Healthy Options at Croke Park Meetings & Events
Sous Chef Cian Irvine is set to do for healthy eating at Croke Park what his namesake Eddie did for Formula 1. With a quarter century’s experience in Culinary Arts in Ireland, Europe and the United States, Cian is now amongst only 7 Culinary Arts specialists in Ireland to hold a Masters in Applied Culinary Science & Nutrition.
“Doing the course was a way of keeping my focus on food. As your career progresses in Culinary Arts you often end up more focused on finance and procurement than on the preparation and serving of food. This Masters programme has given me specialist expertise in food nutrition and I’m thrilled to be able to bring it to bear on the menu choices for meetings and events”.
The Masters in Applied Culinary Science & Nutrition has highlighted for Cian the role chefs play in the health of society as a whole. “Chefs source the raw materials, they select the cooking methods and determine the portion size. While the diner ultimately decides whether to eat or not, the chef still plays a crucial role in the entire process. I believe we should always offer a healthy option and the team at Croke Park is actively behind this approach”.
Lest our ‘Healthy Options’ be equated with ‘no fun’ or, worse, with zealot-like extremism around food preparation and consumption, Cian is quick to underline the word ‘options’. “Food is there to be enjoyed, and even more so when it’s an out-of-home event experience at a meeting, conference or social function. We’ve developed a reputation for great food here at Croke Park Meetings & Events and our regulars expect to be excited and delighted by what we produce. We promote healthy eating by offering options – smaller portion sizes, sauce-on-the-side, more grilling and baking – it’s a ‘both/and’ scenario, not ‘either/or’.
The move towards healthy eating is coming from the client side too with meeting and events’ clients actively seeking information about what they’re eating. “When I compare our event function sheets with 3 or 5 years ago, there are a lot more special dietary requirements featuring now. Our customers are more educated and aware of nutrition. They want to know where the food is sourced and, increasingly, its nutritional content. Our Healthy Options menu includes nutritional information. Many of our menus are customised to the event organisers’ specific requirements but we can provide nutritional information on request".
So what are the items on the new Healthy Options menu that Cian is particularly excited about?
“I love experimenting with juice shots. Believe it or not I get my inspiration from the likes of shampoo mixes in supermarkets – you get some weird and wonderful combinations there! I particularly love Beetroot. It’s an under-appreciated food item and, in so far as super foods exist, it’s right up there. It also has that brilliant strong colour that will always come through dramatically in any mix. I particularly like our Beetroot & Watermelon juice with lemongrass, celery, apple and ginger.”
And what should we be eating during our next meeting break if we really want to get energised? “We do amazing Energy Balls here and, it being Croke Park, we served them on a Hurley! They’re crammed full of honest goodness and natural energy-giving sugars – dates, prunes, raisins, cranberries, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and toasted coconut. Oh, and pea protein powder. Delicious!”
Eating nutritious food is one side of the coin when you want to be brimful of energy. The other side is exercising – the raison d’etre of Croke Park. Our meetings and events team have just introduced a new Warm Up Walk in support of the GAA and Operation Transformation Ireland Lights Up
campaign. This is just one of a host of physical activities and challenges that can be incorporated into meeting and event programmes including the Stadium Steps Challenge and Ericsson Skyline abseil
Delegates are sure to leave Croke Park healthy, wealthy and wise. Well, two out of three ain’t bad!