Food may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of TV presenter and media personality Dáithí Ó Sé, but this Kerryman was brought up with a love for local foods, was a butcher in a past life and meets Ireland’s best chef’s everyday on RTÉ’s Today Show.
Recently announced as an ambassador for Bord Bia Quality Mark Dáithí Ó Sé chatted with us about how his son inspired his new role, how he fits in eating well while juggling a busy schedule, and his love of the American cuisine classics.
Before Dáithí became well known as a weather presenter with TG4, he worked as a teacher, butcher, bouncer, ferry driver around the Blasket Islands and even a ringmaster with Duffy’s Circus. He says his time working on the meat counter has helped him appreciate quality, local produce,
“we saw the quality of meat coming in. It was all local, you knew the farm and the farmer. Having food and not knowing where it came from would be a fairly alien thing to me, and I want to keep it that way!”
These values made Dáithí a natural choice as a Bord Bia Quality Mark ambassador, “for me, that’s what it’s all about that you can trace it all the way back to the farm that it’s grown on”.
The first Kerryman to host the International Rose of Tralee festival, Dáithí came away from the festival with more than just a sense of achievement. He married New Jersey Rose Rita Talty in 2012 and the couple welcomed their first child Micheal Óg in 2014, who turns two this Saint Patrick’s Day. Becoming a family man changed Dáithí ‘s sometimes laissez-faire attitude to quality food, “as adults we sometimes tend to just put the head down and get on with life because you are busy with work, busy with travelling, busy with everything. But when you have a child you have to make sure that they are getting the very best of food. It was certainly a big wake up call for my wife and I”.
On the Today Show Daithi has hosted chefs from all over Ireland. Roles were reversed recently when Dáithí made a guest appearance on regular contributing chef Neven Maguire’s TV show Healthy Home Chef, cooking a number of dishes, including his signature Seared Lamp Chops recipe. “He is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He comes across like that on TV and that’s exactly what he is like in real life. There’s not a day that he comes down to us that he doesn’t bring some homemade jam or something. But he is seriously he is one of the most talented chefs in the country. Anything that Neven Maguire cooks it’s very easy to eat it!”.
Dáithí says he has learnt a lot from Neven in the kitchen, “one of the tips I have picked up from Neven over the years is that if you are using a small bit of salt at all you can always put it in but you can’t take it out. So use a small bit at a time”. Though he adds that every chef that visits the show brings something different to the table, “you have Mark Moriarty coming up the ranks, you have JP McMahon who I was working with on The Taste of Success during the Summer. He’s a guy who has really come out of himself on TV, he brings a flair, he brings something different. He’s not afraid to cook what he likes to eat himself”.
He admits working in Cork five days a week can make eating healthily difficult, though having world class chefs on hand makes things a lot easier,
“I don’t get much time to cook being on the road all the time, but when you have Neven and all those guys cooking for you during the day you have plenty to eat. You wouldn’t even be tempted to go for lunch when they are on the show because you know you will be fed well”
Dáithí also has his pick of restaurants in Cork city, “one of the beauties of working in RTE down in Cork is that we are right in the middle of the city and get to go for lunch in the great restaurants around the city”. In Cork he loves to eat out at Zamora, Soho, Liberty Grill and Market Lane. Elsewhere he counts Aniar, Galway and O’Grady’s on the Pier, Barna Co. Clare among his favourites.
Despite being spoilt by top chefs and restaurants during the week, for Dáithí his mother Kathleen is still number one in the kitchen,
“when I go home to Kerry we always end up eating at home because my mother wants us all around the kitchen table. She kicks us all out of the kitchen. She takes over”.
Her speciality dish is something beyond the traditional Irish meat and two veg, “she makes lovely Southern fried chicken which she learnt how to make when she was in the States in the sixties”.
Given his taste for American foods he landed on his feet marrying New Jersey native Rita, “on a Saturday night if we were staying in she’d make buffalo wings with nachos, jacket potatoes and she makes lovely red velvet cupcakes as well. So I am well taken care of all round”. Rita’s secret to getting his ‘guilty pleasure’ chicken wings just right? “What Rita does is she deep fries them, puts the sauce on and then bakes them. It gives it a really good kick”, Dáithí says.
One of his most memorable meals also has stateside connection,
“it was while filming an episode of TG4 series Cowboys Custer’s Last Stand, in Billings in Montana. The first evening I ordered these crispy calamari in a chili sauce for my starter and it was so nice that I ordered a second one for my main course. We ate there five nights and I had that five nights in a row”
Though one of Dáithí’s staple dinners is decidedly less adventurous, “if I didn’t tell you I made a good spaghetti bolognese I don’t think I would be an Irish fella, because every Irish fella that went to college can make a spaghetti bolognese”.
With a soft spot for the American favourites, albeit homemade with the best quality Irish ingredients, Dáithí admits he could learn a thing or two from Michael Óg, “he eats lots of stuff I don’t eat, he eats broccoli, he loves vegetables!”.
To see the recipe for Daithi’s Seared Lamp Chops with Mediterranean Butter Bean Stew recipe that he shared on Neven Maguire’s Healthy Home Chef series on RTÉ One click here.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.