With this year’s The Taste of Dublin just around the corner, I decided to catch up with fellow Tipperary native Chef Stuart O’Keeffe. Stuart is amongst a whole host of culinary creators at this year’s event who are bringing the “Flavours of the World” to Ireland. Live demonstrations include the likes of Robin Gill from The Dairy in London, Gill Meller from River Cottage and closer to home, Aoife Noonan, Enda McEvoy and Clodagh McKenna are only a few of the names from over thirty leading world class chefs.
From Tipperary to West Hollywood, how did it all begin?
Stuart credits both his mother and aunt as catalysts for his cooking career and feels that we all should start cooking from a young age. “Both my mother and aunt are and were so passionate about cooking which made me love it even more. Looking back now, I am so glad I got involved. I make better choices cooking now and know what I am talking about.”
As Stuart’s recipes focus on wholesome and simple ingredients he feels that; “It’s so important for parents to cook for their kids at a young age, even if it’s just simple things. You don’t have to be a professional to cook for your family.”
For anyone who’s not read or flicked through Stuart’s first cookbook “The Quick Six Fix”. The recipes are incredibly wholesome and I was intrigued to find out where Stuart draws his inspiration from. “I get inspiration from everywhere, magazines, restaurants and sometimes just playing around in the kitchen with what I have at hand. I guess it’s a love for what I do and thankfully recipe ideas come fast for me.”
The variety of life!
Life as a chef can be very varied and Stuart’s most definetly has been so far. Cooking live on TV, as a private chef for celebrities, working in restaurants and publishing cookbooks are just a few of what his career has entailed so far. What I wanted to know was which is his favourite area to work in and you just have to love his answer!! “My favourite aspect of what I do is definitely doing the live TV segments. You always feel a bit on edge and you’re kinda half shitting yourself with fear of something going wrong. Thankfully it always works out in the end.”
Working and living on the west coast of America is obviously the dream for many but there must be aspects of life, food and culture in Ireland that Stuart misses. Guess what he misses most? “I miss the heartiness of food that we have back home in Ireland. I TRULY miss the breakfasts at home, you just can’t compete with a full Irish. For me, it’s my favourite meal of the day!”
For anyone with travels plans to Stuart’s adopted home in America this summer. Here are his favourite places to eat in West Hollywood. “I love to eat at Cecconi’s (which is also a good star spotting place) and I also do love Jar. Make sure to check these two out.”
What does the future hold for Chef Stuart?
As his food series “Stuart’s Kitchen” with both TV3 and American TV channels are such a success and not to mention a bestselling cookbook, I wondered what the future had in store for Chef Stuart. Would be coming home to start any new ventures in Ireland any time soon? “All those things are always on the cards. I will keep on pitching new ideas for TV shows and would love to do a combo show highlighting Ireland and America in a series. I will be home for The Taste of Dublin event in the Iveagh Gardens this month and am really looking forward to meeting up with everyone during my demo’s. I’m also really excited to reveal that I’m currently at the initial stages for cookbook number two!!”So another cookbook to add to the ever expanding collection!! As his first cookbook focuses on the simplicity of cooking with accessible ingredients. I wondered if Stuart would have any tips for someone new to cooking and slightly petrified at the thought of being in the kitchen. Here are his top three tips:
- Purchase a cast-iron skillet pan, it will be reward your investment and become your new best friend.
- Do your grocery shopping the day before you want to cook. This will make it SO much easier for when you arrive home from work the following day.
- Remember, just do one thing at a time.
The Taste of Dublin
Finally, for everyone attending this year’s The Taste of Dublin this is what Stuart has in store for you. “I will be at the Dublin Cookery School interactive cooking stand on Friday and Saturday so please come along and cook with me. I have this wonderful one pot meal recipe for everyone to try that is perfect for midweek dinners. Over on the main stage, I’ll be doing a Californian Inspired Taco recipe.” I love Tacos so I’m very jealous of everyone getting to sample that recipe!!