Donegal’s Gourmand Winning Chef – Brian McDermott Interview
Brian McDermott is an award-winning celebrity chef and author from Co Donegal, as well as chef-proprietor of the newly-restored Foyle Hotel in Moville.
Brian’s book “Donegal Table” has just won Best Cookery Book in the World at the Gourmand Book Awards in China.
Brian has built a national reputation as a chef on one simple belief – that tasty, healthy food based around traditional recipes and local produce is something everyone should enjoy. Fans of Brian McDermott will already be familiar with that passion for local food and Donegal which has made him a regular on the Irish food festival circuit. Brian is presenter and MC for a number of prestige’s food festivals and events across Ireland. Brian is one of most passionate, genuine and inspiring public speakers who is often a headline guest speaker.
A regular TV Chef on RTE and has his own slot weekly on BBC Radio and he contributes to many local and national press outlets.
Traditional Irish Recipes is the third book launched by Brian in March of this year. Within a year of opening the Foyle Hotel in Moville Brian has been awarded many accolades in Irish Food to include “Irelands Newcomer of 2019” by Georgina Campbell, Irelands Top 100 places to Stay and Eat by Sunday Times and Mc Kenna Guide as well as Lucinda O Sullivan’s Top places to Stay in Eat in Ireland for 2019.
We hope you enjoy our interview with Brian…
Tell us what inspired you to cook and what age you started?
I grew up up watching my mum cooking for farm workers on a daily basis on her family farm and that gave me direct contact with food on a daily basis. That then normal simply, honest approach to food by cooking what was grown on the ground or reared in the fields formed the dinner cooked by my mum was both an inspiration and privilege to be around as a child and teenager. So I got a job alongside my mum and then also with her part time in local restaurant Harrys in Bridgend aged 15. That was the beginning of life in catering and hospitality.
What is your favourite food memory?
The Donegal Table which for me was dinner at home usually cooked in one pot and Mammy’s Stew was simply divine.
I’m from a family of 12 children and the sense of security provided by the daily dinner with a roaring open fire is a memory I often recall as a very happy one.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your menus?
The sea and the land around us , we need not look any further regardless of our location on the island of Ireland. The people who go under the radar producing food Im big fans of. The likes of our local fishermen who risk their lives are my heroes and they wright our menus, we simply cook as chefs. This matched with produce from the land and given the rainfall here in Donegal I would argue we have more nutritious soil giving us better beef, dairy and vegetables.
So a regular trip to Greencastle pier is like a tonic it empowers you !
Have you any suppliers/ producers that stand out to you and why?
We name every supplier on our menu as they are the heroes so Im proud to showcase them. For me fishermen are the ultimate supplier as the uniques we have is being supplied directly from then. I get a text direct from the boats prior to them securing returning to the pier and within minutes we can have the fish in our kitchen. Thats simply the best supplier model Ive ever worked with and one thats unique to us at Foyle Hotel. Greencastle Fishermens Co-Op manage the boats catch to maximise revenue for the fishermen. Co-Ops are a supply chain we need to support within our community.
How do you stay motivated and relevant within your role?
I get motivated by customers reaction, reviews and interaction with them. I believe in a chef being present within their operation and directly engaging with customers. A positive mindset shared with staff can help install a productive workplace and motivation happens naturally. I personal practice mindfulness and have done so for 10 years this helps me stay consistent which I feel is a trait required to be a business owner.
What is your ultimate food indulgence?
Oh yes give me Prawns straight off the boat at Greencastle all they need is a little love in the form of heat, lemon, parsley, garlic and great company.
What are your favourite restaurants, who are your favourite Chefs?
I’ve loads of great restaurants visited recently. My favourite MacNean House it is so consistent and delivers the “meal experience” every time.
Also a big fan of frequently visited Greenhouse, Uno Mas, Pichet, Harveys Point, Outside of Ireland Ive had two experiences in Arzak and it was mind blowing as was hospital road. I’ve the pleasure of sneaking away with Neven on a food trip and he has given me thee best eating occasions in many a country. He’s the best guide ever who always gets it spot on in his choices in the likes of San SeBastian, Paris, London, Spain etc
My favourite Chefs include my great friends Neven Maguire, a man who is inspirational, kind, genuine and very talented chef and business man. Rachel Allen who has energy, a serious knowledge of food classics and all round great individual. I’m fond of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Ive enjoyed working at festivals with the legend that is Richard Corrigan
Your job is undoubtedly both physically and mentally demanding, do you have an outlet that helps you refresh & re-energize your mind and body?
So important and I do regular swims in the nearby sea as well as trying to stay fit at the gym. This with daily mindfulness sessions on my saviour app “Get Some headspace” is crucial for me. Through practice I appreciate being very present and appreciative of things around e and this is usually provided by the the rural setting in Inishowen thats scenic enough to even energise the camera
Tell us what you love about working in your current role and why it is the right fit for you?
It just moves at the pace you allow it to this industry, if it controls you are in trouble. So for me being able to do what I love is important and I do love it. No other job give you the rush, satisfaction, reward and curiosity that being a chef gives. You simply have to love it as if you don’t this comes across in your business model, food and customer service.
I love that food can control my and customers emotions in a positive way and no prescription can give that so let being a chef be your medicine and the food be the tablet !
Any tips for the home cook?
Don’t consider cooking a chore consider it a joyas task and remember it provides nutritious conversation and fuel as swell as a social occasion. Cooking at home is about keeping it simple, experimenting, knowing what your guests or family like.