My professional career began in the early nineties in Ballymaloe under the guidance of Darina and Myrtle Allen, the women who started the Irish food renaissance. Their philosophy of using the best and preparing it simply is still the basis of my cooking.
A youthful urge to travel coupled with a golden opportunity brought me to the heart of Tuscany where honest uncomplicated food reigns supreme. Bruschetta al pomodoro, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, fresh ricotta with acacia honey and figs – real food created with stellar ingredients. When paired with the magnificent wines of the area the outcome is truly memorable.
France is the country most synonymous with great food and the south eastern corner of
Provence is an area steeped in culinary tradition. My time there further reinforced the basics I had learnt in East Cork and I began to understand the need to protect the small artisan producers. The French system of protecting local specialities and produce is one that would be very welcome in this country. Hearty daube de sanglier, the ceremonial bouillabaisse of Marseilles and the moist almond laden Calissons from Aix should be tasted by everyone.
The Caribbean lifestyle always appealed to me, but a hot busy kitchen is the same no matter where you work, and my time was spent mostly in the kitchen instead of lazing on the beach with a multicoloured cocktail in my hand.
The kitchen that I worked in was a real melting pot (excuse the pun) of nationalities; a squadron of chefs from
Austria, Cuba, India, Jamaica and The Philippines. All bringing their national cuisine to the mix, along with the Carib classics; spicy jerk chicken cooked over hot coals in an barbecue made from an old oil barrel, conch chowder laced with scotch bonnet chillis, grilled mahi mahi with green papaya salsa and fried plantains – true food of the sun.
Island fever eventually takes grip and this traveller was ready to go home after seven years of cooking with the best. Ireland had changed and more importantly the Irish palate had become more adventurous and our love of cooking was blossoming.
The recipes on this website are for the food that we eat at home. Nothing is difficult, I don’t do difficult. The produce that is on my doorstep is of very high quality and is best when cooked simply. Chargrilled crayfish with a splash of whiskey and a sprig of thyme, smoked seatrout with horseradish & watercress, slow cooked shin of beef with shallots and rosemary, blackberry semifreddo with wild strawberries. We have it all. So no excuses, start cooking.