A new Fáilte Ireland campaign launches today, aiming to position Ireland as a 'foodie' destination.

Titled 'Taste The Island', the TV, radio and print ads aim to get Irish people to make short trips to some of the many food and drink related experiences that are on offer around the country in the coming months.

It could be argued that Irish food has, traditionally at least, had a somewhat stodgy image. However that has changed dramatically in recent years, according to one person with a first-hand experience of the industry.

"[It's] very innovative," said Gary O'Hanlon, executive chef of the Chateau du Coudreceau in France, and the former head chef of the Viewmount House in Co Longford. 

"You could probably look at it over the last ten years, but in particular over the last five it's taken a particular burst."

Mr O'Hanlon said that that shift has been noticed locally, but also globally, as people and businesses around the country began to try new things.

"There's just been engagement from Donegal to Cork and Galway to Dublin, with chefs on the ground," he said. "Even the most simple, basic eateries like coffee shops - everybody's upped their game."

He suggests that the recession played a part in that, as it forced people to re-think what they were doing - while also injecting new blood into the industry.

That marries well with the trend towards 'experiences' too - which goes beyond what is on the plate.

That might be as simple as the setting of the meal, but can also include interactive elements like cookery schools, distillery tours or food trails that direct visitors from one location to the next.

Mr O'Hanlon said the new Fáilte Ireland campaign comes at a time in the calendar when tourists interested in that kind of trip come out in force.

"You've a very different diner and tourist that comes to Ireland - or goes anywhere, really - at this time of year," he said. "It's about these types of experiences - they're not looking for beaches and sunshine, especially coming to Ireland, what they are looking for is experiences."

Mr O'Hanlon only recently took up his role as executive chef at Chateau du Coudreceau in northern France; a country with a strong reputation for food.

However he believes that Ireland can absolutely compete with the big guns - because its chefs are not afraid to do something different.

"In my opinion Ireland is leap years ahead of France," he said. "We all would have been taught the Escoffier way, we all would have gone to college in Ireland, America, the UK and would have been taught the French way.

"In Ireland we've taken the fundamentals, which are fantastic and the basics of cuisine, but we've adapted with the diner and we've pushed on; we've become very much innovative and brought modern techniques to classical dishes."