We had the good fortune of connecting with Judith McLoughlin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Judith, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My business is empowered by my personal story. When I moved from Ireland to America, cooking became a primary way for me to celebrate my heritage through the language of really good food. There was a natural cultural afflation between the legacy of the Scots Irish and Southern hospitality, so fusing the two became easy. Through the success of my first cookbook ‘The Shamrock and Peach,’ doors opened for me to teach cooking classes and expand my catering company. Offering a taste of Ireland in Atlanta created a desire for transatlantic travel with my patrons wishing to visit Ireland. So many people wanted to discover more by traveling to the Celtic lands, and seeing Ireland and later touring Scotland through Irish eyes. Part of the intrigue of my travel business is that I am both the owner and the guide, so, guests are personally welcomed at Dublin and Edinburgh airport. My guests have been surprised to be welcomed by my family on their farm, enjoying Irish bread cooking demonstrations and afternoon tea. Good food is an essential part of my brand, and its no surprise for guests to have foraging with a chef, experience whiskey and gin tastings, or meet local artesian producers as part of the itinerary. My new cookbook ‘Return to Ireland’ will come out in February 2022, and in light of the pandemic we hope that just like my title, it will be the beginning of a new awakening for new and old guests to taste and see once more.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My real passion for cooking and travel was developed through feeling homesick when I moved over from Ireland to Atlanta. Going through the high’s and lows of culture shock I found that reverting back to my family roots and traditions brought a sense of belonging and a connection to my heritage. Although I had went to college to study business, I became intrigued between the parallels in Southern cooking and how the techniques and flavors were influenced by the early the Scots-Irish immigrants who paved the way. My business background very much helped when it came to starting a food blog or writing cookbooks and later starting my own travel company. I had the privilege of representing Irish food as a guest of Tourism Ireland at events in Atlanta, and getting to work with so many talented Irish chefs. Back in 2014 I also had the honor to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York along with my friend Chef Noel McMeel and cookbook author Margaret Johnston. This was another life defining experience .Then, on the back of these successes, when I was offered the opportunity to lead a culinary tour by another tour operator I realized that growing up in Ireland gave me more insight about the culture and history of Ireland than that an American tour operator, and that I could offer a more unique personal experience. Living in Atlanta for so long also gives me an edge in that I understand the heartbeat of Americans when it comes to luxury food and travel, and these experiences led me to where I currently am. – A journey for sure!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
A perfect day for me always begins with great coffee, pastries and a place with good vibes !My top local coffee shop picks are Session Stand in Marietta and Crazy Love in Roswell. – Beautiful gardens make my heart sing, and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is certainly world class with the Fuqua Orchid Center and ‘super natural’ glass art exhibition. – When we are close to downtown Ponce City Markets is the place to be, with so many eclectic international flavors and great shops. At the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains Gibbs Gardens has developed more than 220 acres including streams, waterfalls and a Japanese garden. After walking in the gardens at Gibbs we could go downtown to Ballground and eat at the German deli followed by a whiskey infused coffee latte at Barrell House Coffee.. – A fun day shopping at the Avalon could only be made more complete by drinking a frozen Margarita and the best salsa and chips at Superica or tucking into The Cowboy burger at Bocado Burger (I skip the bun to lessen the guilt). – For a day hiking in nature, it’s got to be Amicacola Falls State Park in North Georgia. Standing under the 729-foot waterfall is breathtaking and I always pack a picnic and lots of cold drinks. For a big night out in the town to dress up in style with the best atmosphere that celebrates the local Georgia ingredients I bring friends to Star Provisions Bacchanalia or JCT. Kitchen and Bar..
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Hospitality was demonstrated to me first by my grandmother who ran a bed and breakfast at a seaside town in Co. Down in the North of Ireland. Growing up on a farm in Ireland I had access to the freshest of ingredients. and getting together to cook and share meals with my family is some of the happiest memories of my childhood. My joy of entertaining also comes from my mother who loved to invite friends to our Irish farmhouse for dinner, I always remember her setting the most elegant table with a freshly pressed white Irish linen cloth, silver cutlery, crystal glasses and fresh flowers. I am also the youngest of three girls and my big sister ran a successful coffee shop. restaurant and catering company; and I always admired her entrepreneurship and looked up to her achievements..
The other secret to my success is my husband, Gary McLoughlin, who is an artist, designer and photographer. When writing a cookbook having beautiful photographs is an essential part of the story. A photo can say a thousand words, and I am grateful for his talents to capture the beauty of the Irish and Scottish landscape, in addition to food styling my dishes. If you have an opportunity please check out his website it is wwww.shamrockandpeachphoto.com .
Shamrock and Peach Photo (Gary McLoughlin)