Back in their spiritual home of Dingle, Blas na hÉireann 2022, the Irish food awards, celebrate a bumper year and announce this year’s Supreme Champion as Arán Bakery. Congratulations to all the Blas na hÉireann winners.
Blas na hÉireann, the Irish food awards, have announced this year’s winners of the 2022 finals which have returned to Dingle for the first time in three years, with Arán Bakery & Bistro crowned Supreme Champion for their Arán spelt sourdough and Ten Watch Chocolates announced as Best Artisan Product for their PB&J Bar.
A previous finalist and gold medal winner at Blas na hÉireann awards for their sensational breads and pastries, this year’s Supreme Champion is Arán Bakery & Bistro for their Arán spelt sourdough, a loaf that uses 80% local spelt flour from Kells Wholemeal. With a lovely, slightly nutty flavour, the bread is finished with sesame seeds to accentuate the flavours that this unique grain maintains. Based in their bakery and bistro in Kilkenny city, winners Nicole Server-Pawlukojc and Bart Pawlukojc met while doing a stage in Noma in Copenhagen, married and moved to Ireland and opened Arán. Although they come from different chef backgrounds, Arán Bakery & Bistro brings their two influences to bear with a taste of what they’ve learnt from cooking all over the world.
Winner of Best Artisan Product for their PB&J Bar, Ten Watch Chocolates is a producer of handmade, artisan chocolates using single origin Madagascar chocolate and the best local and seasonal ingredients, made with great care by Lawri Dowie in Randalstown, Co. Antrim. An experienced chef and sourdough bread baker by trade, Lawri set up the small enterprise at his family home in Randalstown in late 2019 and has been selling his exquisite range of bonbons and bars successfully at food markets around Northern Ireland ever since, as well as featuring on shortlists and winning awards, such as at the London-based Academy of Chocolate. The name Ten Watch Chocolates comes from Lawri’s love of the movie Casablanca, which features a jokey reference to a “ten watch” in the film, and his Best Artisan Product award-winning PB&J Bar is made using his own in-house peanut butter and raspberry jam.
This year’s finalists and winners got to experience the new Blas Village for the first time. Set in the heart of Dingle, the pop-up village was built for producers across the country to come together and celebrate the very best of Irish food and drink for the first Blas in-person event in three years. As well as the awards being held here, finalists and winners have had the opportunity to showcase their products, engage with customers and meet key industry buyers.
Finalists and winners showcased their produce in four pagoda style tents — each highlighting a province in Ireland — also a new addition to the festival. Suitably named Eat Ireland in a Day, visitors were able to enjoy the high-calibre quality of food & drinks that reached the finalist stage.
Speaking after the announcement Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann said, “After a three-year hiatus from an in-person event, having a three-day event with the addition of the Blas Village and Eat Ireland in a Day has been worth the wait. I am really proud of what we hosted online but one thing that was repeated over and over was that people missed being in Dingle. It has been an intense and fantastic few days of focused networking, catch-ups and creating new connections. Our winners and finalists have been of exceptional talent this year and I am delighted that we have been able to showcase their produce to both regular visitors and industry experts in such an approachable and enjoyable way. This year it was not just the exceptional food and drink that has been celebrated but the people themselves, our passionate and resilient producers. It has been quite a homecoming to our Blas family home and we are looking forward already to doing it all over again next year.”
Now in their 15th year, Blas na hÉireann saw a huge increase in entries this year with almost 3,000 products and many new producers entering the awards for the first time. Products from every county in Ireland were entered to win bronze, silver or gold award in over 150 food and drink categories, as well as the key awards like Supreme Champion and Best Artisan Producer.
“We have had great success previously in the Blas na hÉireann awards but winning Supreme Champion is wonderful news for us all at Arán Bakery & Bistro,” says co-owner Bart Pawlukojc. “We’re a small, hard-working team that really believes in what we’re doing in Arán, our creative outlet where we make top-quality food accessible to everyone. Our aim is to make simple but delicious food from great ingredients that everyone can enjoy, while supporting and showcasing our local suppliers and producers.” “Everything we do is predicated on the best ingredients we can get our hands on,” says co-owner of Arán Bakery & Bistro, Nicole Server-Pawlukojc, “and it’s really rewarding to have our spelt sourdough selected as Blas na hÉireann’s Supreme Champion 2022 as that loaf of bread epitomises our entire approach at Arán — start with the very best and then add a little love and skill. We couldn’t be more delighted for the whole team — it’s a real boost for everyone.”
“Ten Watch Chocolates has been fortunate to be shortlisted and win a few awards since I started making chocolates back in 2019,” says Lawri Dowie, the chocolatier and baker behind the artisan chocolate company, “but Best Artisan Product for our PB&J Bar is the most prestigious and significant award yet and I am absolutely thrilled. Chocolate making really is a labour of love but there’s huge pleasure to be had from coming up with new flavour combinations and working on them until they really tick all the boxes. I’m so happy with the response to our PB&J bar — people do seem to love it, and that’s a great vote of confidence in Ten Watch Chocolates.”