FLORIDA

AMERICA'S CULINARY PARADISE

FLORIDA AND IRELAND

OBSERVATIONS AND SIMILARITIES!

IRELAND: Those of you who know me will remember my comments through the years that I firmly believe Florida can become a Culinary Paradise. Fifty four years ago over Easter in 1960, I made a similar announcement about Ireland, when I told Dr. T.J. O'Driscoll, the Director General of Bord Failte - the Irish Government Tourist Board, "I believe Ireland is virgin territory to become a Gourmet's Paradise." He smiled and challenged the teenager before him: "Then, why don't you make it a gourmet's paradise?" Tim was a close friend of my father's from their childhood days, and the best man at my parents wedding. Irish tourism was expanding rapidly at the time, but the development of the food scene was largely ignored. My 'quote' was repeated many times in the Media in Ireland, and is seen in my early cookbooks published by Mercier Press in the 1970s, and on the web site www.culinaryambassadorforireland.com (Go to the section under Early Years.) I began the Culinary Tours across the Emerald Isle to show people the superb food growing on their doorstep, and pioneered the New Irish Cuisine movement. The 'Tours' or 'Demonars' were entertaining evenings of food demonstrations, combined with chit chat on the folklore, legends, origins and history of the ingredients used in preparing the food. They ran over several years and were a great success. The 'Developers' (as I call them) became active by the mid 1970s and early 1980s. They began to promote the Irish food scene before the public eye. Interest grew and expanded nationwide throughout the Eighties decade. In 1994, the 'Consolidators' Bord Bia, the Irish Government Food Board was established. They put millions into marketing Irish food internationally with great success.

Today, Ireland is a Gourmet's Paradise

and a world player on the food stage

..... Now it is Florida's turn .....

FLORIDA 1981: When I first visited Florida in 1981 with my daughters, to stay with their paternal grandmother in Fort Lauderdale, I saw similarities with the Irish scene - A rapidly expanding successful Floridian tourism scene, but sadly a lack of interest in the food, which was at the time largely based on the fast foods industry. I returned to Florida several times, after sending my two daughters over to live here in 1986, after they finished their early education in Ireland. Epcot was open, so a colleague and I paid a visit. We came across a handful of international restaurants featuring fine dining, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, commenting on the potential of Florida becoming a Culinary Paradise. Already, Florida had so much going for it, as a well established destination for tourists who traveled to the State annually. On another visit, my eighty year 'young' mother came too. She was a world traveler from the time of her youth, when her grandfather owned a shipping line. When we traveled through central Florida, her comment was: "It's very green, like Ireland." Perhaps not the forty shades of green, but she liked it; loved the heat after living in India for many years, and agreed to move here with me in 1990.

1990s - FLORIDA: Throughout the Nineties, and into the early 21st Century, while I was trying to establish my culinary credentials on the American scene, I spoke out on the idea of Florida and its potential to become a Culinary Paradise. Many came, including local press members, to enjoy the several Culinary Soirees with full Buffet, featuring international cuisine. I organized the events for 60 - 80 people at a time, by the pool, overlooking Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway bridge - a perfect setting for the occasions. I took a photo from my terrace across the water at sunrise one day, now featured on the home screen on the 'Florida - America's Culinary Paradise web site. My early Irish cookbooks were on sale over here since the mid 1970s; and the Cork Examiner newspaper weekly features edition, the 'Irish Weekly Examiner' that went to 17 countries around the globe had made its way to Florida too in its time. I was commissioned to do a double page features supplement 'Out & About with Noreen' in the newspaper for six years. The Examiner is Ireland's leading daily paper. It helped me get a head start in my newly adopted country. In the early 1990s, upscale restaurants were few and far between in Florida. but this began to change slowly but surely. Throughout the decade, interest in fresh food and fine dining developed. An event took place in July 1995 in the Tampa Bay area - Bastille Day - a Street Fest. It was organized by SPIFFS - St. Petersburg International Folk Festival Society, an organization with a membership representing fifty two countries. I was asked to do a demonstration on French cuisine, and on NBC TV too, promoting the event. SPIFFS was well known in Florida, where they held a very successful annual international festival featuring national cuisines organized by their members. It was the start of many such festivals in Florida. The annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival began in 1996, and the annual South Beach Food Festival gained international fame after it began in the new Century. Both the Epcot Festival and the South Beach Festival have grown by leaps and bounds throughout the years. The popularity of TV Food Shows and Celebrity Chefs also helped establish a greater interest in food across the State of Florida.

21st CENTURY - FLORIDA: I do not claim to be a pioneer on the Florida Culinary scene, but I am delighted to be a part of it all, and help others in every way possible, in my role as a Culinary Impresario, Chef, Judge, Author; to ensure and promote Florida - 'America's Culinary Paradise'. Having 'been there', so to speak, through the process to establish a dream back in Ireland, I know it is a long hard road for everyone involved, but the potential in Florida is tremendous. However, there have and will be many hurdles to overcome, but with time these will become a thing of the past. One needs to be fully aware of all that goes on, face it head on with confidence and assurance that things will change all the time for the better.

INITIAL REACTIONS: In July 2008, a group of interested people met in Ocala at the Rosas Organics Farm, to discuss the 'Florida - America's Culinary Paradise' Program. It was attended by the Mayor of Ocala and several other Culinarians from across the State. Our web master Dave started work on a web site. Everywhere, people started to come out of the woodwork, and it is amazing what culinary activities are already well under way across Florida. The down side encountered at the time was the lack of interest shown from the powers that be in the state tourism organization 'My Florida'. I contacted one of their contributors directly, who lived in the Ocala area, and asked advice. She attended the day on the farm, offering general advice which was greatly appreciated. However, her expertise is in a different area to food. After many e mails to 'My Florida', an executive informed me they planned to establish someone to cover the restaurant scene in the State, but beyond that, cooperation to become involved in promoting Florida as a Culinary Paradise fell flat. E mails and attempts to communicate further were ignored. Another negative attitude encountered came from a source involved in the Florida local government cultural scene. "Are you crazy? Florida - a Culinary Paradise? Do you want people to laugh at you?" was the reaction. Since that happened, I read in the papers that the position held by the person no longer exists. Tunnel vision with some people is an unfortunate aspect of what one will encounter. The tourism people in the area where I live offered help, but their help was very restrictive in what they could do, mostly in the direction of the hotel industry attracting people to visit Florida. At the time, a tourism survey was done on the twelve reasons why people visit Florida. Topping the list was not Disney or the beaches, but shopping. Food was no where to be seen on the survey. Negativity is part of the game encountered en route by anyone out to achieve a goal. It is par for the course. At the other end of the scale, sometimes I see a defeatist attitude expressed when results do not happen quickly. Negativity and defeatism cannot be allowed. I chose to ignore my own experiences of negativity through the years, and if anything, it spurred me on to stay the course. Encouragement and support to all involved is what will count in the long run. There is much work to do. Everywhere across Florida, people are hard at it already.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

IS

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

FLORIDA CULINARY ACADEMY AWARDS: In January 2008, at the annual Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon International Culinary Academy Awards Presentation and Dinner at the Vinoy in St. Petersburg, a new Program of Culinary Academy Awards covering the culinary scene throughout Florida was announced. In 2009, the Florida Culinary Academy Awards Program was initiated, and at the annual event, several Awards are presented to Culinarians from across the State of Florida. Now into its fourth year, the very successful Florida Culinary Academy Awards has gone from strength to strength, creating considerable interest everywhere and among the Media. Currently, it is being restructured and organized into an independent Program and Annual Awards Event, separate to the Cordon d' Or - Gold Ribbon International Culinary Academy Awards. Future plans allow the Florida Culinary Academy Awards Program activities to harness the culinary scene from sea to shining sea across the State of Florida, and bring the culinary players together throughout the State, via a project to be launched this year - 2012. Along with the Florida Culinary Academy Awards, the goal is to help promote and establish local, national and international interest in Florida - America's Culinary Paradise. An 'umbrella group' of people connected and involved with the Florida culinary scene will be established to organize and run the Florida Culinary Academy Awards. Exciting ideas are in the pipeline to eventually enable Florida to be recognized as America's Culinary Paradise.

FLORIDA WINERIES: In 2009 at a luncheon, a Sommelier was heard to pay lip service to the Florida wine industry, but clearly implied a low opinion on Florida wines. He stated they were just "suitable perhaps to drink socially by the pool on a summer's day". Talk about Deja Vu! It took me back four decades as the memories flooded back. I have told the story numerous times. I remembered the early Seventies when I spent eight months in Australia and California. At the time, Australian and Californian wines were looked down on in Europe. French wines, German white wines and Italian wines were the only 'acceptable' wines on the scene. It was a time when 'wine snobs' considered wines in much the same way that pedigree dogs and thoroughbred horses were looked on by society. The really aristocratic wines carried a 'kennel' name, from whence they were bred with as much care and consideration, as were the gentry in bygone days - with a list that reads like an edition of Debretts! Everything else was considered "thirst quenching social drinks served on ice, that you might enjoy around the pool on a hot day" - nothing more. I laughed quietly to myself when I heard those similar words again. Look where California and Australia are today on the world stage with their excellent choice of wines; with South Africa and other countries in hot pursuit wanting world wide recognition. Florida is now in the mix. Did you know that there are fifty Wineries in Florida, and twenty of them are registered with the State? I told this story again to a Winery owner three years ago at the annual Florida Wine Producers Show in Gainsville. His voice perked up. However, he said he probably won't be around when it happens in Florida.....Maybe, maybe not, but it will happen, and I hope that I will be around to see it.

FLORIDA SMALL FARMS CONFERENCE: In July 2009, I attended the first 'Florida Small Farms' Conference in the Orlando area. The interest and potential to develop the food scene throughout the State was clearly evident, passionate and impressive. Did you know there are 47,463 Small Farms in Florida? Amazing! When I tell folk about the Wineries and Small Farms in Florida, they are left speechless at the numbers quoted. The guest of honor and major speaker at the two day event was Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson (not the famous Hollywood Actor). Another speaker, Professor John Ikerd emphasized the importance of 'One step at a time is a step in the right direction.' How true! Every step taken by every individual involved, will with time make things happen on the Florida food scene. Remember what happened in Ireland? Patience is an essential necessity, as it won't happen overnight. Everywhere across the State, the Developers are hard at work establishing the Florida food scene. The Consolidators will eventually 'come on board' in Florida too, when the powers that be throughout the State make decisions to get really active and involved.

..... It has begun .....

SLOW FOOD - FLORIDA STATE: Florida Slow Food has ten Chapters across the State. They have played a major role in promoting the food scene throughout Florida. They are hot on the trail to make it happen, and support the Small Farms Conference annually. At the first Small Farms Conference, Slow Food organized an evening Buffet. Many were invited to attend. Slow Food Florida Board members listened to the farmers and food producers. Now four years later, the annual SFC conference is a date marked on peoples' calendars throughout Florida.

FLORIDA'S NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER: Commissioner Adam Putnam took over the mantle nearly two years ago. We met by chance in 2010, when Senator Adam Putnam from Tallahassee, was a guest speaker at the second Small Farms Conference. By chance, we both discovered we had the same date for our birthdays - that day at the Conference, and fell into conversation about the potential future of Florida's food scene. It also gave me a chance to indicate the comparisons with Ireland and what could happen in Florida. By the third conference held in 2011, Commissioner Putnam was making great head way in his new role. His Bill to change the School Lunches Program had been passed unanimously in the State Legislature. Responsibility to improve and take charge of the school lunches throughout Florida was moved from the Education Department to the Agriculture Department. Part of the new Program was to involve Florida's farmers to provide 'fresh' food for the school lunch program, as attempts to weed out fast and unhealthy foods are underway. As the speaker earlier in the day at the first SFC said: "One step at a time is a step in the right direction." Today, everywhere through the State, people have come out of the woodwork in the culinary world. They are making great headway in their chosen work. It is a very exciting time to be living in Florida, where currently Florida is slowly but surely evolving into America's Culinary Paradise.

FLORIDA - AMERICA'S CULINARY PARADISE: Therein lies many similarities and observations encountered through my life's Culinary Odyssey. Ireland has become a Gourmet's Paradise. In the early days, interest was only shown in the tourism side. Eventually the potential of the Culinary scene and Culinary Tourism developed. During the Celtic Tiger days, Ireland became renowned world wide for its superb food and new cuisine. Combined with its long established tourism, Ireland is now a major destination for visitors from across the globe. Now it is Florida's turn. Tourism in Florida has been well established and successful for the best part of a Century. Now is the time for the Florida Culinary Scene to come to the fore. It is evolving successfully and becoming a major part of the Culinary tourism scene too throughout the State.  The end result will bring greater benefits to Florida tourism and Florida food and cuisine and bring them all together to make

Florida

America's Culinary Paradise

 

Noreen Kinney, HAAC
Culinary Ambassador for Ireland in USA
(Bord Failte 1996 – Tourism Ireland 2016)
Culinary Impresario,  Author,  Culinary Judge
Culinary Instructor & University Lecturer on the International ‘Culinary Arts’
Guest Chef/Demonstrator & Speaker,  Celebrity Master Chef
  • Published Author (five books),  Commissioned Journalist  – ‘Out & About with Noreen’  weekly double page featured in the Irish Examiner Supplement for 6 years;   & 3 to 4 pages featured in the monthly  'Social & Personal' magazine for 8 years - Additional published work in other papers/magazines in Europe and the USA
  • Regular TV appearances on RTE (Ireland), and on NBC, ABC & CBS in the USA 
  • Director - Cordon d' Or International & Florida Culinary Academy Awards Professional Expert 
  • Demonstrator/Speaker on Global Cuisines - France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, England, India, China
  • Pioneer - New Irish Cuisine Movement (1960 - 1986)

Four Top Honors awarded to Noreen Kinney by the ACF (American Culinary Federation)  and the AAC  (American Academy of Chefs) in the USA

  • Honorary Fellow - Invited and Inducted in to the American Academy of Chefs - AAC (2011......)
  • Honorary Life Member - American Culinary Federation - ACF (2009.......)
  • Life Achievement - American Culinary Federation - ACF (2009)
  • President's Gold Medallion - ACF (2008)
 
Contact Information:                                1-727 347 2437 (Florida, USA)
AmbassadorNoreen@aol.com                 www.culinaryambassadorforireland.com
CulinaryParadise@aol.com                      www.florida-americasculinaryparadise.com
nmekinney@aol.com                                 www.newirishcuisine.com
cordondor@aol.com                                   www.cordondorcuisine.com
 
Further details on Noreen's Professional Profile can be seen on www.culinaryambassadorforireland.com
 
 

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