respect for garnet, even though I think it’s a great fish. A nice fish, yeah. And I think the best I’ve I’ve never seen it cooked was here in Belfast with more than Seafood bar. They’re big fans of us. Andy Ray, yeah. So the other thing I learned as well in dealing with fish was going back to the time of the fishing boat, the Mary Dawn. You asked me earlier, where do we sell the fish? It was always local. But by the time we were selling fish the first year when we’d done the trawler, we were really getting the worst price possible. And what was happening was that the fish buyers had nearly agreed the price before the boat arrived in. You I’ll bid on this and you buy so and so’s fish, and I’ll buy that. So there was no real- It was like a close shop.

Speaker 1 (13:34)
It was like a cartel, and we weren’t really getting beyond the sustainable, the viable price we would have given.

Speaker 2 (13:43)
The break even stuff, yeah.

Speaker 1 (13:45)
So we came in contact with a Spanish guy from Barcelona who was a fish agent, and he wanted to buy our fish direct, and he would take it over by lorry to Barcelona and sell it within two days on the Barcelona fish market, and we would get the price, and he would get it cut. And I know a lot of these things are something you put your faith in God and say, I don’t know, is that going to work?

Speaker 2 (14:08)
Will we ever see that? Yeah, fish again, yeah.

Speaker 1 (14:10)
But he was really solid and really reputable, and he got us. He increased the profitability of the boat by something like 40 %. We were getting premium prices, and we had broke away from this local market. And we weren’t too popular with fish buyers, but we were very popular with our bank manager, who was worrying about us. And then other with smaller white fish boats start to follow suit. So at the moment, you will not get a white fish sold on the pier in Kelly Banks. Auction Hall is gone. Auction Hall is gone. And people are constantly selling direct to the Barcelona market.

Speaker 2 (14:47)
Brilliant. And that still happens this day?

Speaker 1 (14:48)
Still happens this day. Now, as well as that, Adort Lake claimed the whole success of that. But a lot of Spanish boats have actual tonnage rights to catch fish in the Western Seaboard of Ireland. And they land in Killibags, and they have their own lorries as well that land. So it’s out, out, out of town.

Speaker 2 (15:08)
Brilliant.

Speaker 1 (15:10)
One could argue it’s sad for the town, in a sense, because you could add on processing value. But Killibags is just not a huge whitefish town. Pelagic is the way that people make money for fish processing, freezing. And Dunmore East, down in the East Coast of Ireland, and Castletown Bear, they’re the main towns. That’s the capital of the whitefish sector. We’re the capital of the oil fishing.

Speaker 2 (15:33)
I didn’t know that.

Speaker 1 (15:34)
That’s news to me. Good theme for a festival, the oil fishing.

Speaker 2 (15:37)
The oil fishing, pretty good indeed. You were a teacher, you’ve been a sheep farmer, a fisherman, and then a publican?

Speaker 1 (15:45)
Well, the publican, yeah. And I have to say in the beginning, I was probably apprehensive. Again, bar was just you have to have a big, gregarious personalities for some of them, bar and fishing down, and know the price of fish and all that things. I suppose what happened was I evolved into the bar and I became comfortable with the bar, but I began to get the bar to reflect my own personality. I would factor myself as very creative. I’m always trying to do things as they were different. We were the first to get in on the gin. We were never really a gin and tonic bar prior to the gin craze and the premium gin craze and the big goblet glasses and everything. So we were very quick in there. And that was huge for bars. It really rescued a lot of bars. It give the customer- The gin revolution? It did. It give people an introduction to tonics. We have 12 premium gins, and we have twelve tonics to match. Brilliant. Just back from Chesair there, the taste of Chesair, and I came across this guy who does these little vials of syrups that you can use for making your own tonic, use the soda water and you add the syrup and then you add it to the gin.

Speaker 1 (17:04)
So it lets everybody become a mixologist. Very innovative. Loved it and I must see- Are you bringing it back to who? Well, I took that little gift box back, but I’m going to have to see, is there a sensible way of buying it and sourcing it. I think he’s very small scale at the moment. He’s in the University in Chester at the moment.

Speaker 2 (17:21)
Or develop your own.

Speaker 1 (17:22)
Or develop your own, because we have a tourism college in Kelly bags. So when I came back to Kelly bags, got involved in the bar, then got involved in the fishing, and then got involved in the restaurant business. The next thing that was screaming out at me is I had only one chef at the time, and she was brilliant, but she needed two days off a week, and it was really hard to get that extra person to fill in for two days. So she introduced me to cook and Louise Ivers was her name, and she got me to cook all the dishes that I needed to cook for her days off. So I managed to do it without anybody really noticing Louise degrees wasn’t there.

Speaker 2 (18:00)
So hold on, I have to add chef now to this, Loomis?

Speaker 1 (18:03)
Chef now. I went to the Tourism College in Killebags, and I did the chef course over three-day release programme that they had, which was brilliant. I was going to go on afterwards, and I did one year of the degree in advanced culinary art, but I really felt I didn’t really want another degree. I had one already, and I wasn’t making a huge use out of it, and I didn’t think this extra one was going to do a lot more. I thought for me, it would be better to spend my time going to the odd cookery school and do practical demos and work with other people, which I still do to this day. I got my qualification out of the college, which was great. Because then it give me an insight into the chef’s head. A lot of chefs gets accused of being temperamental. Oh, the panic and the shout and the scream. You can understand why. It’s a huge pressure cooker in a kitchen. Nice and hot. It was ready to explode at any given time. Then you go out to the restaurant and there’s nice piano music. It’s all calm. Everybody’s drinking a gin tonic or Pinogresio when everything’s nice and calm.

Speaker 2 (19:13)
The It was Bedlam in the kitchen.

Speaker 1 (19:15)
Bedlam in the kitchen. I understood the whole psychology of chef and where everything was coming from. I was able to, with my qualification then, I was able to look at pricing. I was able to plan menus in the absence of a chef. I was able to understand how much extra work, if we were doing a new dish, how much extra work that would put on a chef, and did we have enough manpower in the kitchen to do these things. We were able to make reasonable and rational decisions and liaising with the chef. So it lent itself to great relationships in the kitchen. And on a busy night, when it’s under pressure, you get in there and you can wash dishes or you can do starters or you can help with desserts or do the main courses. You’re very flexible. And it’s that extra set of hands for maybe 15 to 20 minutes, which is all they need. Yeah. Just to pull themselves up. And I mean, there’s nothing worse than these printers and kitchens that keep churning out reams and reams of paper and you don’t know what’s… What’s what? Half of them could be voids.

Speaker 1 (20:17)
And you’re just saying, oh, my God, many people’s out there. So 200s come in.

Speaker 2 (20:23)
You are the archetype of Jack of All trades, I have to say. Unbelievable.

Speaker 1 (20:27)
So going Then back then to the bar. I then decided… I got a guy to manage the restaurant for me, and he was actually doing it better than I was doing it, and I let him add it. I then was getting frustrated. I was missing the food. I turned our back bar into a gastrobar in Kelly bags. It became known as 22 Main Street. I really enjoyed that because we obviously didn’t have the high numbers that Katie Kelly’s was doing. It was Katie would have been doing 80 to 100 a night, we were maybe starting off with 30, 40. But by the end of year two, we were up at about nearly 80 to 100. So both restaurants were doing extremely well. Our style down there was we really were doing a lot of the shellfish. We were grilling oysters. We were deep-frying oysters with a little bit of bacon and then melted cheese.

Speaker 2 (21:26)
Salivating here.

Speaker 1 (21:28)
We’re doing all that type of thing, and it was really working very well for us. Then as well as all that, the food scene was improving all the time, and there was small artists and producers moving into the area, and say, filigons chutneys down in Glenties. They were really great chutneys. I think they got into Harrods there. Very good. They’ve been in Harrods for a while. I would say, for example, we were doing calamari with a peach cardamom chutney and a Greek yoghurt as well as a dip, which was a big move away from tart or sauce or a mayonnaise, garlic mayonnaise. Completely different. Carly, mayonnaise. This was all happening as well. Then I established the Kelly Bakes Seafood Festival, and we were using the local tourism college, and we were taking in celebrity chefs from, let’s say, Neve and Maguire. There was a guy called Seamus O’Collier down in Cork. He was doing sushi using potato crisps, and rolling the crunchy crisps inside before he rolled the sushi roll. Oh, very good. Rice. And he was really interesting. And he was doing an Irish version of sushi.

Speaker 2 (22:40)
Yeah, it’s a twist Irish twist on sushi.

Speaker 1 (22:42)
Very good. And then baking and using the seed, the nori seaweed as well. So it was all a nice combination. It was very cutting edge. We ran that for about three years. And I suppose with my connexion with the tourism college, having done the course, then Then starting up the bringing in chefs to the area and using the tourism college as a venue. It was all helping develop a good relationship with the college. Very good. I was able to, during the summer, I was getting considered for placements for students to come to me and get placed for training.

Speaker 2 (23:20)
Very good indeed.

Speaker 1 (23:21)
Then I suppose as a result of that, while the The Fáilte Ireland were launched in the Wild Atlantic Way as part of the brand development for the West Coast of Ireland, and I got selected as a Fáilte Ireland Food Ambassador. I suppose it was from my experience because you had to be recommended by your peers to get involved in this. So there were three that year out of a total of seven came from Donegal. Another one was Mary McGedigan from The Taste of Donegal, and then Zack Geller, who’s quite an established food blogger at the moment. And then you also had Donald Daurier from Harry’s and Harry’s Shack, maybe up here in the north.

Speaker 2 (24:06)
Yeah, I’ve heard of Harry’s Shack. And what was your role then as Food Ambassador?

Speaker 1 (24:09)
Well, say like so, Donald Daurier was brought on the previous year to me, and then I was brought on the next year. So there was two years where they recruited, we’ll say, 7, 7, 14 food ambassadors from all over the… Wherever the route was. So I suppose our role was… The idea was that we would bring back the message of what local food food was and the sourcing and the main provenance, sustainability. Provenance, food on a plate, place on a plate. And that time, even though that was gathering its own attraction anyway internationally, I suppose in a sense, if you were a tourist and you came to the West Coast of Ireland, you drove up that and you had the sea on one side and you had the land and the lambs and the sheep on the other. And then you went to a menu that night and there was neither fish nor lamb on the menu. And you were getting chicken in Kyiv and you didn’t see a chicken for the whole duration. This is where the problem was.

Speaker 2 (25:01)
And Indian couries, yeah.

Speaker 1 (25:03)
So this was the problem had to be addressed. But by and large, it’s well addressed now. I think people were getting there on their own way anyway by reading trends and seeing what was happening. But it’s very successful now, and the brand has developed leaps and bounds. And we’re very lucky where we are in Kelly bags in that we have one of the iconic attractions, and that’s Sleeve League. And that really pulls a lot of people in, and it’s the highest sea clips in Europe.

Speaker 2 (25:35)
It’s very scurrying down, not bad.

Speaker 1 (25:36)
Well, there’s been a huge improvement on the road, and you wouldn’t have… I know what you’re talking about, but you’re going to go up and you see your bonnet of the car going up, but you’re not too sure how you’re going to get back.

Speaker 2 (25:46)
I want to come down again.

Speaker 1 (25:47)
Have you gone over the cliff or not? But you have a lovely boat trip you can do from Thielen Port, which is on the new Lastar. A fellow called Paddy Burn has it, and it takes It’s two hours. It leaves every two hours from the port, 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, 4:00. Where does it go? It just takes you around the bay and to see the cliffs from the sea. It’s one of the most magnificent because views you’re ever going to see. It looks like columns from a cathedral going up into the skies. It’s really a spiritual experience.

Speaker 2 (26:20)
Oh, I have to go and do that.

Speaker 1 (26:21)
And a nice day, and it’s not too choppy where you go. He doesn’t go out of his too. Too rough. Too rough. He’s two boats now, and he’s a good- Things are going well then for him.

Speaker 2 (26:32)
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (26:33)
So going back to the bar then again, we had a fire in the bar. My mother, who used to serve Marlin, was upstairs over the bar in bed. She was like a hedgehog in the bed. She didn’t realise it was a fire at all in the house. And she was rescued by the fire brigade just in time. Thank God. The fire brigade got a presidential award for bravery. So she’s She’s 99 now at the moment. You’re joking. She’s in a nursing home, but she’s in great form, and she just had her birthday the last day. Happy birthday. Thank you. And then when the fire came around, say, six years ago So we were just in the recession, and the whole dining scene had changed, and everybody was rushing down to the bottom and putting on dinner for two and a bottle of wine, discounts. It’s very hard for a restaurant to try and make money at that. You’re just really keeping the show on the road, and you might be eating into your savings and subsidising the event. So it was really a good time for me because what happened was it knocked my restaurant out of business because I had to move the bar into the restaurant sector.

Speaker 2 (27:47)
Until where the fire fire was.

Speaker 1 (27:49)
Yes. That gave me a two-year stop from the food. So when I got out there, I said, God, it sold kitties at this stage. I was out of the food in ’22, and I was saying, I think I want to just focus on the bar for a while and just have a little bit more time for myself. Because these things, they’re great to start and you get a great buzz out of them, but they do eat you up and they swallow you at the same time.

Speaker 2 (28:18)
In the morning, the night, no getting away from it.

Speaker 1 (28:20)
So as my role then with the Food Ambassador thing was growing, we were going to Norway on benchmark trips. And then I also was selected to join the board, steering board for the Donegal Food Strategy to try and bring Donegal up to be the main recognised artisan food producing region in Ireland. And I think after six years, we have achieved that we’ve got great critical acclaim. And we’ve done things like really good things. We’ve had, for example, we’ve brought, say, people who these purifiers, and Scotland will say in the Shetland, they purify their own oysters and mussels, and they remove the toxins, right? And then by having that done, they can sell to the French market at a premium price. Whereas in Donegal, they weren’t doing this, and they were selling to the French market at a depressed price. So we brought these shellfish purifiers over to meet the local shellfish producers, and we’ve got them now. Anybody that got involved, we’ve got them a much more premium price for their product. When we started off, we didn’t have a cheese producer in Donegal, and we have now, which is great, and it’s only up the road from Katie Kelly.

Speaker 2 (29:40)
God, it’s unbelievable. I didn’t know that.

Speaker 1 (29:44)
I’m going to have to think of the name of the cheese. I think it’s Ardmor or something like that. No, it’s not. It’s Killard Cheese. It’s nice. It’s like a light cheddar. It’s very, very nice.

Speaker 2 (30:00)
It’s very good. And it’s just by you in Kelly Bay?

Speaker 1 (30:02)
Just past Kelly Kelly’s on the way in to Sleeve League on the right-hand side. It’s a farmhouse. It is really a farmhouse set-up operation.

Speaker 2 (30:10)
And quite still a cottage industry, not into the retailers?

Speaker 1 (30:13)
Well, they’re just getting into local retailers. They probably do the Food Ambassador programme with super value and shops like that. Very good. To get access to that. And these are all things that we were trying to work on to improve. Our big challenge now is getting an ice cream producer in Donegal had to produce their own ice cream. I think it’s huge. Just as I say, back from Chester, they have a big operation that started very small and has moved into a theme park and all the various add-ons for children to do an activity. Really, really interesting. They’re the second biggest attraction after Chester Zoo. So as a piece of infrastructure in the county, what it would do for bednights in the area if you had families travelling. And the nearest thing- To the ice cream.

Speaker 2 (31:01)
You thought you’d be big dairy?

Speaker 1 (31:03)
We have huge dairy. And we have really wealthy dairy farmers. And we have Donegal Creamers. That’s huge. And it would be great if we could get them to- Isn’t it amazing that they haven’t put two and two together before? Well, I suppose they’re happy producing milk, but you know yourself, milk quotas are gone. Not much money, I’m sure, anymore. You have to look at the whole name of the game from here on in is adding value to your product. And I think if they were to go down there- No better way to do it than produce nice cream. But it’s the add-ons they can do. Go to Tate Park and you’ll see exactly what I’m on about. People say we don’t have the population in Doyal God, but they forget about the six counties on our border, and they forget about Mayo, and Sligo and Littrum. And when you put it all together, you have nearly 1.75 million people on your not far travelling time to go and visit.

Speaker 2 (31:56)
I spent my whole childhood in Doraigal during the summer.

Speaker 1 (31:59)
So I think there’s huge potential there. Anybody watching this now can get their- Get their thinking caps on.

Speaker 2 (32:07)
You’ve just given them an idea.

Speaker 1 (32:09)
An artist, an ice cream producer. Absolutely. But it’s There’s other people that can go in at a smaller level and have a few little goats and dairy cows around the place, and children love that. Absolutely.

Speaker 2 (32:27)
Petting farms and that stuff. So just when you’re on that, how has tourism had an impact on Donegal? Positively, negatively, not in any way?

Speaker 1 (32:39)
Well, Donegal was always a home for people from Northern Ireland. I think probably not as popular now because with the introduction of a good airport infrastructure in Northern Ireland with easyJet and-Yeah, with the Dari Airport on your doorstep. People are flying out to Bella Modena and Croatia and different places.

Speaker 2 (33:02)
We had spoken previously, you said about easyJet had nearly killed the trade.

Speaker 1 (33:05)
So you’re up against that. That’s a new competitor. There are people who absolutely love Donegal. And Donegal, sometimes It’s not described as much as a destination, but a state of mind. And you have to go there to find it and treasure it. And it’s probably different from most other places in that people are going and they want to see, well, Galway, for example, and they want the crack in the pubs and a huge tradition of music scene. Doing all isn’t really at that level because it hasn’t that critical mass of tourism.

Speaker 2 (33:43)
It hasn’t really got that centre the way Galway City would have, for example.

Speaker 1 (33:46)
But it has huge attractions. I think people are beginning to… We’ve got a lot of profile. We’ve been described as the coolest place in the planet, National Geographic. Lonely Planet describes us as the place to visit. So you know, sometimes when a market is developing, they maintain that the first two and a half % of the visitors are the discoverers. And they go away and they tell the next two and a half % of the market who are imitators. And they then splared the word very fast. And it becomes, you reach that critical mass plateau where you’re getting everybody wants to go there. Absolutely. We haven’t quite reached that point. But I do think at some stage we will meet it and we will get there and then you’ll see. I think what will happen with Donegal is more and more people will go there to relocate. Perfect example for you. This lovely lady who’s from Gorda Hortca, originally. I’ve been in Gorda Hortca. Went off and was working in the restaurant business, food, shopping over in Scotland. She came back, she was small holding, and this goat arrived on her doorstep one day and took up refuge.

Speaker 1 (34:58)
And she started looking after the goat, and then she another goat to keep it company. She didn’t realise it was a female goat and a male goat she ended up with it, and then she had loads of goats. And she’s now her own goat meat business. Now, goat meat in Donegal was really never on a menu. And it’s more a Tyrone dish, and it’s more a County Claire dish, and maybe Galway. Don’t think it even stretched into Mayo. But I was reading recently, it’s the most ethical food you can eat at this present moment in time as an alternative alternative to beef because the goats don’t belch the CO₂ like the way cows do. Cows do, yeah. And the kid goats are not wanted because the main demand for goats is for goat cheese. That’s the female goat. So if you were to put kid on your menu, but this woman has actually discovered a niche market for herself, and she accidentally moved over to go to her to support herself. And her mother helps her out, and they go to all the food festivals, and they produce this goat meat. I don’t know if you ever had goat meat.

Speaker 2 (36:02)
I had goat curry once. I quite like it. It was strong, but it was nice.

Speaker 1 (36:05)
Well, the nicest thing I ever eat is a rack of goat meat because it’s so flavoured with herbs because of what they eat.

Speaker 2 (36:15)
What to eat. Because they were waiting very dead, but eat anything, really.

Speaker 1 (36:18)
Are they? Yeah. And they love herbs, and they love the good herbs. So you’re going to get all that marinating through. If you’re like, what was it? Oosing through the meat.

Speaker 2 (36:27)
That’s a great story. Do you know what that business I just off-hand, I can’t have met her at a food expo there recently, and it just was so taken.

Speaker 1 (36:35)
And she serves them up. But if you’re at a food festival, you’ll probably see her. And she uses brioche baps, and she uses some of the fillings there recently, and it just was so taken. And she serves them up. But if you’re at a food festival, you’ll probably see her. And she uses brioche baps, and she uses some of the fillings there. And it’s a great combination. And it’s a great local story.

Speaker 2 (36:49)
I like to get shown there.

Speaker 1 (36:51)
But as I’m saying, go back to tourism. We’ve had two examples there. We’ve had the easy jet versus the slow tourism. I think rural tourism is a big thing there to be discovered in Donegal. And there’s a girl called Maire O’Gollacher, and she set up for the AirBnB. We’ve had a decline on BnBs. At one time, that’s where you stayed when you came to Dunagal, it was a BnB, and you stayed with the band of tea. And they’ve, because of their age and profile, their family is rare. The families do not want to ever- They don’t want to it. They don’t want to do it. And these people are stuck with these houses with maybe four or five on suite bedrooms, big car parking facilities, and full planning permission, and nobody’s run them. And it would be great to see if the government could introduce some scheme that would incentivise people.

Speaker 2 (37:51)
To reintroduce them.

Speaker 1 (37:51)
Yeah. And I often think that the backpacker, the Irish person that emigrated to Australia, coming back, their visas are expiring, and they have to come back to do something. I think we should be thinking of making things easier for them. Say, for example, they go to a bank to get a loan, their earnings in Australia are not taken into consideration. So what do they have? What earning records do they have to show that they’re capable of paying back loans?

Speaker 2 (38:18)
Probably none.

Speaker 1 (38:20)
None? Yeah. So we’ve got to look at the issues like that as they come up and come up with solutions for them. But I think more than Galeher from Guidoor as a great example, she set up a little Airbnb college.

Speaker 2 (38:34)
I actually stayed in Galeher’s BMB in Bombay.

Speaker 1 (38:38)
That was Huda Bugs, maybe.

Speaker 2 (38:40)
Just opposite Huda Bugs, yeah. Just opposite Huda Bugs, not a weeley, and we stayed in, and this is Gallagher’s. He was the ban of tea. I’m not sure whether it was or not.

Speaker 1 (38:48)
I’d say that’s Huy Bunkerough, was it? Yeah. Yeah, that’s Huda Bugs’ mother, Katie. Oh my God, there you are. So she did BNB up there. She also did BNB down in the main house. But what I’m saying is, way back, it was very hard to market yourself. You saw the signs on the road, BNB Atlantic house or Clover house or something like that. And who does that anymore? You don’t go from home without having a place to stay. No, absolutely not. You do this through an AirBnB or bookings. Com. And any B&B that has stayed with or gone down that road has been really full capacity. And if you’re not using it, you’re not at the races. So it’s just an example of where maybe the age group wasn’t right for moving with the technology. What is so easy to sell your AirBnB now rooms or your Bookings. Com rooms, all you have to do is put it up on that site. And with Satnav and text messages. Easy.

Speaker 2 (39:45)
And even set up your own website. It’s another way of doing it, too.

Speaker 1 (39:49)
You don’t really need the ban of tea anymore, or the breakfast, because you can early do your own or continental.

Speaker 2 (39:55)
Although if you’re looking for the whole experience, I remember a Turf The fire being lit and lovely breakfast. Actually, the men got more than the girls, which I loved. You got an extra slice of bacon.

Speaker 1 (40:08)
I honestly think our figures in Ireland for B&B They just have to call it decimation because they have collapsed. I feel there hasn’t been enough done to arrest it because it’s not just the B&B. The BNB is of the local economy. If you don’t have enough bed nights in your area, those people are going to get in to the car and go to the giant’s causeway. Yeah, they’re going to go somewhere. They’re not going to stay in your region. So every region, doesn’t matter where you are, should be trying to keep their visitor for at least two nights. Sell them an extra night. And if they’re any good at the hosting, they should be able to really do a good sales job on it. And I think that’s where we’re going to miss out a little bit because they’re not there. If they’re not there at night, they’re not going to be there for the music to help the local public and pay for the band, create the atmosphere. They’re not going to be there to buy the petrol the next day. They’re not going to be there to buy the lunch and then maybe the local bar before they go away.

Speaker 2 (41:12)
So there’s a lot of money draining out Yes.

Speaker 1 (41:15)
And I think the source of the solution is to revigorate the B&B sector.

Speaker 2 (41:22)
Okay. And have you any plans of doing anything with your own bar in that respect?

Speaker 1 (41:27)
Well, Hues Bar, as I say, was bought in 1960. So we’re probably the longest urban bar in the region and under the same family ownership. We have, as I said, we’ve been very creative. This year, for example, we are introducing a sun lounge with one of these electronic roofs that we were really tractable roof? A tractable roof. Oh, very good. Heated lance. When it shines, it’s a real sun trap. I think it’s anyway moody, temperate, cloudy. We can pull it over. Pull it back over again. So that’s a big plus this year. And I also was planning to put my music, live music, right there and open the doors from the bar so it becomes a natural auditorium. Oh, very good. And then we’re opening, we’re going back into the food on a smaller scale. We’re opening the little Italian Kitchen at Huey’s. Brilliant. So that’s going to be a little pizzeria. We’re going to do some artisan toppings, and we’re going to try and be creative there. We’re going to do black pudding, chronic healthy black pudding and casual blue cheese. We’re going to try some duck cuisson with caramelised red onion and marinated pears.

Speaker 2 (42:44)
Very inventive.

Speaker 1 (42:44)
So we’re really pushing the boat out on the tappings. We’re not doing anything else other than wine, craft beers. We’re not doing chips. We’re not doing desserts, such as we’re doing, but we are doing a nice Glenellish ice cream tub as you would have bought in the cinema with the little stick inside. Oh, lovely. So it’s really- Retro. It’s hip and cool and cash. And I think there are other places doing… Like, Katie Kelly is doing the fine food and Tara Hotel in my town, the Bayview Hotel. They’re all doing different things and two really good coffee shops and a fusion restaurant opening up. So the choice is there. But I just find that sometimes it’s not always about the choice of it. It’s about I’m in pizza mode. I want a glass of wine. I want a simple piece of ice cream. As long as it’s tasty and it’s good.

Speaker 2 (43:39)
People will come back. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (43:40)
So that’s going to be a big one. We can’t seat any more than 22 people. But it’s a lovely setting. It’s actually our old kitchen that we were brought up on with the Stanley Range. It’s in the middle of the things. The chairs are all around it. So it’s really lovely. It’s two rooms. Very authentic. It’s two rooms together and they look beautiful. One of the windows looks out onto the main street.

Speaker 2 (44:02)
And when’s that starting?

Speaker 1 (44:03)
We’re starting about next week. So I have to get my act together here.

Speaker 2 (44:07)
I have to come up. It sounds gorgeous. More than welcome.

Speaker 1 (44:11)
Then we have a room at the back, which was the gastrobar? Do we close that down with the thing? What we do there now is we do a lot of functions. If we have a select calendar and we don’t have a lot of bookings for a month, we’ll do a pop-up theme night. So we do, say, for example, a pop-up Italian. The last one we did was a pop-up Vietnamese night. The food is very authentic. We would do fish and a banana skin, depending on the theme. It was something like €15, and you got two glasses wide. Small courses, like Tata’s size portions. Then you’d have music afterwards or a vintage DJ and a lot of Ava.

Speaker 2 (44:57)
This is a separate function room then?

Speaker 1 (44:59)
This is my function room at the back. Now, I’m about to rebrand that because I don’t want to go back to being 22 Main Street because that- People associated with the food. The gastrofood. So we’re calling it Hieu’s Bar Ella. Now, Ella, as in the Irish Gaelic word, Efaida, I-L-E, which is the Irish for other. So it’s Hieu’s Other Bar. Brilliant. But it’s a beautiful room. It’s got a big fireplace. It’s got sliding doors, barn doors. It’s got ladders on the ceiling coming with lights on them. And it’s just very atmospheric. Brilliant. And it can do party function from 70 to 100.

Speaker 2 (45:39)
So ideal for birthdays or communions or even funeral parties?

Speaker 1 (45:43)
Funeral parties, christenings. We’ve had everybody in. The only thing we really don’t do is we don’t do 18th birthday parties. We just find the age is too young and they’re not She used to being in an environment with a boost and all that, so they can be hard work. It could go downhill very quickly. I could go downhill. Then every 18, I’ll have a friend who’s 17 or 16, and then you’re into the role. Of course, in your day to your area then. Yeah, and you can’t be… You’re worse in the world if you turn them away. So you’re better off saying, No, 20, 18. That’s my view.

Speaker 2 (46:20)
But that apart, it caters for basically anyone?

Speaker 1 (46:23)
Yes. Huey’s Bar, as I say, we got in on the brand gins with the 12 premium gins, with the 12 different tonics, pairing them with garnishes, rosemary, basil, the whole shebang. Shebang, yeah. And then we do a big club once a month. Very good. And that’s grown to be- With wine, no doubt. Oh, yes. With wine, we’ll throw up a few sharing boards. And it’s very popular now. It’s really growing. If we get any bigger, we’ll have to move it into the- The function room. The Ruemella. So But it’s really nice. We’re doing the snogs and it’s really good. It just brings people out that wouldn’t maybe be out during the week. And a lot of people are not drinking and driving as big as you know. Yeah, of course. So you have Espresos and Cappuccino and we have a nice coffee. The interesting thing about our wine is we do this company and Kildare use casks. So we don’t use a bottle of wine. But we have lovely crystal decanters, and we pour the wines into that from the cask. Direct from the cask?

Speaker 2 (47:36)
Just like where you get Nipply or you go off for France. We can do all that.

Speaker 1 (47:41)
They’re called the Wine Lab, and I got in I put them at the very early stages. Now, I have to say, it’s not many people are going to go all using them, and they keep saying to me, threatening to say that they’re not going to send wine up to me all the way. But now, I think they just. But Dublin is their big market. But it’s fabulous. Well, it’s fabulous in the sense, as you know, wine isn’t suited really or designed to be stored in small capacities. The smaller the bottle, like the quarter bottle you put it into, you need to douch it with loads of sulphates to keep it preserved. And it’s the sulphates that will give you the mother of all hangovers the next day. Whereas you can drink oceans and oceans- When it’s in the cask? In the cask, and you will not get that.

Speaker 2 (48:28)
I’m sure there’s loads Homes of our viewers will be glad to hear that.

Speaker 1 (48:33)
Hangover free wine. It’s beautiful. And it’s really well, selectively. And you got red, white, different tape parties, all the thing. We take some small wine, right?, he has a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, a merlot from there. And he has Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, he has an Italian Pinot Grigio. He has an Italian merlot.

Speaker 2 (48:58)
It’s all the popular It’s really, I must say, really impressed with it and it’s lovely.

Speaker 1 (49:04)
And it’s just a low drink for myself.

Speaker 2 (49:07)
I would maybe try one just to be sociable. And tell me, in terms of Donegal, what’s your favourite place? Now, obviously, Kelly Bags, I’m sure, because you’re from Kelly Bags.

Speaker 1 (49:18)
Well, I have places I like going to. There’s one real hidden gem. It’s called Dyris Bay in Ross Bag. It’s outside Ardra, and you have to head towards now in Portnou where the golf course is. And you swing left. And it’s called the Santa Maria Drive. And that was one of the Spanish armada boats that sunk there. And that’s what was called the Santa Maria, sunk at that point. And it’s just breathtaking. And this place called Dairies Bay Hotel. And there’s no insult now to the owners to describe it a bit like Craggy island where Father Ted was found. It’s just It’s so well… It’s not a modern hotel. Oldie Worldie. Yes. It was his charm. And what you see coming in, and the sea, the lobster, the crab, the local fish. It’s a small fishing community. And it’s a big caravan theme, not a caravan theme, but a caravan park. People come down and they have to keep their caravan for the summer there. And as I say, you’re not far from Port New, but it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s It’s just unbelievably beautiful. And what’s it called again? It’s called Dyras Bay.

Speaker 2 (50:34)
Dyras Bay. I’d gone the all my childhood and then it has been arms, and I’ve never heard of it.

Speaker 1 (50:39)
Well, they actually seem to be getting… They’re very popular with Belfast people. And they seem to be getting a lot of weddings, and they set up a marquee, and they can take it out. I’d say carers to do it. Very good. It’s not really on the beach. It’s overlooking the bay on the little pier. All right. Okay. But there’s There’s a lot of vegetation between you and the pier, but it’s lovely. It’s lovely and that type of bushing going on with loads of colour. I just sometimes think when you’re sitting there, you think you’re in a Greek Island.

Speaker 2 (51:13)
That’s the best way. Well, if you get the weather in Donegal, sometimes it’s better in the Greek Islands. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (51:17)
But the whole Donegal Southwest is lovely. You have Ardra. Nancy’s Pub. Nancy’s Pub. Great. You have Eddie Doherty’s Weaving. I mean, it’s tough. Weaving is, I think, the biggest secret of Donegal is the amount of weavers we have and the amount of net wear. I mean, fishermen out of Ireland, outside Kilcar. Studio Donegal in the middle of Kilcar. I mean, Kilcar is this little sleepy village that has full employment. And never went down during the recession or anything. And it’s all to do with the wool. Every carpet that’s made in an aeroplane or the seat covering fabric is made in Kilcar. I didn’t know. So at every level of the wool story is taking part there. There are a lot of wool shops.

Speaker 2 (52:09)
There’s more stories that basically highlight how good Donegal is. We had it before with Come on Air, and you were saying about some of the stories that you have to tell and Donegal has to tell. It could bring far more visitors.

Speaker 1 (52:23)
Yeah, this is it. We’re improving all the We have our new gin distillery that uses seaweed botanicals from the shore, which gives it that nice- Distinctive flavour. Distinctive flavour. I was going to introduce them this year and going to do a fresh oyster, shucked, and a little shot of the gin. Oh, lovely. Down it goes, down the hatch. But it’s a lovely sensation.

Speaker 2 (52:53)
That makes a nice difference from Guinness. Guinness and oysters, Guinness and gin, locally. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (52:59)
Shucking And the oysters are not easy, and it’s a skill on its own. We’ll have to do a video on it sometime. Absolutely.

Speaker 2 (53:05)
Are you good at it?

Speaker 1 (53:07)
Well, I’m better at it. You know what you need? You need the stainless steel globe, beat it, globe, and you hold that money your hand and then you’re- Turning twist, I think, do you?

Speaker 2 (53:17)
Yes.

Speaker 1 (53:18)
If you think of it in the sense that over here, the knuckle is like the hinge of a door. So you’ve got to get in on the other side, get in there and pull the door back on the hinge. A lot of people just murder the thing. That would be me. And the oyster’s distress coming out. It tightens up. So we have to coax the oyster out of the shell, nearly. Brilliant. And the other big secret is, once you get the shell open, The juice of the Atlantic is in there and you have to preserve that. You can’t let that go. That’s where all the flavour is. And so what you do is spoon. It’s attached. The little oyster meat muscle is attached to the roof of the shell that you take this large. So you go with a spoon and scrape it off that nicely and neatly and turn the oyster upside down so that the curvy bit is facing the diner. It’s not the flat bit. Yeah, make it look nice. It looks fuller. Yeah. I can nearly taste it.

Speaker 2 (54:16)
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (54:17)
But there’s a guy, I know, in Dublin, and he’s down there around… Where is he? He’s in Temple Bar area. And it means the tiniest little place. And he has a blow torch. And if you want, we’ll He’ll say, oysters or gratin, he just takes them to your table, sprinkles the cheese, blows them with the torch, and hands you the gratin. No crookers, no nothing. Brilliant.

Speaker 2 (54:38)
That’s like theatre in itself, isn’t it?

Speaker 1 (54:40)
Yeah, it’s theatre. It’s lovely. Brilliant. And then he has all his oysters zoned where they’re from. So it could be Galway oysters, or Dingle oysters, or Waterford oysters, Carly Port oysters.

Speaker 2 (54:52)
It’s all different. Brilliant. So it has all that’ll go in Ireland. So on that, how important do you think food culture is the Ireland?

Speaker 1 (55:02)
Well, food is our story. We are an island and we are a food producer. And some years ago, Ireland, under its National Development Plan, decided it was going to be a centre of excellence for food production at every level. And that applied to us restaurant there. And when we go away to Spain, and even when I was over in the UK there, I think things are much more relaxed. They’re less regulatory. And then you We come back to this, where just everything has all our boxes has to be ticked. Now, it’s either a good thing or a bad thing, but the argument is, because we’re such a food producer nation, we can’t let the production fall down at any level, even at a micro local level. And that’s very important. And so the HACCP. Haccp was designed by NASA for space flights, and we’re using it in kitchens. Unbelievable. It’s every year, no restaurants in UK and everywhere else is using them as well. But when you go to Spain and you go to… You can see cooking happening outside.

Speaker 2 (56:07)
It’s not as litigious, for want of a better word.

Speaker 1 (56:10)
So it’s much more relaxed.

Speaker 2 (56:13)
In fairness, I would have thought Donegal be quite like that.

Speaker 1 (56:15)
Oh, God, no. We’re at the cutting edge of it. Very good.

Speaker 2 (56:21)
Tell me, what are the key marketing campaigns that you’ve seen that you’ve been impressed with to promote Donegal?

Speaker 1 (56:29)
Well, I suppose the Wild Atlantic Way has been very successful. God, it’s the longest world coastal route now because of all the- I didn’t know it, actually. Yeah, because they’ve measured everything in and out of Bantree Bay and all the way up, and there and out, every little cragy and lettuce measure, which is great smart marketing. And anybody in the business will say to you that it’s been a huge huge saving for them. And I think on the back of the success, other parts of the country were calling on Fáilte Ireland to develop other equally as good brands for their part of the woods. So then they developed the ancient east in Dublin, which was like Newgrange and all that part of where they deemed the Vikings would have arrived and all that story was put together. And they replicated their success from the Wild Atlantic Way and using local source and meat dishes and things that would have been popular way back and putting it on the menu. Brilliant. You’ve had the Bound Valley, which is up around Virginia, Kells, going to Drahada That’s been very, very successful in just finding itself as a regional food region, a really prestigious food region.

Speaker 1 (57:52)
Very good. Then the latest brand now they have developed is the the hidden Midlands, which is fabulous area because it didn’t need developing. And you’re talking about Loughford, West Meath, to Burberry, and all these areas that are really-Forgot What they’re chatting about sometimes. Forgotten about, yeah. And they’re off the… The visitor takes the easy path to go up the coastline, and that’s lovely. But it’s to get them into the- The Athlones, the Athlones. And there’s some fabulous food stories all over the country. And And lots of artists and producers moving into West Meath and setting up lovely little bars and restaurants, gastro-bars.

Speaker 2 (58:39)
And it’s brilliant. And what about Donegal itself? Anything that’s really impressed you by Donegal or anything we could do to improve it?

Speaker 1 (58:47)
Well, I believe that doing all, as I said earlier, it’s really a state of mind, and it’s how you market a state of mind to a person as opposed to a destination. And it’s a It’s a subtle piece of marketing we need, but it’s a beautiful story. I mean, the landscape tells the story, and I suppose really more use of video clips, and that is… One time it was all about SEO I think it’s about, probably is it video?

Speaker 2 (59:19)
Seo is still about content and video is where it’s at.

Speaker 1 (59:23)
I think that that’s where we need to develop that end of it for ourselves. It’s We have a lovely story to tell. I agree. People say we speak very lyrically, and there’s a nice melodic nuance to our voices. I’m not too sure. Someone described me as sounding like Daniel O’Diamond.

Speaker 2 (59:46)
Yeah, I’m pretty sure you do. But your Donegal accent is actually quite northern. They’re not too similar to Belfast. Listen to maybe Shay given or Paki Bonner speaking. They’re quite northern, obviously. But I mean, the six counties Yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:00:00)
Well, don’t forget, I don’t think all people migrated to and emigrated to Scotland. Glasgow. Glasgow. And then they moved down to Birmingham and Liverpool and New Castle and anywhere there was mining. So they have well-travelled and they pick up nuance and they pick up accents very quick. So I think we’re like a melting pot.

Speaker 2 (01:00:23)
Absolutely. But your accents are lovely. Nice soft, lilt to it, where I think ours are quite harsh.

Speaker 1 (01:00:30)
I wear this to soften yourself.

Speaker 2 (01:00:34)
Tell me, what did he ask you about Bored Bay? Did Bored Beia help with food and marketing or anything like that in Donegal?

Speaker 1 (01:00:44)
And they do. But Bored Beia is like, you can use it as a resource. Let’s say you want a recipe and you want a good old traditional bacon, cabbage recipe and how it’s been modernised and given it a new look. Or you can use Bored Beia for help for export, which is where they really probably play a blind or there. Okay. And then you can obviously… I’m not too sure who did they actually… The green origin, I’m not too sure did Bordbeia bring it it or who brought it out, but I’m sure they’re in there in the development of it. Okay. And then they put their hands to many other projects as well, or they give endorsements to, we’ll say, I’m sure, any food innovation hubs and that type of thing. Maybe they team up with Chagas, which is the Farm Development Group.

Speaker 2 (01:01:34)
Were they team up with Fáilte at all?

Speaker 1 (01:01:38)
Well, I suppose they do. Fáilte Ireland has really developed their own food tourism chapter because as you know, the slow food thing really came out of California. Well, it didn’t come out of California.

Speaker 2 (01:01:52)
Southern America, Southern States.

Speaker 1 (01:01:54)
It moved from there. I think California give it the best spin on it and took it to their hearts. And then that’s become a global movement. And I suppose as a tourism marketing agency and as tourism group, you just don’t take a holiday. I mean, the things you remember in a holiday is your food experiences. But there wasn’t really… All the emphasis was on where you stay and what you do. But you have to factor in to strengthen the food experience. And as good as we are at Irish food, we’re still, if you do searches on us, if you say world’s best cuzines, we’re not going to be coming up there number one or two. So I think we have to do work- Yeah, we understand ourselves quite a bit, don’t we? We have to create… Zack Gallerher now in Donegal is very good at getting people to tag dishes as Irish food. Brilliant. And the more people tag their dishes as Irish food, the more it will appear in searches and it pushes up there. And that’s as simple as we sometimes…

Speaker 2 (01:02:59)
We hide our light under a bushel. We do. We need to brag a bit. I think it’s a cultural thing, isn’t it? Yeah, we do indeed. And in terms of food and drink in Ireland, what’s the future in your opinion?

Speaker 1 (01:03:10)
Well, I do believe food is never going to go out of fashion because we have to eat it and there’s always going to be a demand. There’s always going to be competition. You see supermarkets moving into the space of two dinners at home in a bottle of wine for 12 or 14 euros. And that’s an area that restaurants can’t compete with. The best thing we have is our psyche as an Irish people because we’re lonely creatures and we don’t like staying at home. We get cabin fever and we have to be out and we miss the call of the wild. And that’s just our genetic code. And we have to get out there and we may try and stay off drinking food for a while, but by the Jesus, we do have to rush out there.

Speaker 2 (01:03:58)
If you look at the Irish diaspora throughout the world, actually, you’re so ready with that.

Speaker 1 (01:04:03)
I remember this guy knew in Northwest tourism, he was a predecessor to Donegal tourism. And Paul McLean was his name. And he says, Whatever it is about us, we could go into a very comfortable bar and there’d be lovely seating and there’d be lovely background music, and there’d be a fire, and there would be chit-chat. And somebody would come in and say, Jesus, you can’t get in down the road in such a pop. It’s jammer. And we’d be up all the seats and we’d go down there to be crushed to death.

Speaker 2 (01:04:34)
That’s just the way we’re. The nature of the beast. Absolutely. And so in terms of Hues, what’s the future?

Speaker 1 (01:04:44)
Well, I believe our future is to, because of the way we’re composed as a pub, with a whole series of little rooms, you move from one to the other. And it’s like taking a little journey and you can go in one door and out another door, and Obviously smoking areas as well, out the back and this type of thing. You can just make a complete journey. You can go from food to a good quality cocktail to having a party at the back. It works beautifully.

Speaker 2 (01:05:15)
And a pizza on your way around.

Speaker 1 (01:05:16)
And a pizza on your way around. I think it can work for when and after parties and meeting point. And I think when you’re doing a food offering, even as basic as doing pizzas, as long as you’re doing it right, and people will…

Speaker 2 (01:05:32)
Will come back? Yeah. And tell there’s more important.

Speaker 1 (01:05:35)
Yeah, this is it.

Speaker 2 (01:05:36)
If anyone wants to find out about Hueies, I know you’re in the middle of getting the website built, but you’ve got a Facebook site.

Speaker 1 (01:05:41)
Yeah, we have Huy’s Bar. And Kelly Bags, really, is our Facebook page. And you might find two of them actually there. Brilliant.

Speaker 2 (01:05:48)
I’ll put some links underneath this video. So, Huy, that was absolutely fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing that very interesting story. Thank you. And I will hope to see you soon in Huy’s Bar in Killy Beggs. We’ll work on your accent. A good man yourself. Thanks very much, Huy. So that was Amazing Food and Drink TV with the inevitable Huy O’Donnell from Huy’s Pub in Killy Bags. And I really hope you go up there and give Hugh a bit of a turn because it’s a fantastic place.

Speaker 1 (01:06:19)
Thanks very much for watching.

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