Leylie Hayes at Avoca tells us about her most memorable meal and the kitchen tool she just can't live without
What’s your earliest food memory?
Family meals growing up – my mother always did a sit-down family lunch on a Sunday. My grandfather would have passed this on. It was a full-blown affair of four courses and everyone would sit down and enjoy.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned on your career path?
I think that hard work and persistence always pay off. It is important to never ask anybody to do something that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself. We all work in a team and it’s important to pull together.
What is the best thing you ever cooked?
For my recent significant birthday, I had all my family and friends over for pizza. It was great fun and tasted amazing. We used the freshest artisan ingredients such as buffalo mozzarella or the most amazing chorizo and salami from Fingal Ferguson in west Cork.
What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
People who don’t clean up as they go along. It drives me mad.
Which kitchen tool could you not live without?
One of the best inventions, which I couldn’t live without, is the microplane grater. It’s great for introducing flavour and makes grating zests so easy.
What is your current ingredient obsession?
Oxtail and beef cheeks. I am in the process of working on opening the new Avoca butcher in Avoca Monkstown and I have been surrounded by beef. Also, Mary Walsh’s free range ducks or geese from Kilkenny, which taste fantastic.
Who/what are your biggest influences?
Myrtle and Darina Allen – this is where I started my cooking career. I was trained under the wonderful Myrtle in Ballymaloe House. I went originally to do a vegetarian course so they both had a great influence from an early start.
What was your most memorable meal?
It was a Euro-toque dinner in the ruins of a palazzo in Italy. These amazing elderly women were making fresh pasta and we had our meal by candlelight – it was an unforgettable experience.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Delice de Cremiere Cheese or, if I fancy a sweet treat, I love making homemade espresso coffee ice-cream.
Dream dinner party guest?
Barack Obama is the first person that has popped into my head. I think he would make a great dinner party guest and would be very interesting.
What are your favourite eateries at home and abroad?
I love dining with my family and a great casual spot with the kids would be Box Burger in Bray: it’s fun and the burgers taste great. If I am out for a girl’s lunch it would have to Coppinger Row in Dublin. It has great Mediterranean plates and cocktails. Abroad it would be beach lunches… eating fresh fish with family and friends.
What/who inspires you?
My mother, who is in her eighties and full of life. She still goes out to lunch with the girls and is great fun to be around.
Let us in on your top foodie tip…
Always plan ahead and don’t be afraid to use your freezer. Nobody wants a stressed hostess. Pre-making food and freezing allows you more freedom when hosting.