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Olivia Duff

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

When Olivia Duff isn't wearing her hat as sales and marketing manager at her family hotel, The Headfort Arms, in Kells, County Meath, she dons the wellies to work as a producer of fine turkey, geese and lamb, with her partner, Eoin Sharkey, at Maperath Farm.
This duality is good for both businesses. Ms Duff is responsible for menu development in the hotel, and she plays Mum by “nurturing” the hotel staff team – “we hope they have a sense of belonging” – which means there is a lovely feeling of being nowhere other than Kells when staying in the hotel, a feeling that is increasingly rare in Ireland's increasingly corporatised hospitality world. The Headfort is a big business, but taking proper care of little things – good coffee; fresh salads – takes it out of the shallows of mass hotel catering, and, in conjunction with the hotel policy of family ethics, give it a sense of place and belonging. Much the same philosophy is practiced at the farm, where Eoin and Olivia regard traceability and locality as pivotal to their business: it’s no surprise that Maperath turkeys are prized for many a Meath Christmas table.
When you see Olivia in action, like when she helms the Boyne Valley Food Tent at the Kells Literary Festival, it can seem surprising to see the confidence and authority that emanates from this diminutive, youthful, modest woman. You are left with one impression: an impressive player, the kind of person you want on your team. The principles with which she and Eoin run their farm, the importance of the “whole production story” for their animals, and the concern with which she and her brother Vincent Duff run the hotel means that Ms Duff and her family act in an almost episcopal role in the Kells community. Here's a woman you can genuinely call a food champion.

Headfort Arms Hotel, Headfort Place, Kells, Co Meath
+ 353 46 9240063
www.headfortarms.ie

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