Rachel Gaffney chats to rising star Chef Adrian about learning to cook, healthy takeaways, and plans for the future.
NAMED one of Joe.ie’s top fifteen rising stars of last year, if the name Chef Adrian is new to you now, it won’t be for long. This twenty five year-old has recently been scooped up by RTÉ to produce cooking videos for RTÉ Player, after a Vine he made in January on how to make a healthy spice bag went viral. He may be a familiar face to some, as he has been cooking on The Seven O’Clock Show on TV3 for about two years.
Next year will see the new Chef Adrian Eats Ireland, exclusive to RTÉ Player, where this rapidly emerging talent will be sent by the public to test out the nation’s whackiest eateries. The University Observer sat down to ask him about his influences, his challenging training, and plans for the future. When asked what his favourite thing is to cook, it was a difficult decision to make. He was clear that he loves to do one pan dishes, to save on the washing up, and if he had to decide it would probably be a lovely prosciutto, chicken, mash potato and purple carrot dish.
An even more laboured decision was to decide on his favourite restaurant, as Chef Adrian explained, it changes all the time. However he noted that his favourite of all time was Hospital Road by Gordon Ramsay as it “will be the best meal you will ever eat.” Looking a bit closer to home, he recommended “The Olde Post” in his home town of Cavan.
Looking back on how he entered the food industry, Chef Adrian relfects that as part of his college course, he trained in a kitchen in Malahide. At just seventeen, he worked intensive hours under the watchful eye of the head chef who was “just crazy! He used to stand beside you every day and stare and curse or roar at you. That’s how he trained you as a chef.”
He lasted an impressive six months there under before moving on to work with Nevin Maguire. Adrian would go on to work under Nevin’s tutorage for six years, all throughout school and college. This was a much more pleasant, but no less, gruelling environment. While he recounts that Nevin “was really nice” compared to his old tutor, it was still “really tough, working long hours such as Wednesday through Sunday starting at 9am and finishing at 1am.”
“I would have been a terrible cook if I hadn’t gone out and learnt the trade for myself.”
At just twenty-five now, he professes to have worked all over Ireland in artisan shops and cafes as well as kitchens. His love of cooking did not stem from his family however. When asked if there was a family tradition of cooking, Adrian only laughed and replied, “Mum is a terrible cook! She never passed on any cooking skills to any of the family as she had no interest in it. I would have been a terrible cook if I hadn’t gone out and learnt the trade for myself.” His grandmother was a good cook but it seems that watching cookery shows on TV had the biggest influence on his decision to train as a chef.
Like most Irish children, and generally most Irish people, Adrian grew up loving takeaways. “I used to eat them all the time as a teenager, I loved everything about them. I always wanted as a chef to be able to make that stuff good for you but taste the same”.
This was the basis for Chef Adrian’s new concept – the “fake-away”- your favourite fast food made healthy. Chef Adrian’s website is full of delicious looking recipes such as home-made buffalo wings and chicken satay, perfect alternatives when the take away cravings kick in.
The “Fake-away” cookbook will be out next year at the same time “Fake-Away with Chef Adrian” products hit supermarket shelves. The long term goal is to launch a franchise of “Fake-away” restaurants, which would be eagerly anticipated near UCD.
The menu is “just mad” in Adrian’s words- “it has everything from doner kebabs to a cheeky Nando’s style peri -peri chicken, it has loads of good stuff on it.” The underlying concept to these healthy versions of fast food is air-frying, which eliminates the calories and negative health effects from the usual deep-frying of these foods. This culinary style is home cooking that students could really get on board with.
Adrian’s calendar is becoming increasingly hectic as his work on food education in schools across the country is really taking off. It began two years ago when a school in Roscommon contacted him to come in and talk to the students about food. It snowballed from there, picking up unexpected speed after he was asked to give a talk to the Home Economics Association of Ireland.
Adrian began visiting three to four schools a week all over Ireland following that, either speaking to a Home Economics class or an entire school, discussing the ongoing obesity problem in the country. He notices on these school visits that, like his own background, parents are not influencing or teaching their children to cook anymore. He would give a demonstration on the essentials, such as chopping skills and how to make basic sauces. According to Adrian, the vital stuff they will use when they go to college.
Offering up healthy versions of classic take-aways will surely see Chef Adrian on Irish screens for years to come.
Chef Adrian will be doing his own demo in UCD on November 15th, which will be free to all students.