Gar­rett Fitzger­ald (39) is a cook, co-founder of Brother Hub­bard Cafes, au­thor and a for­mer en­ergy reg­u­la­tor. Born in Adare, Co Lim­er­ick, he lives in Ranelagh with his part­ner, James, and their dogs, Pep­per and Pearl

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS - In con­ver­sa­tion with Ciara Dwyer

Ilive with my part­ner, James, and our two lit­tle dogs, Pep­per and Pearl. We’re nor­mally awake be­tween 6.30am and 7am. I tend to be on alert af­ter that point be­cause our cafes, Brother Hub­bard and Sis­ter Sadie — which we have just re­branded as Brother Hub­bard — are about to open. The alarm is set, but I’m one of those peo­ple who likes to sleep with the cur­tains open and let the day­light do its magic. Ob­vi­ously, it doesn’t work as well in win­ter, but in the sum­mer time, it’s won­der­ful. I was in Ghana once, and it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to ob­serve the way peo­ple’s sleep­ing pat­terns were con­nected with the equa­tor. They were awake dur­ing day­light, and asleep at night-time. I guess it’s the way we’re de­signed to live.

James and I get up around the same time. He is my part­ner in life, and he is also fully in­volved in the busi­ness with me. He has just started the three­month Bal­ly­maloe cook­ery course, the one I did years ago. He came from a fi­nance back­ground, and he has been with me in the busi­ness since the very be­gin­ning. We opened our first cafe, Brother Hub­bard on Capel Street, in 2012, and the sec­ond one, on Har­ring­ton Street, two years later.

One of us will get the cof­fee on, and the other will let the dogs out. The por­ridge is put on, and we both get ready. Usu­ally we have lyric fm on, with It’s a re­lax­ing start to the day. James works from home, and re­cently, I’ve started to get into the habit of stay­ing at home three morn­ings a week. This gives me a chance to catch up on emails. Later on, as soon as I step into the cafes, any­thing can hap­pen.

The whole con­cept be­hind the cafes is that it’s a friendly, pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment. I want cus­tomers to feel that they are cared for, and that goes back to how we be­have as an em­ployer. We would be less typ­i­cal of the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try in that we do the ros­ter four weeks in ad­vance. Also, it’s all very col­lab­o­ra­tive. I have no in­ter­est in be­ing the boss in the tra­di­tional sense. I lis­ten to my staff and ask them what they need from me, so I can help them to be the best they can. It does seem to make a dif­fer­ence.

We have a pol­icy of mak­ing ev­ery­thing from scratch, and a lot of our dishes are in­spired by Mid­dle Eastern cui­sine.

Marty In The Morn­ing.

We use spices, but our food isn’t spicy in the way that peo­ple might think it would be hot. We’re known for our fresh, whole­some food. We’re al­ways com­ing up with new menus. A lot of peo­ple ask for our recipes, so now we have a cook­book. The good thing is that our meals are very sim­ple to make.

The food in­flu­ence goes back to my par­ents. They had a guest house in Adare, Co Lim­er­ick. Even though it was a B&B, my mother of­ten cooked evening meals for the guests. So, I grew up in that en­vi­ron­ment. Af­ter school, I stud­ied ho­tel man­age­ment, and did a Bach­e­lor of Com­merce at the same time. When I grad­u­ated, it was the early days of the Celtic Tiger, so I left the ho­tel bit aside and fo­cussed on busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. I worked as a con­sul­tant, and then I joined the pub­lic sec­tor, a State agency called the Com­mis­sion for En­ergy Reg­u­la­tion. I was there for six years, and re­ally en­joyed it. I be­came a se­nior man­ager and was rea­son­ably re­warded for it.

Even though I was very happy in my job, I had this ‘what if ?’ ques­tion in the back of my mind. It was al­ways nig­gling away at me. I was very pas­sion­ate about food, and I was al­ways cook­ing. A big part of it was cook­ing for other peo­ple. The more I cooked, the more I en­joyed it. It was my pas­sion. I did a bread­mak­ing course at night. And then James showed me a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle about peo­ple al­ways re­gret­ting the things that they didn’t do. That was it! I de­cided I’d open a cafe. As part of the plan, I took a ca­reer break from my job, did the Bal­ly­maloe cook­ery course, and then I headed off with James for two years.

For the first year, it was a back­pack­ing trip with a foodie fo­cus, and then, the sec­ond year, we set­tled in Mel­bourne. We got jobs in cafes sim­i­lar to what we had in mind for our place in Dublin. They were owner-run cafes, and a great learning ex­pe­ri­ence. I trav­elled a bit more — to the Mid­dle East — and fi­nally we came to Dublin. By then, the econ­omy had dras­ti­cally changed. But we found a premises, put our best foot for­ward and pro­duced an of­fer­ing that was close to our hearts. It seemed to get a warm re­ac­tion. Grad­u­ally, it got bet­ter and big­ger. One of the best things about my job now is the va­ri­ety. I love it. When I go to the cafes, I catch up with the var­i­ous teams and then I step into ser­vice — ei­ther in the kitchen or on the floor. Most cooks never have a proper meal. I used to be that way, but now I make sure I have some­thing — maybe a hot­pot, and I eat a lot of hum­mus.

I’ve yet to have a bor­ing day. Be­fore we opened the cafe, there was a stage where I was con­tem­plat­ing go­ing back to my old job. It was sim­ply that the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion seemed so dif­fi­cult. But even if I hadn’t ended up do­ing Brother Hub­bard, I think the trav­el­ling would have been a worth­while ex­pe­ri­ence. In the land­scape of my life, it’s some­thing that I will al­ways cher­ish. I’m de­lighted that so much change came out of it. When we came back to Ire­land, we thought, ‘We can wait for the world to change, or we can just get on with it’. I’m so proud that we did it. Look­ing back, I don’t know how we had the brav­ery.

In the evenings, I catch up with James, bring the dogs out for a walk and have some din­ner. I might read, and catch up on the news. Gen­er­ally, I try to be in bed for 11pm. In the early days of the busi­ness, I used to be wor­ry­ing about stuff. But then I be­came more or­gan­ised and I de­vel­oped a strong team. I got used to han­dling stress, and now it doesn’t even feel like stress any more.

There was a re­ces­sion. We thought, ‘We can wait for the world to change, or just get on with it’. I’m so proud we did it

‘The Brother Hub­bard Cook­book’ by Gar­rett Fitzger­ald, is pub­lished by Gill Books, €27.99. See broth­er­hub­

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