Everyone loves to talk about food: Ireland’s FOOD&WINE Magazine deputy editor Orla Murphy on the Irish food and dining scene

Harmonia Magazines at Taste of Dublin. June 2016

FOOD&WINE Magazine has been in circulation for almost 20 years now, and the team behind the publication certainly feel there is no other magazine like it on shelves in Ireland. It’s highly respected by both the trade and consumers.

Here, the magazine’s deputy editor shares why they pride themselves on inspiring content and visuals. All of their reviews are, of course, anonymous and they only endorse products they have tried and believe in. 

How long have you been at Ireland’s FOOD&WINE Magazine?

I’m coming up on six years at the magazine this year. I still love it and it’s a tough gig to give up.

As the deputy editor, how would you describe your responsibility?

We’re a tiny editorial team at FOOD&WINE Magazine, so I work very closely with the editor to create content for the magazine each month – we work with chefs, restaurants and photographers to create original recipe features which are suitable for the home-cook, but also provide lots of inspiration. Because we’re such a small team, we have a fantastic range of contributors so managing and sub-editing their work is a large part of my job. There’s always lots going on behind the scenes too, whether it’s an upcoming event, readers’ evenings, social media, competitions – there’s lots more to it than just the magazine.

Walk me through your typical work day.

I spend a lot of time in the office, sub-editing, writing and planning the issues. My favourite days are our photo shoots, where we work with different chefs and cooks around the country to create original recipe features. We either head to our photographer’s studio for these, or sometimes we shoot on location. Each shoot is different, and you never know quite what you’re going to get. But it’s always exciting, creative and hopefully, beautiful. If we’re able to taste the food on the day too, I’m very happy.

Sounds like you are pretty happy in your gig! How did you get started?

I studied journalism in college, and always wanted to write, but writing jobs can be hard to find. So after college, I started out sub-editing and designing in the Irish Farmers Journal for two years. It was my first gig and I learnt a lot. After that, I did a similar job for a national newspaper, but it wasn’t for me. In the background, I tried to keep up some freelance writing work. Eventually I landed my first role as a full-time journalist for Checkout Magazine, which is a B2B magazine for the Irish food retail sector. That piqued my interest in food, as I had the opportunity to meet and interview lots of artisan Irish producers.

When the FOOD&WINE Magazine job became available, it seemed too good to be true. I loved food, but I knew I had a lot to learn. But I went for it and instantly clicked with the editor at the time. I was over the moon when I got it. It’s been a constant learning curve since and that never ends, but I love it. Food is my favourite thing, with wine a close second, so it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to work in an industry I’m so passionate about and to work with people who I can constantly learn from.

Did you ever have the chance to work in the hospitality industry?

I started waitressing when I was in college. I went to America for one summer and made a fortune (to me) on tips waitressing in a Tex-Mex restaurant in East Hampton. It was so much fun. I was quite shy at the time so waitressing really helped to bring me out of my shell. When I came home, I waitressed in an Italian restaurant until I finished college. I think it’s hugely important that everyone works in a restaurant in some way, shape or form during their youth. It definitely changes the way you treat restaurant staff for the rest of your life. It’s also great experience in terms of the people you meet and the difficulties you come across. Dealing with all sorts of people every day while keeping a smile on your face can be hugely challenging.

First-hand experience is a great way to have a personal connection – how else do you stay informed to the Irish food and wine scene?

Press releases are, of course, hugely helpful, but having good contacts with people in the restaurant world provides the best information. Also, we’re lucky to work in a publishing house with several other magazines and so many food enthusiasts, so that’s fantastic for keeping us up to date.

Food is something people love to talk about, so you find that, wherever you go, whether with family, friends or colleagues, people are generally enthusiastic to tell you about the latest opening or their local gem.

Ireland’s food and dining scene must have changed over the years. How has it evolved and is there one city that’s changed the most?

I started working for this magazine during the recession, when the food industry was changing quickly and dramatically and the magazine had to change to reflect that. It was a bit depressing at the time – restaurants were closing and staff were moving. Now, it’s a totally different story. We have an insane amount of good quality eateries now, particularly in Dublin and within the casual dining sector. It’s fantastic to have so many good news stories to report.

I think Belfast has come so far. I was never there during the time of The Troubles, but I’ve listened to the stories and the massive challenges that restaurants faced there. It’s hard to comprehend these days. Now, it’s one of my favourite cities to visit for food. The only problem is figuring out which restaurants to squeeze into such a short visit. There just aren’t enough meals in a day.

Ireland Food and Wine Mag

With so many dining options, how do you shape the editorial content to provide the best features for readers?

The editorial tone of FOOD&WINE Magazine and the quality of the recipes and imagery is what sets it apart from its competitors. Our readers trust our voice and the credibility that is associated with our brand means that the FOOD&WINE logo is viewed as a stamp of quality.

Our tone is friendly and knowledgeable and our writers are experts in their respective fields – covering food, drink and travel. We work with the country’s best chefs as well as new, up-and-coming chefs, ensuring we stay on top of food and drink trends and remain constantly involved in the Irish restaurant scene.

What are your top three pieces of advice you would give to restaurateurs who want to be featured in your magazine?

Get in touch. Press releases are great, but they’re not absolutely necessary. We’re always happy to receive emails from restaurants updating us on what they’re up to. It’s really not that complicated.

Timing is everything – we have to work quite far in advance so getting the right info at the right time can be tricky. Restaurateurs should bear this in mind.

Have good images. Images taken on your phone are fine for Facebook and Twitter, but they don’t cut it for the magazine. Having good, high-res images of the restaurant on file means they are much more likely to be used in newspapers, magazines and online.

Great advice. Do you have an example of a restaurant that has been featured in the magazine and it has raised their profile to help their business?

We get really good feedback all the time. I wouldn’t want to name any names, but one restaurant we worked with last year was fully booked after the issue hit shelves. Another restaurant rang us to let us know that not only did they have more customers, but they had a different kind of customer – the right kind, he said. It’s always lovely to get good feedback.

All positive feedback. Are you especially excited about any trends or developments in the industry?

Fine dining has its place, but I get much more excited about the casual dining scene. I love that Dublin has such an eclectic mix these days. While I love Irish food, I really enjoy seeing Irish ingredients being used in a different way by chefs who didn’t grow up here. I remember lamenting the lack of good Mexican/Indian/Chinese restaurants in Dublin when I was younger.

I don’t think I could have such a complaint today. I’m also pretty pleased with the revival of doughnuts and good quality Irish gin of late, but that’s just personal preference. My one wish would be to see more traditional Irish pubs putting more effort into their selection of wine.

What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you (relating to the magazine)?

Ten years ago, I never would have thought I’d be classed as a ‘foodie’. Slowly but surely over the years, my appreciation, love and knowledge of both food and wine has grown hugely. I feel like a sponge in this job, soaking up all the tidbits of information and passion shared by those around me. And there’s always more to learn. It’s hugely inspiring. This is coming from someone who drove her parents demented as a child, such was my lack of interest in food. I started out loving to write, and thought that would dictate my future career, but it has brought me here, and now I think my love of all things food will shape my path from here on in. But who knows?

As Deputy Editor, where do you find inspiration?

Mostly from the chefs we meet and the food and drink producers we come across. Ireland also has some fantastic food and drink events and festivals, which keep debate open and offer great opportunities to meet new people. In addition, we find inspiration from other international publications and online sources, including those focusing outside of the food and drink field – such as fashion, interiors and travel – where trends can overlap and more broad ideas can inspire themes and briefs for new features.

What’s next for the magazine?

We’re always looking to develop the magazine and reach new audiences. We’ve started to develop our online presence over the past two years, with a dedicated website (www.foodandwine.ie) and we’ve grown our social media reach extensively (we have 59k twitter followers right now). New initiatives such as the launch of our Loyalty Club (8,000 + members) allow us to better interact with our readers.

We also love bringing the magazine to life with events that reflect our ethos, introducing our readers to exciting restaurants, chefs and products. At the heart of our continued success will be a dedication to the credibility of our voice and the quality of our content, which sets us apart from other publications.

Want more great insight by FOOD&WINE Magazine? You can visit the website www.foodandwine.ie

Photos courtesy of Orla Murphy

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