An audience of over 200 food enthusiasts crammed into the ballroom of the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen on September 12 last to see Longford’s top chef Gary O’Hanlon of Viewmount House claim the 2012 Celtic Cook Off.
O’Hanlon who is gaining notoriety in food circles beat off stiff competition as six top chefs representing Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, the Isle of Man, Wales and Cornwall went head to head to create their favourite dish for the six judges using only the best of West Cork Produce. Judges included Tim Anderson, BBC MasterChef Winner 2011; Roy Brett of Ondine Restaurant in Edinburgh who was last year’s Celtic Cook Off and Joe McNamee, Food Writer with the Irish Examiner. O’Hanlon’s winning dish - loin of lamb with wild artichoke, smoked tomato, crisp bone marrow sweetened with honey - was purchased from local producers. “I picked the honey up at the side of the road outside Clonakilty – beautiful stuff,” the local chef said. “I also told Neil that he must start getting his Lamb from Walsh’s Butcher. I hadn’t actually had a chance to taste the Lamb prior to plating up, it was only when Tony Singh, the Scottish Chef tasted it at the end of the competition and told me to try it, that I realised how good it was.”
When he was pronounced the winner, O’Hanlon said, “I’ve never won anything like this in my life”.He later took time out to visit A Taste of West Cork, Schools Cookery Competition to pass on advice to the youngsters there. “My wife is a teacher so education is close to my heart,” he added. “From the moment I stepped into the school I was astounded at the attention to detail shown by the kids. From growing their own potatoes (some of which I blagged for my own competition) to rearing their own pigs they really took it seriously and showed an incredible amount of respect beyond their years to the fabulous ingredients of West Cork.”