Category Archives: Food

Food For Thought & Down To Business

Martin Lynch Donegal food coast

As part of Enterprising Donegal Business week 2015 I had the great fortune of presenting & hosting an evening of food business in Donegal at the Village Tavern in Mount Charles.

The title for the evening’s presentation was “Food For Thought” & the theme of the evening was an “Insight into the business opportunities in the food sector and the expectations required to demonstrate commitment to good food

We decided upon having the event in an actual food business as we wanted to be at the heart of food; the dinning room in the Village Tavern was perfect for this. On a Tuesday evening in March it was great to see so many people turn out for the evening.

The key topics we spoke about – Getting it right first time & how important first impressions are for your customer – be it food service or food product! How do you measure this? Is it the meet & greet? Commitment to getting the small thing rights…. If you can deliver on a great bowl of soup, fresh tasting bread, finish with a great coffee & clean toilets. Very simple measurements. Not the most glamorous, for me this if the real bench mark of creating a first & lasting impression, Get the customer, keep the customer!

The business of food – no matter how sexy food is, if you’re not making money you are wasting your time. Know your food costs, set your margins, and work on a realistic gross profit. Be good to your suppliers, they need to make a buck to. Talk to your chefs. A chef’s knowledge can be the key to optimizing food costs. It’s important to make the finances work!  Nose to tail cooking isn’t just about origins of food – in the hands of a skilled chef, its profit.

Trends, Gaps & Opportunities – being a foodie in Ireland is a trend that is on the up & is great customer base for food companies to focus on. It also represents a chance for start up food companies to get into business. So could Donegal make cured meats using our local Dexter’s or pork – we have a great local supply. More things can be done locally “may be a bit mad, but good to mad sometimes in food”.   Coffee roasting, if some one can roast coffee in Scotland, why cant some one roast coffee in Donegal? Chefs table….opportunity to offer experience & make customers feel special while up selling too.  Comfort food opportunity…..Grilled Cheese truck shops in London to do comfort with a New York twist.

Commitment to good food – is about food safety. Food safety is important. Protects your business, protects your customer!

Kevin Pykes from “Pykes & Pommes Street Food ” & Enda O Rourke From ” Village Tavern” gave us an insight into their food business & will feature in the next blog post on the second part of Food For Thought.

Martin Lynch Local & foraged food Donegal & NI










Down To Business With Bobby Kerr on Newstalk Radio

I was delighted to appear on Newstalk “Down to Business” presented by Bobby Kerr. The programme was broadcast from Donegal & Featured over a dozen local businesses. It was a very positive event & great national exposure for a county bursting with small & medium size companies.

Listen back below as I discuss with Bobby Kerr how I work with companies & my views on food, tourism & the bottom line.

Martin Lynch on Newstalk Down to business with Bobby Kerr & Harveys Point


Fundamentals of a restaurant business



I was fortunate enough to attend the press launch of a local enterprise week. The event was hosted by Donegal County Enterprise Board. This was nothing out of the ordinary – a Skype link & few words by Kevin Kelly (a key note speaker & doer!) & that’s when the ordinary became the extra ordinary. Kevin Kelly revealed a great information nugget, quite simply “Analysis your Idea, what matters isn’t what you lack, what matters isn’t your idea. What matters is what you do. What will you do?” But all business starts with an idea. So in the restaurant business how much “Anaylsising of your/their idea” do restaurateurs’ carry out?

The two key fundamentals to a restaurant business are the Food & Service. How do you apply the “Anaylsising” theory to these fundamentals.



What area does your food occupy?

Does passion cloud your food businesses judgement?

How much does business apply in your business?

Expertise or aspirations on your menu?

Food cost, what are my food costs?


Service its as great as our food

Only the Americans do service!

Its not as important as the food, really, honestly?

We smile at our customers

Our customers – make our business

The above points – true or false off a Restaurant Business that you know? 



French Alps Foraging

5 #Legenderry Eats in the City of Culture 2013

Peace bridge Derry Martin Lynch Hospitality Solutions blog









When growing up in Derry in the 1970’s & 1980’s gastronomic delights where few & far between. Beyond ”la cuisine de ma mere”  stand out dining experiences normally revolved around a take away or dining in portion of chips, peas & gravy with a dash of malt vinegar from “ Swanky Frankie’s” (Frankie Ramsey’s café in William Street – since renamed as Café Grianan)

City of Culture 2013 Derry  presents a great opportunity for food, tourism & hospitality businesses in both Derry/Londonderry & Donegal to show case their products & business. I know we are entering the second quarter of 2013, but the City of Culture is starting to take on that holiday feeling & the official start of summer time is all contributing.

In no particular order I have listed below 5 places popular for coffee, lunch or Dinner. You will find their contact details on the web or via Twitter. This is not an exhaustive list & there are many more eateries serving great food & good coffee

  1. Beech hill House Hotel – long before all the accolades, eating out & foodies Patsy & her team where serving outstanding local food. Leading the way & continue to do so. Barry heads up the kitchen team creating great country house food with a modern twist. The hotel is set in its own beautiful gardens & Woodland. This season a polytunnel  has been added to the  renovated walled gardens – a real treat for foodies. @BeechHillDerry
  2. Browns Restaurant & Champagne Lounge – Headed up by Ian Orr, fresh from his appearance on the Great British Menu. Head Chef Ian & his team continue to serve fresh seasonal produce and support of local suppliers. If you fancy a main course lunch of Greencastle fish of the day with smoked celeriac milk puree, lettuce, cauliflower beignet then this is the place for you! @ian034
  3. The Exchange Restaurant & Wine bar – bang in the heart of the city located at the city side of the peace bridge. Mark Caithness (the man who gave me my first break in professional kitchen in 1986) & team have been producing great value food in Derry in various locations for over 2 decades now. Worth checking out for lunch
  4. Fiorentinis Café – set in the Strand Road. Been in business for as long as I can remember & longer. Great for Ice cream & real Chips! A must for family treats
  5. Warehouse No1 – the new kid on the block. Opened in December 2012 & next to the Guildhall. Donal & his team serving up great coffee, in house pastries & treats & sour dough sandwiches & other dishes. Great for a coffee & catch up with city life! @Warehouse2013

For some street food keep your eyes peeled for @kevinPyke Pyke & Pommes street food


If you’re planning in visiting the city or just looking for a cultural over of Derry/Londonderry here’s a great video guide from Michael Bradley – bassist from the Legendry Undertones & now a radio producer for BBC Radio Foyle.  By the way my claim to fame with the Undertones was the lead singer Feargal Sharkey, he was our cub leader in the scouts!

Wild Mushroom Pickings in Ireland (Part 1)

The mushroom season is drawing to a close for me. I live in Donegal, North West Ireland – once November is upon me the foraging bounties turn into great walks & rambles through forests with very little wild mushrooms in my basket. The drop in temperature appears to put pay to the mushroom bounty.

I have been collecting/hunting/foraging wild mushrooms since 1989 – my first foray was in the West Country, England. Up a hillside & down a valley near the beautiful Bradford on Avon & not far from Combe Grove – cut Cotswold stone buildings & pristine rolling English countryside. Beautiful middle England! On that first trip we collected shaggy ink caps. The chief identifier of wild mushrooms that day is now my wife! (Isabelle a French lady from the Haute Savoie region of France). Our mushroom forage yielded enough for a meal of mushrooms on toast.

I started cooking with wild mushrooms in professional kitchens whilst working with Gary Rhodes & latterly Paul Flynn (Nico Ladenis). In these 1 & 2 Michelin starred restaurants we used wild mushrooms fresh, dried & frozen. Our suppliers sourced from Scotland, England & France.  Dried Girolles partnered with garlic & sherry to make a fabulous cream & jus based sauce to serve with rack of lamb. Fresh Girolles served with lobster, spinach & homemade linguine. Fresh pied de mouton with roast guinea fowl. Frozen French ceps trimmed, diced, sauté served on top of lobster ravioli with a decadent truffle beurre blanc.


I don’t profess to be a wild mushroom expert. The Latin or scientific termonogly used to identify wild mushrooms is an area I don’t “hang out in”. I leave this to the well read & specialist knowledgeable fungi people out there (whom I have enormous admiration & respect for)

In the next edition of this blog I want to talk you through a combination of seasons & a year of wild mushroom picking in Ireland (Wicklow & Donegal). I will leave you with these

  • I pick mushrooms on public land & private land (ask permission – its good manners, keep people on side).
  •  I pick mushrooms on managed woodlands & native forest, a mixture of both broadleaf & pine forest. I haven’t had much success in open fields & meadows – not since county Wicklow
  • You can find mushrooms growing pretty much any where – whilst living in London we used to go foraging for ceps, shaggy ink caps & pied blue in Richmond Park
  • I don’t forage near foot paths or trails – i.e. where my canine friends like to mark
  • Be careful where you forage & respectful of the local environment
  • Don’t be greedy only forage what you can use or preserve
  • Don’t forage wild mushrooms – unless you have an expert whom can identify what eats well or what mushrooms can lead to renal failure & potential mortality
  • Purchase a good guide book to assist in the identification of mushrooms & toadstools
  • Jane Grigsons book “ The Mushroom Feast” – illustrations, recipes & prose


*This information above is for illustrative & informative purposes – its upto you as how you might use this information.

Donegal Food Strategy

Martin Lynch at Launch of Donegal food strategy










The Donegal Food Strategy was officially launched in Glenveagh Castle by Minister John Perry TD on Monday 23rd July. The strategy, commissioned by Donegal County Enterprise Board in conjunction with the other state development agencies, was prepared with input from representatives from all of the sectors within the food industry in County Donegal.

The magnificent Glenveagh Castle made for a fitting surrounding for the launch of the Donegal Food Strategy, which will form the road map for placing food in Donegal at the fore front of sustainable development, creating employment & making the county famous for food.

The Strategy Action Plan has identified 7 strategic points:

  1. Put enablers in place
  2. Increase the amount of new food start – ups
  3. Growing turnover & profitability of existing producers
  4. Consumer education/ consumer focused events
  5. Wider geographical promotion of Donegal as a food destination
  6. Strengthen links with farming community
  7. Strengthen links with fishing community

Several hundred people from the Donegal food & business community attended the launch. After all the formalities & the official launch we feasted on a tasting of local food, which show cased products from 25 local suppliers & local people.

On a personnel & professional note I am delighted to be participating on the steering committee which will oversee the implementation of the Donegal Food Strategy. We had our first meeting on the steering committee before the launch & our next meeting will take place on 10th September.

Click to download the Food Strategy document


Keeping It Simple – Hedgerow Foraging & Free Food

Donegal Hedgerow Blackberries

Donegal Hedgerow Blackberries









Donegal Hedgerow wild rasperries

Donegal Hedgerow wild rasperries








Donegal Hedgerow Wild Blueberries

Donegal Hedgerow Wild Blueberries
















Here in Donegal now known as the sunny North West. (Yes its official we’ve had more summer sunshine then any other county this summer) its been a great month for collecting some free food, the mushroom season started on the 1st of July & has been yielding about 1 ½ kg of wild mushrooms per forage. The Cep or Porcini count has been low & slow. Looking back at my notes from last season I’m about a week behind on the Cep harvest – so hopefully this week- end will mark the start of “Cep Time”

As well as wild mushrooms on my rambling I’ve been helping myself to some wild berries. My favourite is wild raspberries. It makes a lovely dessert or sweet with the addition of a few ingredients.

1 cardamon pod – split & crush the seeds

1 tablespoon of honey

1 tub of small thick set yoghurt such as Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche

2 tablespoons of shelled, chopped pistachios


Method – mix all off the above ingredients together & serve with wild raspberries , delicous with some short bread biscuits; Enjoy.

Wild Mushroom Hunting in Donegal

girolles Donegal

Collecting the first wild mushrooms of 2012 in Donegal

A damp start to July has been the bain of Irish agriculture & local farmers. Whilst ” Damo” are local farmer tends to the ewe’s & lambs in this inclement weather, even his 4×4 struggles over the damp ground – hence its parked at the top of the lane & its a trudge down the fields to keep the “Agri food business” at the front off our economic recovery.

I have been empathising with “Damo” & his plight. I suggested it could be a good season for wild mushrooms & I’d keep him updated on my wild mushroom foraging. So far July has been warm & damp and this been proving great for wild mushroom.  I have been out twice so far this month & have collected around 3kilos. A nice mix of Ceps & girolles. Its been the earliest start to the season here in Donegal. I found a new spot & so far it’s proving a good choice, even though their are some parts where I’m crawling through the forest floor & old pine needles are so deep you can’t see the soil. The great thing about this is that the mushrooms are well preserved & relatively soil free. I literally stumbled across a real bounty of girolles & ceps last September, I got lost in the middle of the forest – was going in a straight line & completed a semi circle & came across the new patch.  Try it some time, get yourself a good mushroom guide book, a bit of  local knowledge & go mushroom foraging.   

wild mushroom hunting Donegal

Menu Planning and the Cost Implications for Business

Martin Lynch LCN catering costs












As most business operators in the hospitality trade will tell you they’ve been living with rising costs. So how can you absorb costs like this & be profitable. A good place to Start is with your current menu

Menu planning and the importance of the menu is an essential tool in creating the power to bring customers in though your front door. The menu is a highly important factor not only because of its content but also in the way it is set out. The way dishes are displayed and its use to maximize profit. When creating the menu – it is vital you understand the basic principles – Know your customer base. Know your produce & how to match/marry produce. What food gross profit margin you want to achieve & how much can you charge per item/dish on the menu

Okay, assuming that you have established your customer base via location or social media & old fashion word of mouth. Let’s move on to the produce/ingredients & how they marry together. Most business will leave this to the head chef. It normally takes the form of the following brief – write me a menu on what you want to cook? Or let’s write a menu that you can cook well & what the customers want. The latter statement tends to work much better as it satisfies the chefs cooking & creative needs & focuses on the customers taste.

Working on a food Gross profit margin of 70 percent will assist in pricing the dishes on the menu. So before you do this – a few questions to ask yourself – have you an upto date pricelist from your supplier? Do you negotiate quartly price agreements with key suppliers? Do you know who much you spent over the past 12months with key suppliers? Do you get quotes from the “usual” suppliers? Do you check invoice prices with agreed price list? Are you using a branded product when a yellow label product is better value? Do you employ a stock taker to measure your food gross profit? If you answer yes to all these, well done you’ll be ready for the decade of rising prices

Harrods Food Hall – Morel Mushrooms

Morel mushrooms from Harrods













Having pondered on my lack of success in collecting Morel mushrooms. I was curious as to what the market price of these luxury mushrooms would be in a large food hall. Well on my most recent trip to London I snapped the photo & modest price tag.  Whislt  browsing in Harrods Food Hall I was also reliving ever taste sensation from a long lunch . Having  just finished dinning at The Ledbury Restaurant in Notting Hill. The meal was composed around a six course lunch, five different tasting wines is now firmly ranked as the best dinning out experience in my twenty five years in the Hospitality industry. Superlatives are not enough to describe this dinning experience, but in my next blog post I’ll give it a try.

So next blog round will also look at gardening in the Finn Valley & updates on the wild raspberries & Wild Bilberry.

Coming down the blog line will be “How to do extraordinary food with ordinary ingredients” #Keep it Natural

Martin Helps Spreads The Cost With LCN Readers

Martin Lynch LCN Food Costs












I am delighted to be penning several  articles for the LCN Licensed & Catering News. First published in 1940, LCN magazine, as it has fondly become known, is regarded by many of its readers as the ‘Bible’ of the licensed and catering trade. The business newspaper for the hospitality industry, LCN is a firm favourite with publicans, hoteliers, restaurateurs and indeed everyone associated with this important industry. Second article above was about food costing, gross profits & the vital role that it plays in a profitable hospitality & catering business. Gross profit is a measure of how your business is performing. It is the profit made on food sales before any overheads are deducted. Your menu should work on an average food cost of thirty percent which will give you a gross profit percentage of seventy percent. Inadequate cost control is the number one factor contributing to food businesses failing. Look out for my next article in the May edition


The Start of the 2012 Wild Mushroom Season? A False start!

morel mushrooms










It was with great gusto last Sunday I went on my first wild mushroom forage of 2012 -ruck sack packed with my flask of hot coffee, a tub of borlotti bean salad & crusty bread ( you need sustenance for foraging & i don’t do slumming when it comes to foraging fuel!). Water proof gear to the hilt my thermal lined Donegal weather proof trousers & my trusty expert companions in tow ” Charlie the Stray & Sasha” – my two terriers!  My mushroom of choice on this forage was ” Morel” mushrooms – they are the jewel in the crown of culinary mushrooms. Ask any chef about these mushrooms & they go weak at the knees (with excitement) at the thought of cooking with them, equally restaurant owners go weak at the knees at the thought of buying them. Per kg fresh morels can cost upwards of €75 plus.  Morels grow over a very short season in these neck of the woods, around 3 weeks. I normally find them in woodlands in broad leaf & coniferous areas &  in solitary formations rather than in small groups. I rummaged around in the forest floor, strayed onto the adjoining fields & nearly went crossed eye straining to find my morels –  after 3 hours I called it quits! Not a morel to be had – the chill in the air & cold rain just isn’t the weather for morels. Weather & temperature permitting I will try this weekend. Also hope to find some ” St George” mushrooms from mid May onwards – watch this space

Running A Tourism Buisness in Ireland

Atlantic Drive, County Donegal

A briefing paper entitled “Reducing State Imposed Costs on the Tourism Industry:The Case for Better Regulation” by Failte Ireland makes for a great insight into regulation across the tourism sector. In general, tourism businesses are required to interact with at least 24 different public, statutory and other bodies in operating their business. The studys findings were based on in-depth qualitative case studies with 20 businesses across the breath of the tourism industry. The case study group comprised off the following businesses:

 ·         Five hotels and two hotel chains

·         Four restaurants

·         Three coach operators

·         Three firms from the activities and attractions sector

·         Two self-catering group schemes

·         One B&B

·         One language school and one large commercial hostel.

Read the full briefing paper – Failte Ireland Paper

The West & The North West of Ireland

Galway Hooker Ale & Fresh Donegal Crab







Artisan brewers & local produce make a great marriage. A great food marriage that is.  As a young chef working in London I learnt about the true values of food marriages. This revelation on flavours & ingredient parings started for me with  Nico Ladenis of Chez Nico. This was a 2 Michelin star restaurant with all the accolades & a fantastic reputation. There were  four Irish lads that formed about a quarter of the kitchen team which was  led by Paul Flynn. Nico had written book ” My Gastronomy”. One of the key things that stuck in my mind from the book was how the marriage of two food ingredients work together ie scallops & garlic. Simple flavours with no messing around. That was London in the early 1990’s In Ireland in 2012 putting food marriage on the menus of restaurants, bars, hotels in the west & north west  is alive & kicking in the Oarsman Restaurant & Harry’s . I wonder what Nico would have made of my food marriage of Galway Hooker Ale & Fresh Donegal Crab