Ditch the take­away and go for fake­away

meets the ir­re­press­ible ‘Chef Adrian’ who is on a mis­sion to steer the coun­try away from a costly dependence on fast food by show­ing us how to cook health­ier, cheaper al­ter­na­tives

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Cover Story - Clodagh Finn

EV­ERY time some­one asks Chef Adrian for di­etary ad­vice, he gives the same an­swer — ditch the diet. Ev­ery sin­gle one of them. None of them work.

His own guid­ing prin­ci­ple comes from the doyenne of Ir­ish cui­sine Da­rina Allen: “The more you spend on your food, the less you spend on your doc­tor.

“We are force-fed this thing about healthy eat­ing. It’s pushed too hard, but I don’t be­lieve in it,” he says. “Learn the life-skill of cook­ing and it will solve so many prob­lems.”

He al­ways cooks from scratch and al­ways with the kind of fresh, whole, nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents that were sta­ples in our grand­par­ents’ kitchens.

While he’s not a di­eti­cian, he has done some re­search on nu­tri­tion and he knows ex­actly what it takes to nour­ish and sus­tain the body.

He says it’s been proven that you can lead a healthy life by eat­ing as our grand­par­ents did, us­ing full-fat dairy and good-qual­ity meat.

How­ever, the lat­est fad diet might work for a short time, but it is of­ten im­pos­si­ble to sus­tain. “You end up hav­ing a bad week and, nine times out of 10, you give up. Once you stop, all the weight that has fallen off very quickly comes back again as you re­vert to your old eat­ing habits,” he says.

Adrian Martin is the Ca­van chef who has been mak­ing a name for him­self on ev­ery me­dia plat­form from Face­book and Snapchat to TV and now print. His first book Fake­away is just out.

But, he says, how you eat is just as im­por­tant as what you eat.

De­spite be­ing a ris­ing so­cial me­dia star with more than 22,000 fol­low­ers on Face­book, he in­sists that all phones are switched off at meal­times.

“No phones, no mu­sic and no ra­dio,” the 25-year-old says. “It’s really im­por­tant to get ev­ery­one around the ta­ble at meal­time, even if it is just for an ar­gu­ment. It keeps your head right and it keeps your mind right. Ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about men­tal health, th­ese days, but this is one of the key things ev­ery fam­ily should do. Sit down at meal­time and talk it out.”

He says the im­por­tance of talk­ing it out be­came even more clear to him last Au­gust when his un­cle, his mother’s brother, died in tragic cir­cum­stances.

“My mum was dev­as­tated. I was around at the time and we drove around to­gether and talked through all the emo­tions. The best place to do that is over a meal. You can ex­press how you feel. If some­one is sit­ting there lonely in the cor­ner and they are eat­ing their din­ner and not say­ing a word, you can ask them what is go­ing on.”

We’re meet­ing in the café at Air­field Trust in Dun­drum, the 38-acre work­ing farm in south Dublin. He greets me with a big bear hug and be­fore we’re seated, he’s been stopped by one of the café’s chefs for a chat.

Af­ter­wards, he sweeps down to the ta­ble, apol­o­gis­ing for the de­lay, say­ing that he’s amazed — and de­lighted — by the recog­ni­tion from other chefs.

Why wouldn’t they ap­pre­ci­ate the work of a tal­ented peer? His in­ven­tive­ness and phi­los­o­phy of well­be­ing in­fuses the pages of

Fake­away. As the ti­tle sug­gests, it aims to get peo­ple to cook their favourite fast­food dishes at home.

As a long-term fan of the take­away, Chef Adrian knows what he’s talk­ing about. His idea of chill­ing

was of­ten a night-in with friends, watch­ing foot­ball and sam­pling a dif­fer­ent take­away each time.

But, he says, he soon re­alised that most take­aways were in­cred­i­bly un­healthy: “I don’t know any­one who doesn’t love a take­away, but most of us hate the guilt af­ter­wards of what we have put into our bod­ies.”

If he’s right about that there’s a lot of guilt around as the Ir­ish spend a stag­ger­ing €19 mil­lion on take­aways ev­ery week, ac­cord­ing to a re­port com­mis­sioned by on­line food or­der ser­vice Just Eat. The sec­tor is com­pa­ra­ble in size to the mo­tor sales trade or, iron­i­cally, the sports and re­cre­ation sec­tors.

Men are the big­gest take­aways spenders, fork­ing out an av­er­age €48 per month, com­pared to €31 for women. But as Chef Adrian found, school-go­ers are also big take­away en­thu­si­asts.

Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing with a culi­nary arts de­gree from the School of Tourism in Killy­begs, Done­gal, and gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with Neven Maguire in Ca­van and Bon Ap­petit in Malahide, Dublin, he carved out a niche for him­self by giv­ing cook­ing demos at GAA clubs, ICA guilds, fes­ti­vals and schools.

When he vis­ited schools, the stu­dents al­ways wanted to know how to make piz­zas, spice bags, curry, doner kebabs and chicken fil­let rolls. He spent many nights cook­ing at home to per­fect healthy ver­sions of all those recipes, which ap­pear in the lux­u­ri­ously il­lus­trated pages of his new cookbook.

“With a bit of pa­tience, you can make your favourite take­away at home, in a rea­son­able time and in a way that is much eas­ier on your pocket and on your health,” he says.

His fake­away mes­sage went down very well in schools, but so too did his open­ness about his own school years. He says he tells ev­ery­one that he got 180 points in his Leav­ing Cert — “some of them laugh at that” — to prove the point that aca­demic achieve­ment is not the only path to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer.

He says he wanted to do home eco­nom­ics at his school in Bal­li­namore, Leitrim, but no other boys were do­ing it, so he didn’t want to feel like an out­cast. In­stead, he got a job peel­ing spuds and car­rots in the kitchen at Neven Maguire’s MacNean House in Black­lion, Co Ca­van.

He loved it and worked there af­ter school three days a week and at week­ends and dur­ing sum­mer hol­i­days.

Even then, as a 14-yearout

old, his dream was to have his own TV show and write a cookbook. A lit­tle more than a decade later, he is ap­pear­ing weekly on TV3’s

The Six O’Clock Show and is the on­line star of Fake­away and Chef Adrian Eats Ire­land on RTÉ Player. The book, how­ever, beats all, par­tic­u­larly for a man who says he hasn’t read a book since he was in sixth class: “When I got my hands on the [first copy of the] book, it was sur­real. When I was in school and all my mates were dream­ing about be­com­ing top foot­ballers or ac­tors or celebri­ties, I was dream­ing about this.”

He was cap­ti­vated by the idea of be­com­ing a chef af­ter see­ing Richard Cor­ri­gan ap­pear as a guest on a Jamie Olivier TV show. He still ad­mires both chefs and says he had the best meal of his life at Gor­don Ramsey’s three-Miche­lin-starred restau­rant on Royal Hospi­tal Road in Lon­don.

How­ever, he has most time for un­known chefs, the lo­cal he­roes who cook and men­tor with­out at­tract­ing wide­spread at­ten­tion. He can’t say enough for his for­mer col­lege lec­turer and men­tor Gabriel McSharry who still rings him weekly to see how he is get­ting on.

He says he strug­gled in col­lege — “I got loads of help, par­tic­u­larly with any­thing to do with writ­ing” — but says he wanted the quali­fica­tion be­cause he didn’t want to work in kitchens all of his life.

While the hours and wages have im­proved, he’s de­lighted to have a quali­fica­tion and to have trained un­der Miche­lin-starred chefs in fine din­ing. “I might un­leash it in a few years’ time,” he says.

For now, though, he is very happy with life. He lives in Dun­drum in Dublin with Fiona Coyne, his part­ner of four years. She has a master’s de­gree in mar­ket­ing and although she ed­its his tweets, he is happy that she is not in­volved in the busi­ness.

“I work with my Dad [in event man­age­ment] and we talk about work all the time. It’s very hard to switch off.” His idea of switch­ing off is sit­ting on the couch with a cup of tea and watch­ing “ev­ery cook­ing pro­gramme un­der the sun”. Then, he turns on his lap­top and does the same.

“It is switch­ing off, it is,” he in­sists. “I love it.”

He’ll also find time to ex­er­cise (cy­cling, run­ning, walk­ing the beach at En­nis­crone in Sligo) and to see friends and fam­ily (par­ents John and Anne in Bawn­boy, Ca­van, sis­ter Sarah and broth­ers Cathal and Sean).

Look­ing ahead, he has all kinds of projects. One of them didn’t work out as ex­pected re­cently, but that didn’t stop him for a sec­ond.

“I’ve been knocked down so many times and told you are not go­ing to make it; that is not go­ing to hap­pen. Peo­ple out there will tell you can’t do some­thing and when I get told I can’t do it, I get up and do it. I’ll go out there and prove them wrong. If you can put your mind to it, you can do it.”

Speak­ing to those who have just fin­ished the Leav­ing Cert this year, he adds: “It’s not the end of the world. Ev­ery­one is dif­fer­ent and ev­ery­one has their own tal­ents. If there was a Leav­ing Cert in cook­ing, I’d kick ev­ery­one’s ass.” Fake­away by Chef Adrian, Mercier Press, €16.99 See www.irishex­am­iner.com for recipes

IN THE FRAME: Chef Adrian has built a strong pro­file on Face­book, Snapchat and TV — his first book ‘Fake­away’ is just out.

Pic: Marc O’Sul­li­van

CLEAR FO­CUS: Chef Adrian Martin, at the launch of Coeliac Aware­ness Week, started his train­ing in the food in­dus­try at Neven Maguire’s MacNean House.

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