Naughty but Nice – 16 Top Irish Chefs Reveal Their Guilty Pleasures

Chocolate Guilty pleasure

A guilty pleasure is defined as a craving or affinity that you may not be particularly proud of. For most of us that pursuit of happiness often comes in the form of a guilty food pleasure – that one dish or ingredient that we know we shouldn’t eat but always find ourselves coming back to.

Even the biggest food lovers among us, chefs, succumb to these shameful food habits every now and again. Chefs love to eat, but its not always the pinnacle of gastronomic perfection that they present on a plate at their restaurants, and frequent late night shifts can often drive them to these indulgences a lot more frequently then they’d like to admit.

16 of Ireland’s top chefs revealed to us their guilty food pleasures; confessing their secret love of late night fast food and fizzy drinks, bacon sandwiches, basically anything with an extra helping of butter and cheese, and much more.

Wade Murphy

Executive Chef & Proprietor at 1826 Adare

That’s a pretty tough question because probably like a lot of chefs out there my diet is pretty terrible; filled with late night fast food and bottles of Lucozade! Two things I definitely could not do without are Irish bacon and butter, they make anything taste better.  I love a proper carbonara, no cream or mushrooms or any of that craic. Just pancetta, eggs, pasta, Parmesan and the pasta cooking water, or even better call to La Cucina Centro in Limerick where they do a cracking one. When I’m off work and sitting in front of the TV I eat a tad too much junk food, I’m a bit too partial to the odd pack of Wine Gums, or two. Oh ya, and Kinder Bueno too.

Danni Barry

Head Chef at Deanes EIPIC, Belfast.

Guilty pleasures for me mostly stem from my childhood: Heinz baked beans with cheese, a fried egg and HP sauce on Toasted soda bread, when you want something comforting and quick and really don’t want to cook. It’s also a great hangover cure. I also have a soft spot for ready made tinned custard. Again, it reminds me of Sunday lunches with apple tart. Wonderful!

Karl Whelan

Head Chef & Proprietor of Hang Dai, Dublin.

My guilty pleasure, I reckon it would have to be between fried chicken from Hill Billys, at the Walkinstown roundabout, or face-planting a doner kebab in Zatoon at 4am. I’m a whore for a good chocolate eclair n’all!

Domini Kemp

Chef at Feast Catering and Owner of Alchemy Juice Co., Hatch and Sons, Joe’s and Itsa Cafés

My guilty pleasure… it’s the spaghetti with clams, chilli and garlic in Junior’s. I rarely eat pasta anymore and tend to be low carb 80% of the time. But when I break out, I want to make sure it’s the tastiest carb imaginable. So that means delicious sourdough bread from the likes of Mr Fox with their Parmesan cream or cep butter, Junior’s rustic spaghetti with clams and garlic, or basically any pasta that John cooks in Forest Avenue. Or Nigella Lawson’s completely white-trash recipe for coffee ice cream.

Gareth Mullins

Executive Chef at The Brasserie at The Marker

My guilty pleasure when it comes to food – without a doubt it is freshly baked bread with real Irish country butter. It does not matter if I have had a full six course meal, if I get the smell of freshly baked bread I find it almost impossible to resist. And it has to be accompanied with butter, and lots of it. Real butter is essentially churned cream with very little else if anything added to it and so it should taste similar to cream, or in other words, delicious. The one I love, and we use it at The Marker, is Glenilen Farm butter.

Oliver Dunne

Chef & Proprietor of Bon Appetit, Cleaver East and Beef & Lobster

My guilty pleasure ever since I was a teenager is chicken balls, curry sauce and chips. If I’m feeling posh I’ll throw in rice and go for a ‘4 in 1’, and might even upgrade with an icy can of coke. The calorie count must be in the thousands but when it’s only every now and again it’s no harm and absolutely delish!

Neven Maguire

Executive Chef at MacNean House

I think mine would be a few things. I have a very sweet tooth and love good ice cream from Murphy’s in Dublin, I’m a regular there. I love chips and curry sauce from Super Miss Sue, and their fish and chips are super one of the best. Finally, coffee I really can’t do without. There are so many brilliant coffee places now, but Cafe Sol in Dunnes Stores head office has fantastic coffee and great service. I love the place and I’m a bit of a regular. I’m a bit obsessive about certain things and these are just some of them.

Catherine Fulvio

TV chef, cookery book author and owner of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School

I admit to two guilty pleasures… I kickstart my day with a coffee and then more coffee, and when it comes to coffee it has to be Italian. In the morning I enjoy a milky coffee or cappuccino – just like the Italians. I try not to have coffee after lunch unless it is an espresso, which is reserved for after dinner and almost always accompanied with some good quality dark chocolate. Which brings me to my second and by far my guiltiest pleasure – chocolate! At least 70% cocoa and fair-trade if possible, but the good news is the darker the chocolate the healthier – so maybe I have nothing to be guilty about after all!

Noel McMeel

Executive Head Chef at Lough Erne Resort.

I’m not much of a fast food or cake person. I mostly eat well and take my course of vitamins in the morning, but… my food heaven or guilty pleasure has to be a sandwich, usually when I get home from work: one fresh bread roll, three pan-fried rashers of bacon, tomato sprinkled with sea salt, basil oil on top, little gem salad and a mountain of mayo with some Ballymaloe relish. And please don’t put chocolate in front of me – I will eat it! Most chefs will tell you that they only eat 55-60% dark chocolate but being honest I love milk chocolate of any kind.

Jenny Flynn

Head chef at Faithlegg House Hotel.

One of my guilty pleasures is a homemade beef burger with chips soaked in vinegar. I love a meaty burger with spicy cheese, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and bacon jam. I can never get my mouth around it so I rarely eat a burger out as I love the mess that a good burger creates on the plate. Served with chips to soak up the juices from the burger; done I am in heaven!

Ken Harker

Executive Chef at The Lady Helen Restaurant at Mount Juliet Estate, Kilkenny. 

My guilty pleasure has to be cheese. I love all cheeses and I put it on everything! If I have pasta it’s just covered in Parmesan and good olive oil, and a sandwich has to have cheese in or it’s not a sandwich. Blue cheese especially, I can eat it by the bucket load – Crozier Blue has to be top of the list at the moment. Even mashed potato with a strong cheddar is elevated.

Aoife Noonan

Executive Pastry Chef at Luna, Butcher Grill, 777, Super Miss Sue and Dillingers

One of my biggest guilty pleasures is a good cheeseboard. Nine times out of ten I’ll choose cheese over dessert in a restaurant. Working with sweets all day means I really relish and enjoy savoury foods, and with cheese, I’m an absolute glutton. There’s nothing better than a big sharing plate of good quality crusty bread, a selection of cheese surrounded by pickles, chutneys, nuts and fruit, and a nice glass of red wine.

Jess Murphy

Head Chef & Proprietor of Kai Cafe + Restaurant, Galway. 

A guilty pleasure for me is Orangina – it’s like a posh Fanta and always makes you feel like your on holidays some were hot and exciting. The first time I tried it myself and Dave were back packing through North Africa; it was and has to be in the glass bottle though so you can see the real fruit bits!

Another one is Lamingtons with lashings of cream. My granny used to make all her sponges with duck eggs so they were so rich it just reminds me of New Zealand, and thank god Diva Bakes makes a unreal Lamingtons in Cork, they always a great.

Stevie Toman

Head Chef & Proprietor of OX Restaurant, Belfast. 

My guilty pleasure would definitely have to be hot wings with blue cheese dip and celery, anytime I see it I order it. It has to be Franks Hot Sauce though!

Kwanghi Chan

Hospitality Development Chef at BaxterStorey, and Owner of ChanChan Sauce Company.

My number one guilty pleasure is Haribo Starmix Jellies. These are likely to be found wherever I am. I love the fruity, bitter flavours. It’s a struggle trying to hide them from Lily, my 3 year old! I cant seem to walk past them in a shop without being buying a pack when running low.

Another guilty pleasure is nachos, cheese and jalapenos. I get excited are the mere thought of them – the more cheese the better. I prefer to eat them at the cinema (in the dark) so I don’t hurt my eyes looking down at those calories, washed down with a diet coke. Pure guilt but an enjoyable one.

Kate Lawlor

Head Chef & Proprietor of Fenn’s Quay, Cork.

It would be wrong to say I have no guilty pleasures, in fact I have many! Especially after a long service, a creamy pint of Guinness and a packet of scampi fries in the Castle on South Main Street can be my go-to. But my true guilty pleasure has to be our homemade white soda bread toasted, all golden and crunchy, covered in lashings of butter melting over the sides with a big mug of milky Barry’s – with the tea bag left in. It’s another go-to in the break between services to give you that pick me up to get you through the next wave of orders. Thing is you can’t just stop at one slice and the butter is never spared. Even though we are surrounded by such wonderful food it sometimes is the comfort food of toast is all you want and nothing else will do.


erica-brackenErica 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 completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters 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.

Erica Bracken  Erica Bracken

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