Fresh from the phenomenal success of the very first Food On the Edge Symposium in Galway city in October, I imagine there’s hardly a person in this country of ours who hasn’t heard of JP McMahon. Not that he needed to be the person to make one of the most talked-about food events in this country happen to gain recognition. There’s the small matter of owning three of the top eateries in Galway along with his wife and business partner, Drigin Gaffey. There’s his column in the Irish Times, his award-winning cookery classes, the Michelin star, his passion for nose-to-tail cooking and so much more.
JP McMahon may be the man of the moment due to the massive success of Food On The Edge, but he is also a husband and a father, a chef with a burning passion – but you all know that. I wanted to know more about JP the man, not the outspoken chef who is instrumental in the changing ‘food mindset’ of many people. I want to know what he thinks about in moments of quiet contemplation, how he spends his downtime, but most importantly, behind the dogged determination, is JP McMahon just a regular guy? Heres’ what I found out…
1. Your love of books is well documented – do you stick with the classics or can you be found with your head immersed in popular fiction?
I read a lot of different stuff. As you probably know Joyce and Beckett are my poles but I do read a lot of contemporary fiction. I’m reading Kevin Barry’s new novel at the moment. I studied art history so I like art and history books as well. There is never enough time for reading.
2. You have two beautiful girls. Because of your status in the food industry, do you feel pressure to feed them in a particular way? Now I don’t mean caviar and the likes, but no fast/processed food, no additives etc
I try and keep the girls away from over processed food but fast food is difficult. I don’t bring them but the odd time my parents take them! It’s a constant education but they are very simple eaters. We normally just eat pasta and butter when we’re together.
3. Your favourite tipple is….
It would have to be wine. Most of the time red, but a glass of white is nice at the end of service.
4. For me it has to be working with figures, but what do you dislike most about the day job?
My job runs into the night and the following morning. I love what I do but its taxing at times with so many staff and their demands. Customers and staff are the two greatest pressures in the business. Learning to deal with them is the most important thing.
5. If you could choose one cookbook (not your own) what one would it be?
Magnus Nilsson, Fäviken or Christian Pugilisi Relae.
6. When it comes to your cooking style and techniques, who has most influenced you?
I draw inspiration from everywhere. I couldn’t pin point to anyone person. I’m constantly learning.
7. Who cooks Sunday lunch at yours?
Usually my wife. We have brunch Sunday morning.
8. Your perfect meal would be….?
A nice medium rare steak with hand cut chips and a glass of Shiraz
9. How do you like to spend your downtime?
I don’t do down time very well. I suppose I read and think of other things to do.
So there you have it – he may be a God in the food world, but behind it all, I think it’s fair to say that JP is a regular guy who just happens to have tonnes of passion, determination and charisma.
Author of “Food from an Irish Garden”, Fiona Dillon lives with her husband and four children at Hunters Lodge in Co Carlow. Her recently published “Freddy Buttons” series of food adventure books for children (Orpen Press 2015) were written so that Fiona could share the food provenance message amongst young children. Her Freddy Buttons food-themed garden at Bloom 2015 won Fiona a silver medal.
One of Ireland’s best known food bloggers, Fiona documents her back to basics lifestyle through her blog www.fionadillon.com. She is also a feature writer for the Irish Farmers Journal’s Irish Country magazine. As Food Correspondent for KCLR96FM’s The Saturday Show, Fiona shares the latest food news from around the country with her Carlow/Kilkenny listeners. When she’s not busy giving talks on topics such as sustainable living or blogging, Fiona can be found tending to her honeybees or writing the next epic adventure for Freddy Buttons.