Helen Gee and her daughter Sandra at the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards. Photographer - Paul Sherwood.
Leading Laois entrepreneur, Helen Gee, creator of G's Gourmet Jams, was recently awarded a prestigious accolade that money cannot buy.
G’s Gourmet Jams, which was established by Helen Gee from Abbeyleix 20 years ago, recently won the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Award for Preserves.
Georgina Campbell, who runs Ireland’s Leading Independent Food & Hospitality Guide, personally chose the Laois jam makers in the Irish Breakfast Awards which were held in association with Fáilte Ireland, at the InterContinental Hotel, Dublin, on March 22.
Speaking about the awards, Georgina Campbell said that quality ingredients, like G's Gourmet Jams, are the foundation of a good meal.
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Pictured with Georgina Campbell - PRESERVES - Helen Gee of G’s Gourmet Jams, Abbeyleix, Co Laois. Picture by Paul Sherwood.
“Whether it’s a nine-course Tasting Menu in a top restaurant or a homely breakfast in a B&B, quality ingredients are the foundation of any good meal.
“These Awards recognise the quality Irish Breakfast Foods that can lift this simple meal into an expression of the local land - and seascape - and we want to see more of them on Irish breakfast menus,” she said.
Helen Gee set up G's Gourmet Jams in 1998 and has driven her brand over the last 20 years to become the thriving success it is today.
G's Gourmet Jams supply their homemade jams, chutneys and relishes to hotels and catering services such as Aer Lingus, SriLankan Airlines and the three of the top five star hotels which also came out on top in their categories at the Georgina Campbell awards.
The business which is based on the farm outside Abbeyleix, five minutes from Heywood Gardens, has evolved into a family business over the years.
Helen’s son, Clive, has been involved in the business from the early days working on sales, her daughter Sandra is head of production now and her other son is returning from ten years in Australia to join the rapidly expanding business.
“It’s good that the next generation have the interest to continue it on. I probably wouldn't have gone as far is the next generation hadn't have been interested and involved. The family does drive it as well.
“When I started there was very little food made in Laois but at the Connect to Laois Food Fusion event recently there was 22 stands with Laois people and Laois products which is great,” she said.
The handmade pure and natural products created in Helen’s kitchen include a range of fruit jams, marmalade, compote, chutney, relish, sauces and a variety of honey.
Helen is a trailblazer in the rapidly growing food industry in Laois and she has now taken the initiative to join a new tourism board for the county.
Helen has a clear vision of how food and a transport system can play a role in attracting tourists to Laois in the future.
One of Helen's next business moves will be to add a visitor centre onto her premises where all of the wonderful products are made in Abbeyleix.
“We are thinking strongly of putting up a visitor centre because at the moment we have students and active age groups asking how the jam is made. We have had a few of these tours so we are thinking of a visitor centre with the history of jam and jam making in Ireland, the history of G’s Jam and you could have a pot o f jam with a coffee and a scone. I think that is where it will be going.
“What I would like to see is everybody in the food service supporting Laois products first, to support local food producers.
“I think there should be tourism trails too. We are five minutes from Heywood Gardens so you could have a trail down to Timahoe Round Tower, call into us, into Heywood Gardens, into the Heritage House in Abbeyleix and this needs to be brought in because we are in the Ireland’s Ancient East circles.
“There is a whole load of things you could do but you need a bus. If you come from anywhere you get off the train but where do you go from there, how do you get out to the Rock of Dunamaise? How do you get from A to B?
“ I definitely think there is a huge opportunity for a bus tour even one day a week to trial it.
“I would love to see the old fort actually done, I would love to see a visitor centre in Portlaoise and the history of all of Laois,” Helen said.
“I will try my living best to make this work to not be sitting around just talking and no action, you need action and you have to put in effort,” she added.
Helen and her family will be looking to expand their products into more European countries in future as well as places like Dubai where there is a strong Irish community.