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Forensic attention to detail is bakeryÕs recipe for success



Date Published: {J}

A PhD in chemistry mightn’t seem to be necessary if you want to be a top-class chef, but there are occasions when it gives you a head start.

When Fintan Hyland of the city-based Gourmet Tart Company was unhappy with the quality of the butter croissants being produced in his bakery – despite the fact that they were being made by French pastry chefs to a French recipe – he began a forensic campaign to discover where the fault lay.

“There were croissants everywhere,” says his wife and business partner Michelle.

Fintan placed them by windows and doors, on tables, near radiators, she recalls, so that he could measure the moisture content of each one. Eventually he discovered that the croissants were losing their flaky quality because there is more humidity in Ireland’s atmosphere than in France’s. So he tweaked the French recipe to take account of the Irish climate. The result is a perfect croissant that Fintan is happy with.

It’s that attention to detail that has made the Gourmet Tart Company one of the most successful bakeries in the West, since it was started nine years ago almost by accident by Fintan and Michelle.

There are three Gourmet Tart Company shops in the city, each recognisable due to its distinctive logo and creative window displays. In July the couple expanded the business further by opening a restaurant in Salthill, opposite the Catholic Church.

It was a brave move in these tough times – some might say mad – and entering the restaurant business has been a baptism of fire, says Michelle honestly.

“We know all about food; when it comes to service, we are learning.

“It’s like starting the business from scratch, but the stakes are higher, because we have worked so hard to get to where we were before opening here,” she explains as she sits in the comfortable surrounds of Gourmet Tart restaurant in Salthill.

Still, it was something Fintan wanted to do and she was fully behind him. “He is a great worker and had a great vision and genuinely believes in it,” she says.

Michelle credits his commitment and drive as being the reason for their success to date, but there’s no doubt that her level-headed support has also been a major factor.

He had originally tried to set up a café in Galway after leaving college, she explains, but didn’t have the money to do so. In retrospect that was good, because they have built up so much experience by taking a different route.

When his restaurant dream didn’t work, he got a job in Shannon, working in chemistry. But, while he didn’t mind the science world, “he didn’t love it”, according to his wife. Baking and cooking were what Westmeath-born Fintan had loved since childhood, when he was given the free run of the family kitchen by his parents.

Friends would ask him to go and play football, and he regularly responded that he would . . . when he had finished making a flan.

So, it was no surprise that when he was working in Shannon, Fintan began to bake. He baked in his domestic oven in Limerick every Friday evening, selling the resulting produce in Limerick’s Saturday morning market.

Michelle, a Galway native, who had met him in UCG, where she was studying law, was working in Galway back then. She’d take the bus down to Limerick every Friday evening to help him bring his creations to market and sell them.

They did that for a few months, as an experiment to see if it would work. It did. Fintan gave up his job; they got married and moved back to Galway.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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