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
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.
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.