Sowing the seeds of our foodie future at ATU

By Róise Collins

LAST week the Donegal News spoke with Dr Elizabeth McKenzie, a lecturer in Culinary Arts at Atlantic Technological University’s (ATU) Killybegs campus about Donegal’s sprawling food scene.

This week we paid a visit to her classroom and spoke with her students, aspiring professional chefs, who are the future of the county’s cuisine.


The students on the BA in Culinary Arts course have come through both the CAO and Springboard. Courses approved for Springboard are funded by EU cohesion policy and they provide students with real life skills and job-readiness.

An important element of the ATU culinary course is the invaluable industry based work experience students receive.

Through their work experience the group of second year students have worked in bustling kitchens across the county under some of our most talented and creative chefs.

One student Keira Ferry from Dunfanaghy completed her college placement in the Olde Glen Bar in Carrigart, which is often touted as the best restaurant in Ireland.

She said it has been amazing to work with their head chef, Ciaran Sweeney, who was recently awarded the best chef in Ulster. He is one of the many renowned alumni from the Killybegs based catering college.

Through her time at the Olde Glen Bar she has developed a deep appreciation for the sourcing of fresh local produce, which is an important part of the restaurant’s recipe for success.

Another student Ciarán Coyle from Gaoth Dobhair completed his college placement in Teach Coll, a cosy restaurant perched at the top of Magheroarty. It overlooks the stretching coast line and many islands scattered amidst the rugged Atlantic.


The popular restaurant specialises in seafood which is also sourced locally.

Focusing on sourcing local and seasonal produce is also an important element of the ATU Culinary Arts programme.

Student Mark McBride from Ballybofey started his culinary career in the Mount Errigal Hotel, he is following in the footsteps of his father who is also a chef.

Mark has a keen interest in their weekly classes that explore contemporary Irish cuisine. The class focuses on utilising fresh local produce and meat, last week they made gourmet burgers with local beef.

Jenny Heerey is a Cavan native living in Ardara, she has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

To her surprise the course has opened her eyes to an exciting world of food. Jenny loves their weekly class that focuses on creating street food.

During a recent class she learnt how to prepare and cook a fried chicken, before this Jenny said she had always cooked a traditional roast chicken. She is excited to explore more contemporary cooking methods in their upcoming classes.

Through the course students can experience many exciting opportunities. Bronagh Barrett from Falcarragh is currently preparing to compete in a culinary student competition in the RDS, Dublin next week.

During the competition students will be tasked to prepare a main course with locally sourced ingredients. Bronagh is planning on making a delicious seafood pie, inspired by the fresh produce surrounding them in Killybegs.

Through the work placement students also can develop many invaluable skills, that can’t be taught in the classroom.

Rachel Ameh from Letterkenny completed her placement in the bustling Silver Tassie Hotel. Her classmate David Scanlon from Letterkenny completed his placement in the busy Radisson Blu Hotel.

They both learnt how to work under pressure in a fast paced environment and the preparation involved in catering for large functions, such as weddings.

Because of the intimate class sizes, lessons are often tailored to suit student’s specific interests.

Mark Curran from Buncrana has spent a significant portion of his studies perfecting his pastries. He has thoroughly enjoyed improving his culinary skills and learning the science behind creating the perfect pastry.

He said that when the lecturers learnt of his passion for pastries and baking, they offered him ample opportunities to hone in on these skills and focus more on this element of learning.

This story is part of the YOUTHopia campaign, a journalistic project shedding new lights on the EU Cohesion Policy. YOUTHopia is funded by the European Commission.


Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland