From West Tipperary to West Coast USA – Chef Stuart O’Keeffe
Six may be the magic number in chef Stuart O’Keeffe‘s new book ‘The Quick Six Fix’, but it was in just seven minutes that he sold a record breaking 10,000 copies on home shopping network QVC, making this Irish chef in America an overnight sensation and a number one bestseller on Amazon the day before his book hit the shelves in the US.
With his new book launching in Ireland and the UK this week, find out more about Stuart O’Keeffe; Irish chef who’s swapped Ireland for the bright lights and cool breeze of Los Angeles.
It’s a long way from Tipperary to LA, but that’s where Nenagh native Stuart has set himself up. Now based amongst the boulevards of West Hollywood, Stuart has made a name for himself Stateside with high-profile private chef gigs, regular TV appearances and now his own cookbook. If you haven’t heard Stuart’s name before, you’re about to hear and see it everywhere. Oh, and he’s very easy on the eye too, so be prepared to swoon!
One of Ireland’s most notable celebrity chefs, Stuart is probably most recognised in Ireland for his TV3 series Stuart’s Kitchen. Stuart originally trained in Dublin Institute of Technology, where he got a BA in Culinary Arts, and then went about his way on a food journey.
Stuart luckily was met with opportunities and offers by the bucket load in America, but it took a hard slog of working in kitchens and making connections where he had none to get him to where he is today. Having spent a number of years as brand ambassador for Tupperware, touring North America and demonstrating to crowds and advising on kitchen know-how, the Food Network snapped him up to star in Private Chefs of Beverly Hills. At the same time AOL also featured him in their series Kitchen Daily 101.
So was it like in the movies, chasing the American dream in search of fame, fortune and a name in lights? “I always dreamed of living in the States,” Stuart admits, “I lived in Ireland all my life and I wanted to see what the States were like so I took the leap.”
Originally landing in Napa Valley, the heart of the west coast’s wine country, the culinary philosophy immediately rubbed off on Stuart; reinforcing the fine dining principles of simplicity, respecting good ingredients and delicately enhancing their natural flavours and textures. The same respect and understanding of terroir and flavour of wine absolutely translates to the ingredients grown in the area.
But after a while there, the silver screen was calling his name and he made the decision to move to Tinseltown. “Leaving Napa was difficult, but I had begun to shape a picture of what I wanted my future to look like, and that included sharing the love I had for cooking. My mom passed it to me, my education enhanced it, and I was ready to lavish it on others. However, the thought of being a formal educator didn’t feel right, I wanted to reach lots of people in an approachable way.”
He was destined for TV, and says “I loved making my AOL show Kitchen Daily 101 in particular. It was so fun as the team was so good. Everyone had their shit together and, to me, that is everything when I’m on set. I like to feel comfortable on set and when it’s a mess then it affects how I am on the show”. Stuart is now publishing his own Chef Stuart YouTube series over the past year but more TV work is planned for the future.
On the 7th of April, Stuart’s long-awaited first cookbook The Quick Six Fix was finally released in Ireland, and he’s set to be a household name and cookery shelf regular in homes on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I actually wanted to do this show as my second series on TV3 but that never happened, so this concept has been in my head for years,” Stuart explains. “I always found the issue with people cooking was the prep and the mess they create after they are done. I liked the number six and truly believe that with six ingredients and some pantry essentials you can do A LOT.”
Talk, of course, turns to food, memory and recipes and his earliest recollection of being in the kitchen was “making pavlova with my aunt Derry in her kitchen. I was obsessed with the crust of the meringue.” And his go-to dinner party recipe when cooking for friends? “Braised short ribs. Winner. Everytime,” he declares.
He’s been back in Ireland sporadically over the past few years; from his TV3 show, to collaborating with Bord Bia and also demonstrating at Taste of Dublin, and like all good Irish boys the scent and taste of an Irish breakfast and soda bread warm from the oven slathered in fresh butter is enough to cross oceans for.
So what about returning? Is it an option to come back home on a more permanent basis, we wonder? “Look, I go where the work is. I love to come home to Ireland and I’d love to shoot another series back at home”. We are being hopeful and not taking that as not definitely not a ‘no’.
Anyone who follows Stuart on social media will know that he is the proud owner of a pair of Westies. “I adore my two little ones, Jack and Bo, they’re my best buds, it’s hilarious Bo will always watch me cooking; she’s like a person,” says Stuarts. Though, despite having a chef as a dad they don’t often get the spoils of his kitchen, “I try to not feed them my food as they will forever beg from me, but sometimes I’ll throw them some meat if I got some leftover.”We are GastroGays, a blogging duo consisting of Russell James Alford and Patrick Hanlon. We’re both originally from Ireland. We met while studying in Dublin City University (DCU) in 2010, and have been inseparable and insufferable in equal quantities since. We started the blog back in 2013, and it found its feet in the tough times of austerity Dublin, it flourished in London and we really found our voice. We’re constantly cooking in our kitchen in South East London, and love to share all of our eating adventures on our Instagram and our Twitter pages in particular, alongside original recipes on our blog. As well as writing on our blog, we’re also food columnists for Gay Times magazine since 2014 and write a bit for Huffington Post Lifestyle and BuzzFeed. and have appeared in videos for Waitrose TV alongside Paul Hollywood, published in Guardian Cook, Aer Lingus Cara Magazine and Flybe’s Flight Time. We’ve also been guests on Gaby Roslin’s show on BBC London 94.9 in September 2015 and there’s a couple of other TV and radio gigs in the pipeline.
For more interviews, features, travel guides, recipes, and more visit our blog www.gastrogays.com.