THE world’s first chip champion has been crowned during Limerick’s Culture & Chips festival, which took place in the city at the weekend.
The chips were most definitely not down for Carlow’s Lema Murphy, as she took the inaugural title at the event, held in Arthur’s Quay Park on Saturday as part of a wider programme.
Three contestants - frittered down from many more - competed for the title of the best chip chopper, designer and frier on the globe.
The red draped surrounds of the well appointed Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, erected for festival, was packed as the competition kicked of on Saturday lunchtime.
At the event compered by a shiny suit wearing Myles Breen, the contestants had to impress judges Nick Munier of Masterchef Ireland, local restauranteurs Dan Mullane of the Mustard Seed and Lorraine Fanneran of La Cucina, plus Fergal Deegan, advertising manager with Live 95FM.
Flying the flag for Limerick was Steve McMahon, a chef at the Strand Hotel. He cooked sweet potatoes covered in duck fat, with a smoked sauce and smoked Effin cheese.
He served the dish - which he took four weeks to prepare - with dry cider.
There was an Italian touch to the competition as Luigi Bastianelli served spicy chips, with freshly made garlic sauce, a hot and spicy sauce, and a vegetarian sauce.
But it was Lema who took the spoils with her dish: triple cooked chips with a baked bean and bacon sauce, plus a deep fried egg yolk.
“I honestly did not expect to win. I am absolutely overwhelmed. I am not sure what made me stand out - I was looking at the other guys, and was worried because their dishes looked more consistent,” Lema said afterwards.
Judge Nick Munier said he was looking for “passion” from the competition.
“I want to find someone who is in love with their potatoes, and someone who knows how to work it.”
Asked his own preference, he said: “I like a thin, medium sized chip: crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.”
The Spiegeltent played host to a wide variety of events over the five days of Culture & Chips, which was backed by City of Culture but was the brainchild of business leaders in the city.
Jerry Fish, Jack L, Limerick’s Brad Pitt Light Orchestra all performed, as did the Caberet des Chips - featuring Liam O’Brien and Jean McGlynn - while a banquet took place on Friday night that was attended by close to 100 happy diners.