Crafty lot showcase their wares at Gift Fair

Magaly Murray of Gran Grans Foods with their range of produce. Photo: Martina Regan.
Magaly Murray of Gran Grans Foods with their range of produce. Photo: Martina Regan.

Lifestyle – Up to seventy stands to show off artisan food, crafts and design at Local Food and Craft Gift Fair in Galway this weekend. Judy Murphy charts its development from small beginnings.

The sixth annual Local Food and Craft Gift Fair, organised by Galway Local Enterprise Office (LEO), will take place this weekend in the Black Box Theatre with 70 stands showcasing artisan food, crafts and design. All are for sale.  It’s one initiative of Galway LEO to support start-ups and small to medium size businesses.  The organisation also provides financial support and mentoring as well as workshops, courses and networking opportunities. The annual Food and Craft Gift Fair is one of the most popular and best-known of LEO’S events and this year’s features a mix of new and previous participants. Resin artist Ciara O’Neill is a first-timer as are Nigel and Magaly Murry of Gran Grans food, while woodturners, Ambrose and Bríd O’Halloran are veterans of the event.

Food is an intrinsic part of the LEO Fair and a new addition this year is Gran Grans Foods, run by Nigel and Magaly Murray. Gran Grans make a range of sauces, dressings, dips, chutneys, preserves in the custom-designed kitchen of their Kilchreest home.  The company’s is named for Nigel’s granny, whose passion for cooking helped inspire him to become a chef.

After training in Athlone IT, Nigel travelled the world and met Peruvian-born Magaly in Venice. He was a sous chef on a cruise ship and she was PA to the cruise director.  Nigel travelled to Peru to ask Magaly’s father for her hand in marriage, despite the fact that he spoke no Spanish and that her father didn’t speak English. But all went well and they lived in Lima for 10 years, where they ran the country’s first Irish pub, which opened in 1997.

Eventually, however, theyrelocated to Ireland so their three children could be educated here. They settled in Kilchreest, between Gort and Loughrea, and Nigel worked as head chef in the Ardilaun House Hotel and also in Glenlo Abbey among other places.

He enjoyed work, but being a chef in the hospitality industry doesn’t lend itself to family life. So, in 2014, he and Magaly decided on a new direction and Gran Grans artisan food was born.

Nigel now manages the rugby team his 17-year-old son Brendan plays for, which he couldn’t have done in his previous life.

Nigel produces Gran Grans sauces, chutneys and preserves and Magaly looks after labelling and packaging.

They grow herbs and vegetables on an acre of land and these are used in their range of foods.

Nigel’s first foray into sauce-making involved mint, apple and horseradish – they’d observed that most people were using Colman’s and felt it was a niche they could target. Since then they’ve expanded, with failures as well as successes along the way.

“We’ve trialled stuff that hasn’t worked but all our products are now tried and tested,” says Nigel.

Meanwhile, Magaly’s  “great eye for detail” is reflected in the tasteful packaging.

Their produce is free from preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings and Gran Grans also has an extensive gluten-free range.

Nigel praises LEO for its support in areas such as mentoring, grants and microfinance.

“They have skill and expertise we don’t have and it’s great to be able to tap into that.”

Gran Grans took part in Galway Food Festival earlier this year and are part of the SuperValu Academy. They are distributed via SuperValu and Nestor’s supermarkets and are in McCambridges and Morton’s in Galway City.  They’ll be available at the Black Box this weekend, as part of the annual LEO showcase.

The Local Food, Craft and Gift Fair is at the Black Box from 10am-6pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.  Admission free.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.