THE BLOG

Duagh Summer Festival

21/08/2014 16:45 BST | Updated 21/10/2014 10:59 BST

Duagh is a little village situated in Kerry in Ireland with a population of around 400 people. On the weekend of the 9th of August the size of the town more nearly doubled as close to 2,000 people turned out to attend the Duagh Summer Festival that was hosted by local lad and good friend Jon Relihan. I first met Jon when he was accepted into Jamie's Fifteen Apprentice programme close to 10 years ago now. Since Jon finished the apprenticeship at Fifteen he has gone on to work at some top class restaurants all over the world. He now works at Barbecoa in London.

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On a holiday in his village last year Jon was asked if he would host a fundraising dinner to raise money to buy a new Church bell. When I was in Duagh there were some conflicting stories about what happened to the old bell, some say that some local revellers knocked it over one New Year's eve and then I also heard that the bell was blown over in a wild storm. Jon certainly was not worried as to the reason why there was no bell, he was more than happy to help out.

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to work with the Fifteen apprentices and I am always so thrilled when I see them achieving great things when they finish with us. Jon is one of those lads who has made the most out of every opportunity that has come his way and he was also one of the first to always volunteer at Fifteen events and fundraisers.

So it was with a great amount of excitement that I boarded the plane with a gang from Fifteen and Barbecoa to help out at the Duagh Summer Festival. I knew that Jon had been working hard to get this event off the ground but nothing prepared me for how big the event was when I arrived in his home village of Duagh. Over the two days we served over 5,000 meals and we raised more than enough money to buy the new bell for the Church.

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The highlight for me was when two friends of Jon's from New Zealand, Frankie and Uncle Bruce cooked a Hangi. This is a typical Maori way of cooking where hot coals and steel are buried in the ground together with meat and loads of vegetables. Wet cloths are placed over the coal and food and then the whole thing is covered up with soil. Left to steam and cook for around 4 hours the meat and vegetables have a wonderful earthy flavour. The whole town (and then some) came out to see this event and we were even treated to a traditional New Zealand Haka by Frankie and Uncle Bruce.

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I loved the community spirit that was generated on the weekend, many people and businesses from Duagh and other surrounding villages gave so much of their time and resources. I am also so proud of everything that Jon achieved. He is living proof that the apprentice programme that we offer at Fifteen works and that if we believe in young people and focus on what is right with them as opposed to what is wrong then anything is achievable.

Check out the highlights of the festival here in my Jamie's Food Tube channel: