I’ve been on a little vacation from restaurants and public life, concentrating on my painting. All through my career as a chef and restaurant owner and TV presenter on RTE’s Masterchef and ITV’s Hells
Kitchen, I dabbled in painting. It really began 20 years ago when I went into therapy to deal with my anger. The therapist kept encouraging me to get a hobby. One day he threw a drawing pad down on the table and challenged me to start creating pictures, saying that he didn’t think I’d succeed. That gave me the psychological push I needed to get started: it motivated me to prove him wrong. To wind down from work, I’d paint at home in the kitchen. Then in a shed in the garden. But over a year ago things really started to fall apart for me and painting became more than a way to wind down — it became my refuge. I’d seen the demise of my marriage, and then I had to face the demise of my recently opened restaurant Avenue, having already lost the first restaurant I’d set up, Pichet. I felt I’d lost everything, including my confidence. It was horrific. I was down to my last fiver and had to ask my parents to support me. But of course it was my pride that was hurt. I retreated back inside myself and threw myself into painting. Now, I’m showing the body of work that has come out of that period in an exhibition called Vacation. I’m 51 and thought Avenue was going to be my legacy restaurant, but here I am having to start all over again. In some ways, I feel like I’m 17 all over again. When I actually was 17, I moved to London from Kent, where my parents ran a little hotel, and began my career working with the Roux Brothers back in the day. I had a natural ability for restaurant work as I’m quite affable, and I went on to work in many high profile establishments. My idea of misery is doing 9 to 5. No disrespect to those who do so but life is extremely short and what’s the point of existing instead of really living. I was quite a nervous child. I was easily distracted and found it hard to concentrate in school. I can still get a bit nervous about things. I think everyone suffers from nerves to some extent but I tend to overcome mine by jumping headfirst into new things. My biggest fault is that I trust too easily and get over excited about projects and where they might lead. I paint in acrylics as I don’t have the patience for oils - abstract pictures mainly. I normally have four or five paintings on the go. I’ve no formal training. I’d get bored learning in a class environment, same as with cooking - I believe all the best chefs are self taught. I’d love to get back into working in restaurants and I know that in reality I will probably have to go back to the day job but I’m finding it hard to find a suitable position working for someone else. Once you’ve worked for yourself, people seem to have this fear that you may leave…. If I could be someone else for a day I’d be Yves Saint Laurent. I love everything about the clothes and design of that period. I think talent is more important than ambition. Ambition can lead you down destructive paths but talent will always prevail. My greatest fear is not being able to do all the things I want to do before I’m no longer able to do them. I didn’t think much about an afterlife until my father passed away in July. It has hit home for me that there might in fact be something after this life. The lesson so far is that you have to keep going and to be positive and realise that other people are often the cause of all the negativity. So I try not to get too angry with people - or to over think things. That’s why I’m focusing on the art.
Restaurateur and artist Nick Munier is showcasing a selection of his latest paintings at The Gallery@Framexperts in Ranelagh in Dublin.