RORYMORAHAN

Rory Mo­ra­han is the Druid Chef. Born in Dun Laoghaire, he lives in Bray with his wife, Carmel, and five chil­dren— Ger­ald, 27, Joanne, 24, Ge­orge, 21, Sarah, 19, and Cathal, 11

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS -

No day is the same. I wake up around seven. We have a busy house — five kids al­to­gether, one with cere­bral palsy; Ger­ald has been very ill and his bed­room is like a med­i­cal bed. You're dealt the deck of cards and you deal with it. My an­chor is my wife, Carmel. We got mar­ried four years ago but we've been to­gether for 17 years. We bat­tle through ev­ery­thing. I make a cup of tea for Carmel and then I wake up ev­ery­one. We live in Bray. In our house, it's busy, busy in the morn­ings. We make the lunches and then we have break­fast. I usu­ally have a bowl of muesli. We are hum­ble in our food. The best thing for me af­ter a hard day's work is that there is some­thing cooked for me.

By half eight, ev­ery­one is ready to go. The youngest one goes to school up the road and the spe­cial-needs bus comes to pick Ger­ald up at a quar­ter past nine.

My brain is a food brain and I have a lot of dif­fer­ent projects go­ing on. Some­times I work from home. I have an of­fice in Bray and I could be ad­min­is­trat­ing, cre­at­ing and cook­ing. I have a busi­ness team be­hind me and I have to link into them. I have a busi­ness man­ager, a tech­ni­cal man­ager and also a coun­selling man­ager, who talks to me about strength­en­ing my­self as a per­son. I've gone back and done a lot of home­work on my­self. I've worked all over the world, but I made a de­ci­sion to go a dif­fer­ent route than a nor­mal chef. Now I am the Druid Chef. Ba­si­cally, he is a mys­ti­cal char­ac­ter of Ir­ish food. I study, cre­ate and ab­sorb ev­ery cul­ture in Ire­land and I re­late that to my food.

I stud­ied cater­ing in Rock­well Col­lege in Tip­per­ary — I won a schol­ar­ship — and then, in 1979, I started work in the Berke­ley Court Ho­tel as a com­mis chef. It was very ex­cit­ing to work in a five-star ho­tel in Ire­land. After­wards, I went to Lon­don and I worked in The Bel­fry Club. A Ger­man chef was in charge of me and he loved the Ir­ish. Straight away he phoned my mother and told her that her son had ar­rived, that I was one of his crew and he would look af­ter me. The first thing he did was make me save up my fare home, so if I had a death in the fam­ily I would be able to go home. He was a fa­ther fig­ure and he taught me a lot — not just about food, but about char­ac­ter and be­ing true to your­self.

I worked all over Europe but, wher­ever I was, I re­mem­ber the frus­tra­tion that I could never ex­plain what Ir­ish food was. No­body can, and it's a big dif­fi­culty. I'm a gaeil­geoir, I have mu­sic in my veins and I have the gift of the cead mile failte, so be­ing Ir­ish is im­por­tant to me, es­pe­cially Ir­ish food. But I was work­ing eight hours a day in the kitchen, go­ing nowhere, so I had to re­flect. I took a year out and started get­ting in touch with my­self. Then it dawned on me that I wasn't just a chef. I started out do­ing a pro­gramme on Cablelink TV; it was about me go­ing out on the street, meet­ing peo­ple and cook­ing for them there. That's how I come alive, talk­ing to peo­ple about food. I am able to talk and cook at the same time.

I do a lot of new-prod­uct-de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tancy work so that I am able to put bread on the ta­ble. I also teach cook­ery in Tal­laght — part time — and I'm in­volved with Chopped, a new salad bar on Bag­got Street where you get a calo­rie count with ev­ery­thing you or­der.

The Druid Chef is prob­a­bly my big­gest pas­sion. It is about go­ing back in time and get­ting in­spi­ra­tion from the his­toric past and the mon­u­ments. When you do your re­search, you re­alise that there's very lit­tle writ­ten about Ir­ish food. You had your gen­try food and your peas­ant Ir­ish food. The gen­try food went be­hind big im­pe­rial walls and be­longs back in Bri­tain. When I ask you what Ir­ish food is, you will prob­a­bly say ba­con and cab­bage, Ir­ish stew and maybe dr­isheen. It dawned on me that the last fron­tier of Ir­ish art is culi­nary art.

I don't run a res­tau­rant — in­stead I see my­self as an am­bas­sador for ev­ery­thing Ir­ish in food. I cook at all dif­fer­ent fes­ti­vals. I was at Elec­tric Pic­nic re­cently. A lot of my days are taken up driv­ing to these cook­ery demon­stra­tions all over the coun­try. It's about more than just in­gre­di­ents — I have a story, a cul­tural con­nec­tion and a Celtic style.

When I cook, I'm in a po­etic frame of mind and all the el­e­ments of Celtic cul­ture influence the dishes. If I cooked a Grainne Mhaol dish — af­ter the Ir­ish pi­rate — I'd recre­ate her story in a dish. I'd peel a potato and weave it into a boat. Then I'd fill it with scal­lops and I'd use red salmon as the waves. When tourists come to Ire­land, they see all the great sights like Doolin and then they end up hav­ing a pint of Guin­ness and a Thai green curry; that doesn't match up with our cul­ture. I'm try­ing to build a bridge be­tween the two. I think that Ire­land needs a greater em­pha­sis on what we serve the vis­it­ing tourists to make their ex­pe­ri­ence more cul­tural through food.

When I re­turn home in the evening there is a great sense of sat­is­fac­tion. I en­joy home life and to­geth­er­ness and hear­ing about the fam­ily's day. Some­times I go for a walk to re­flect on dif­fer­ent ideas. Also, I am try­ing to get fit­ter and lose weight and that is a new chal­lenge. I'm tired when I go to bed at night but I'm con­tent be­cause I have a great be­lief in what I have done and where I must go. In con­ver­sa­tion with Ciara Dwyer

See www.druid­chef.com

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