Executive chef, Philippe Farineau of Ashford Castle recalls his first food memory and let's us in on his top foodie tip

What’s your earliest food memory?

I definitely don’t remember my first baby spoon (!) but the first thing coming to my mind would be the smell of freshly baked apple tart coming from the oven. My mother loved baking so, at the weekend, we used to make cakes and others goodies together.

What was the most valuable lesson you have learned on your career path?

To respect the product, the season and your team.

What is the best thing you ever cooked?

I would say Achill Lamb with sea truffle, lamb jus finish with ponzu, which I made over the summer.

What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?

It would have to be a chef who is coming to work just for the sake of coming to work. Personally, I just can’t understand why someone would come to work with no passion, no ideas and having never read about food – why would you bother to be a chef?

Which kitchen tool could you not live without?

In the kitchen you really need three fundamental tools: good knives, good pots/pan and good chopping boards. With these you are able to cook absolutely everything. Yes of course it is very nice to have a sous vide machine, a water tank or others gadget like a paco jet, but these three tools are indispensable.

What is your current ingredient obsession?

Definitely seaweed and sea vegetables. I’ve been using these ingredients religiously for the past three years in dishes like brown crab ravioli with Irish seaweed dashi and wild hake with brassica and sea vegetables.

What/who are your biggest influences? 

My main influences are the sea, the land, the garden and the seasons – these influence my menus and dishes every day.

What was your most memorable meal?

This is an easy one for me – it was the last dinner with my wife before she gave birth to our daughter. It was a very special time for us. The dish was foie gras layered with smoked eel – the contrast of flavour and texture was fabulous. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

It would have to be chocolate, cheese and wine.

Dream dinner party guest?

Hmm … around a table, I would say Massimo Bottura, Guy Martin, Thomas Keller, Michel Bras, Seiji Yamamoto, Michel Galloyer, Pierre Herme, Julie Dupouy, a few of my best friends, colleagues and my wife. I would invite each of them to bring their wife or partner along with their best supplier… now that would be a memorable dinner party.

What are your favourite eateries at home and abroad?

When I go abroad, I like to try the local food mainly so you get a sense of the place. Here, I like to go to a good Japanese and Indian. Mind you, I like also a good Greek restaurant and North African cuisine.

What/who inspires you?

The farmer, the grower, the artisan producer, the cheesemonger, the winemaker all inspire me every day with their talents and knowledge. They are the ones who, maybe without knowing themselves, help me most to develop as a chef, and to create dishes with the respect the product deserved.

Let us in on your top foodie tip

When a new chef starts in my kitchen, the first thing I will always tell him or her is to ‘taste’. Taste everything you make, always checking for seasoning and flavour.