Food for thought
Currabinny – the name used for a new book – stuck the Murray family together after tragedy, writes Marie- Claire Digby
If you are of a certain age, most likely late teens or early 20s, you will probably be familiar with James Kavanagh. You might have partied vicariously online with him – and shared in his debilitating hangovers – or watched as the minutiae of his daily life is relayed on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
If you are of another generation, you might have stumbled upon his antics online and marvelled at the fact that he is still in business – as a personality who works with brands to promote their message on social media – what with the wild nights out and the sometimes outrageous carry on.
I t i s a c o n c e r n s h a r e d b y t h e 29- year- old’s parents, who feature regularly in his video content. “My dad is obsessed with me and my career. He’s like, ‘ Are you earning money. What are you doing today, are you making money?’ He rings me every day to ask me that, because he just doesn’t see what I do as a job.”
But dig a little deeper, and you will find a business savvy communicator who has been making a living from his social media activities for just over three years, having previously been employed in public relations for six years, where his clients included Kerrygold and Barry’s Tea.
The product he is promoting on the day we meet is on the table in front of us. Kavanagh and his partner William Murray, an artist, Ballymaloe- trained chef and part- time barman at L’Gueleton restaurant, have written The Currabinny Cookbook, a handsome well- structured collection of recipes using traditional, seasonal ingredients, given a contemporary slant.
Under the Currabinny banner, the pair do occasional private catering gigs and pop- ups, sell food at craft fairs and markets, and hope to eventually launch a homewares range. But first, they want to open a Currabinny cafe, and have an estate agent actively scouting for a site in Dublin.
“We actually found a stunning place, right opposite Pygmalion on Coppinger Row. It was in the basement of the Georgian Society building. But there was not enough space for a kitchen and 30 seats and you’d need 30 seats to make the money back,” Kavanagh says.
“Initially we were like, ‘ we have to have the cafe open by the time the cookbook comes out’, but now we’ve let that go and it’ll happen when it happens,” Murray adds. The intention is that the cafe, and developing the Currabinny brand, will become full- time occupations for the pair.
Kavanagh and Murray met on the dating site, Grindr, and have been together five years. They could hardly be more different – Kavanagh is outgoing, flamboyant and funny. Murray is, by his own admission, “more reserved, quieter, happy out, in my studio, with a cup of tea”.
What they do share is a love of good food, and the book, the catering company and the planned cafe are joint ventures they have been working on since spending a summer at Murray’s home in Currabinny, near Carrigaline, in 2015.
The book is dedicated to the memory of Jenny Murray, William’s sister, who died in 2007, aged 19. “She was very athletic, she was very good in school, she would have been really good at singing, she acted, she was a sailing champion,” Murray says of his sister, who was four years his elder.
“It was the 29th of March. I woke up that morning and went to school ... the hall monitor came to the door and was like ‘ William your parents are in the principal’s office, you need to come down’, and I was like ‘ oh no, what have I done, I’ve obviously done something really bold’. I remember my mum saying that Jenny was dead.
“She woke up, she was studying for an art history exam, she had all her books and pictures of art around her in the bed. She texted her boyfriend, she was in first year UCC, and then she fell back asleep again. My dad went in to wake her up and he knew immediately that she was dead.
“I think it was described to us like her brain sent an electric signal to her heart to stop . . . sudden adult death syndrome anyway.”
After Jenny’s death, Murray’s mother Breda Lynch, an artist and lecturer in the Crawford College of Art & Design, “retired immediately”, and his dad, Peter Murray, a barrister, “moved to Dublin [ during the week], for a few years, to do some law thing he was doing up there”, Murray says.
“We all kind of detached from one another in a weird way. My parents were amazing and looked after me, but there was certain extent to which I had to look after them as well. You kind of lose your innocence a bit when you see your parents completely broken down.”
Currabinny, where the Murray family home looks out on to Cork harbour, near the village of Crosshaven, became the glue that stuck the family back together again after the tragedy. Breda has a studio there where she creates extraordinary, haunting structures made from found materials, and grows vegetables, and Peter, now retired, indulges his love of boats.
William and James are regular visitors, with their Insta- famous sphynx cat, Diana. The boys are preparing lunch – recipes from the book, of course – when the photographer and I drop by. Salads made with ingredients from Breda’s garden and glasshouse, grilled locally caught mackerel, and an array of delicious cakes and biscuits that mark Murray out as a gifted baker, are arranged on the dining table.
I think it escribed to us like her brain sent an electric signal to her heart to stop . . . sudden adult death syndrome anyway
■ William Murray and James Kavanagh who have written The Currabinny Cookbook, dedicated to the memory of Jenny Murray, William’s sister, who died in 2007, aged 19.