Today is International Women’s Day and its puts a focus on women in all aspects of life. Sligo Food Trail want to highlight and celebrate their exceptional women members. Few other counties can compare with this list of high female achievers in the culinary arena. Trail blazing chefs Bríd Torrades and Eithna O’Sullivan. Dervla James, Aisling Kelly and Teresa Krebs who returned to their native county to set up successful businesses. German born Gaby Wieland and Italian Paola Willis who found their way to Sligo to enrich its food culture. There are so many; all winners in their own right.

Speaking about International Women’s Day, Marie Casserly, Chair of Sligo Food Trail said, “Today we celebrate women’s accomplishments, in the home and in the workplace. Empowering girls and women is powerful, and we now know it is the key to economic growth, political stability, and social transformation. Within Sligo Food Trail we have a remarkable group of women who are genuine leaders in their field and an inspiration to those starting their careers”.

Bríd Torrades has been a leading light on the Irish food scene for the last three decades and runs the hugely successful Ósta Café and Wine Bar at the Garavogue Weir in the centre of Sligo Town. She was an active member of Eurotoques for over 20 years and also represented the catering industry on the Marine Stewardship Stakeholder Council.  Never one to sit still, she recently completed a Masters in Applied Culinary Nutrition; one of the first seven people in the world to do so.

Bríd cites Myrtle Allen, the late doyenne of Ballymaloe as her inspiration saying, “I would like to mention Myrtle Allen who inspired many chefs in Ireland and beyond.  I had the honour of working with her for many years in Eurotoques, the European chef organisation which she founded with Paul Bocuse among others.  Myrtle dedicated her latter years to Irish Food, its heritage and producers, and highlighted the importance of quality of produce and simplicity of preparation. This legacy lives on through the many chefs who had the pleasure of meeting her.” The famous Ballymaloe cookery course trained many café owners on Sligo Food Trail including Carolanne Rush, Christine O’Hara of Coopershill and Catherine Farrell from The Gourmet Parlour.

Since 1990 Chef Eithna O’Sullivan has run her award-winning restaurant Eithna’s By The Sea in Mullaghmore right on the Wild Atlantic Way. Her cooking is celebrated for perfection in simplicity using local seasonal ingredients, particularly shellfish, fish and seaweeds. Eithna recently featured on Neven Maguire new seafood trails on RTE with Aisling Kelly from the new Sligo Oyster Experience. Ireland’s first Oyster experience teaches visitors all about oyster cultivation – and taste the results of course.

Newer on the Sligo scene is Carolanne Rush whose experiences in the Middle East, Australia and South Africa led her back to Ireland and a Ballymaloe cookery course. Within two years she had progressed from a market stall to setting up award winning Sweet Beat café in Sligo town. Her plant-based cooking is truly innovative and it has been a revelation for many committed meat eaters. Not judgey or preachy as Carolanne puts it – just food that’s good for you. The markets continue to foster female entrepreneurship and every weekend showcases Couerine Murray’s Murson Farm (jams and preserves), Sarah Elvey’s Blacksheep Bakery and Clare Winters’ Good and Green Organics.

Award-winning Nook in Collooney had its roots in a market stall too. Nearly three years ago Eithna Reynolds plucked up the courage to open a bricks and morter café and she, and Sligo, have reaped the benefits. Dervla James returned from a stellar career in Dublin to open quirkily named Pudding Row in her native Easkey. Just a couple of years later it’s a stalwart part of Easkey and Sligo, attracting attention, listings and awards from all over the country. Shells Surf Café in Strandhill exploded onto the scene ten years ago and has been a wonderful success for Jane Lamberth and her husband Myles.

Prannie Rhatigan is a medical doctor and also one of the leading seaweed experts in the country. She runs Irish Seaweed Kitchen, has published seaweed recipe books, leads seaweed walks and collaborates with chefs and foodies worldwide to promote the use of this wonderful natural resource. Prannie is based in Streedagh, near Orla Connefrey’s café The Jam Pot.

Many of the women on Sligo Food Trail bring experiences from afar. Teresa Krebs returned from abroad to run her family hotel, Cawley’s in Tubbercurry, with her Belgian husband Pierre. Gaby Wieland came to Ireland from Germany with her husband Hans. They run the successful Neantóg school teaching people to forage, ferment and use herbs in cooking. Most recently they have set up Sligo Food Tours. Italian Paola Willis now runs Carrow Coffee with her husband Andrew. Award winning Clo from Le Fournil celebrates all things chocolate.

On this global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Let’s celebrate the women of Sligo Food Trail who are seriously punching above their weight.

To support every network you need a good team led by Chair Marie Casserly, supported by campaign manager Marie Brouder, PR Lesley Emerson and committee members Aisling Kelly, Coeurine Murray, Sile Haran Sligo Tourism, Oonagh Monahan, Alpha Omega and Anthony Gray.