Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Tracey Jeffery, Founder
Tracey Jeffery is the founder of Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen.
What is Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen? Well, it’s a great concept if you ask me. And one I would see myself get in the car and drive up north for. Tracey Jeffery has created this fun and informative food tour, on which she brings you around to meet the local food producers and then brings you back to her own kitchen, where she teaches you how to make Irish griddle bread, which is what I think we call a farl, down here?
Tracey Jeffery was an active participant in the Taste The Island initiative sponsored by Failte Ireland and Tourism NI. She created a special immersive tour for the 3 months long festival.
She is immensely proud of what she does and you can see the passion and energy she puts into it all. I’m looking forward to meeting Tracey Jeffery at some stage and I hope she teaches me to make her griddle bread. It sounds delicious.
I’m talking to women of the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
I was studying French and Irish for my degree at Queen’s University and as part of my year out I was sent to the Dordogne region, in France. I had the opportunity to work in a patisserie there and I learned how to make French breads as well as patisserie – macarons etc.
I brought my skills home and I started selling my produce at the farmer’s markets. Whilst there, and having met other amazing producers, I thought that it would be a good idea to bring visitors out to meet them. I then set up my food tours, and as part of it, I brought guests to my home where they did traditional Irish Bread making which they thoroughly enjoyed. That’s how it all started!
How does your career fulfill you?
I have always enjoyed meeting new people, and I am fiercely proud of where I come from and of the beauty of the landscape all around me. I always dreamed of having a career that I could work around my kids’ schedule, especially when they are young – 12 years old and 15.
My career consists of meeting visitors, cooking and baking and doing all of this in my own home, along the Strangford Lough Coastline, an area of outstanding natural beauty. So yes, my career is very fulfilling and I consider myself to be very lucky.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Tracey Jeffery?
I have recently been chosen as one of twenty four Signature experiences, showcased by Tourism NI as part of its new experience brand, Embrace A Giant Spirit. With this fantastic opportunity in my sights, my professional ambition is to represent my local tourist authority in the best way that I can. I want to get my experience out to a wider market and this is my focus for the future.
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry in Ireland?
Traditionally those who held top Chef jobs are men – but this is changing – though still a challenging time for women. I think that working in the food industry can be a challenge due to unsociable hours etc and this must be difficult for women.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
I would say that Darina Allen has really inspired me. My traditional bread making is all about doing things simply and using local (out of the garden) produce. Darina does this to this day. I had the honour of welcoming her to my home a few weeks ago and she asked me to make potato bread or Fadge as we call it. I turned to jelly and she had to help me! She was fantastic! I learn from her every time I open my “bible” Darina’s Cookbook.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
I think that we should just keep shouting and spreading the word.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
I’d say that this far the proudest moment has been when I was picked by Tourism NI to be part of their brand – Embrace a Giant Spirit, this is an honour. I have also recently just been awarded 5 starts for my experience by Tourism NI – one of only fourteen in Northern Ireland to achieve this, a great accolade and I’m delighted!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Go for it, don’t waste time taking jobs that don’t excite you as you’re wasting valuable time. I have come down the academic route, but I believe that it my interpersonal skills and drive and passion that has got me to where I am today.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
I think that having a real passion and love for what you do is crucial. In my “job” and I don’t see it as a job, I have to welcome guests and to be warm and enthusiastic. I feel that I can do this easily as I just love welcoming guests into my home, and also I love waxing lyrical about Northern Ireland. It’s hard work running your own business – and it can be lonely, but just keep going!
You’re making a Sunday roast, what are “all the trimmings”?
I’d say lots of veg from your garden, heap them on. The other most important trimming is spuds – mashed, baked and sauteed, you can never ever have too many spuds!