One of Ireland’s leading chefs, Ross Lewis, has established a €3,000 student bursary for University College Cork’s (UCC) new food course, the Postgraduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture.

Applicants to the bursary were asked to detail how they would use their learning on the diploma to further their career development in the food industry. The Chapter One bursary was awarded to Sinéad Sheehy, who intends to research Irish food culture through sources written in the Irish language.

Sinéad was chosen from high calibre potential candidates. Sinéad is a is a native Irish speaker from West Dingle and her first language gives her an edge in researching Irish food culture through sources written in the Irish language. She is aware of how food has helped to shape our national identity and is eager to learn and research more about how our food heritage is part of what makes us ‘Irish’.

In September 2019, University College Cork introduced the Postgraduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture, Ireland’s first university programme of study that has a dedicated focus on the evolution of Irish food and culinary culture.

“As a proud UCC alumnus, I am very grateful for my successful career and wanted to support others as they build a career in food, hence my decision to provide the Chapter One Student Bursary” commented Ross Lewis.

One of the most influential figures in shaping Ireland’s culinary landscape is Myrtle Allen. In May this year, The Food Institute in UCC hosted the Inaugural Myrtle Allen Memorial Lecture to mark the University’s acquisition of her papers.

During the lecture, Ross, a friend of Myrtle’s coined the term ‘Myrtling’, in recognition of Myrtle’s propensity to include shore and hedge foods like carrageen moss, elderflowers and blackberries on her menus, long before it was fashionable or profitable to do so. And like Myrtle Allen before him, the Michelin Star chef has used his culinary talents to showcase the best of Irish food produce on his Chapter One Restaurant menus. His decision to offer the bursary deepens his commitment to Irish food and how it might develop in the future.

Postgraduate programme manager, Regina Sexton, and Bursary recipient Sinéad Sheehy, recently met with Ross Lewis in Chapter One, where Ross kindly gave them a tour of the front of house and kitchen of the award winning restaurant “He was incredibly nice and I owe him a lot”, says Sinéad. ‘I hope the course will help me develop my ideas around building a tourism product around combing food and the Irish language. Being from the west of Dingle, I am very proud of my mother’s family history on the Blasket Islands and I’d like to see if I can research further the whole food culture of this part of Ireland. On a personal level it is quite special to be awarded a bursary, as my Granduncle, Dr. Micheal Kearney set up the Blasket Island Bursary for secondary school students from the Gaeltacht who are studying a heritage subject, so I guess it is like it came full circle.

Regina says; “Sinéad’s potential to research Irish food through the Irish language is an exciting development for Ireland’s food industry and culture. The fact that one of Ireland’s most respected restaurants Chapter One has funded this Student Bursary, marks the growing maturity of attitude and appreciation of Irish food”.

For further information on UCC’s Postgraduate Diploma in Irish Food Culture, please visit the website https://www.ucc.ie/en/ace-pdifc/