On the back of an extremely successful 2014 that saw Dublin Pop Up take the Irish food world by storm, David Corscadden talks to one of the masterminds behind it, Cúán Greene, about his love for Irish food, the importance of good quality ingredients and what 2015 has in store for Dublin Pop Up.
It is no secret that the Irish food scene has experienced an injection of life and interest of late. This sentiment was especially true in 2014 which saw some great food moments captivate the taste buds of Ireland’s food community. Arguably one of the most talked about moments of 2014 was the Secret Garden pop-up restaurant that brought Dublin Pop Up screaming to the forefront of Irish food.
Meeting in a busy café just off Smithfield Square in Dublin, tales of food and food adventures start flying out of Cúán Greene’s mouth before he even sits down. He explains the only reason the other half of Dublin Pop Up, Harry Colley, isn’t present is because he is a couple of thousand miles away on a food tour of Thailand. However Greene explains it is not a holiday for Colley and that he will be bringing back ideas and techniques that the pair can work into their cooking for Dublin Pop Up, in a similar way to how Greene did when he came back from a six month stint working in a three star Michelin star restaurant in Spain in 2014.
Greene’s journey with food started when he was 15 and living in France for four years with his parents. He explains “Mum said I had to go to work for the summer. She said I am not just staying at home at home for the summer. So I went to work in a restaurant. It was amazing. They took me on and I worked for three months and I started to learn about food.” Then when he moved back to Ireland he worked part-time until he started studying culinary arts in DIT. “It was a toss up between culinary arts and creative arts but I chose the cooking” he explains. It was at college that Greene became friends with Colley and their food partnership began.
Dublin Pop Up formed very naturally according to Greene. “I was just going to do an event for friends and family and two days before the event I got a call to say I had to have surgery. So I called up Harry and asked him if he would be interested in helping me out. In other words, do all the work.” Greene adds this detail with a smile as he tells of turning up to the event to ‘help out’ with his arm in a sling following shoulder surgery.
I went to work in a restaurant. It was amazing. They took me on and I worked for three months and I started to learn about food
From that first event Greene got a referral and as he explains “it has gone from there step by step and we are still growing.” Once the duo decided to create Dublin Pop Up they set up a twitter account which Greene says really helped them get their name out. He credits the social network as being a great tool for connecting with the food scene in Ireland and as a platform on which they can interact with their followers easily.
On his partnership with Colley he explains that the two compliment each other very well in terms of cooking styles. “We work very well together. My strengths are [Harry’s] weaknesses and visa versa.” He continues “I would say at the start we had different views but by now have begun to understand what the other likes and our styles have come together.”
Dublin Pop Up’s Secret Garden event, which garnered the pair nationwide attention, was, according to Greene, an “amazing job for us and it really is what has made us.” The pop-up was in fact a marketing campaign in conjunction with Lidl. However no one knew about the Lidl connection and that all the food served was available in Lidl stores until the final night. “At the end a lot of people did come up and say that they did wonder how two lads would put on a production like this and really it wouldn’t have been possible with out the team behind it.”
Since that event Dublin Pop Up has gone on to garner more high profile attention for their food with larger and larger events. One of their more recent large scale events was the Heineken Dine In The Dark which Greene says was “one of the best things we have ever got to do.” Of the event, which saw 100 people served a five course meal in total darkness, Greene highlights that “good food can be served to a large group” you just need the support behind you, a concept Dublin Pop Up believes strongly in.
Cooking at home you want to use nice food. I think a lot about cooking is about the process
When it comes to his own cooking at home Greene jokingly says “I will eat anything. I could eat something frozen from the freezer.” For him dishes do not have to be the most expensive or adventurous, they simply have to be cooked well to be enjoyed. “Cooking at home you want to use nice food. I think a lot about cooking it about the process so sweating an onion it is something very simple thing but when you have the knowledge you are going to make something good.” Greene says that even something basic like spaghetti bolognese can be made exceptional when the right techniques are used.
The future is something that Greene and Colley have been discussing in detail lately. Greene says they are determined that a stand-alone restaurant is not for them saying “We don’t think a restaurant is suited to us. What we like about Dublin Pop Up is that every event is different. You are never repeating the same thing twice.” The pair do have big plans for the expansion of Dublin Pop Up however. “Our main goal is to expand, that is what we are trying to do. We love doing corporate gigs, pop ups are great and we like to do them but will perhaps try to open a venue this year. If we are going to expand that is what we are going to do.”
No doubt whatever direction Greene and Cooley decide to take Dublin Pop Up in they will continue to serve up theatre on a plate and capture the attention of the Irish food scene.
Dublin Pop Up will launch their new website, dublinpopup.com, this week. You can also find them on twitter (@dublinpopup) and on Facebook.