Nick Mu­nier

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Upfront - Chef, restau­rant owner and artist

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.

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