Ever dreamt of running a restaurant or hotel with your significant other?
Ahead of Valentine's Day, Emma Blanchfield spoke to couples around the country about how they manage to work together in the food industry and what they like to eat when they’re off duty. The full story was available in FOOD&WINE Magazine, which which you can read online here. Here, Fergus and Manon O'Halloran of The Twelve in Galway let us know more about their lives.
Fergus and Manon O’Halloran, The Twelve Hotel
Having met in 1992 at a hotel in Toronto, you could say that it was Fergus and Manon O’Halloran’s destiny to one day go on to open their own hotel. “I was on reception duty at the Four Seasons and checked Fergus in,” recalls Manon. “The rest is history!”
Fourteen years later, the couple were approached by friends about the opportunity to manage The Twelve Hotel in County Galway. Both Fergus and Manon had worked in the hospitality industry for years so the decision was easy.
“We had gained experience in Canada and were inspired by our own travels, we really believed could create something truly unique together,” tells Manon. Since opening the hotel in 2007, a lot has changed in their life as both business and life partners. “In the early days, we worked non-stop together. Then, I stepped back and began devoting my time more to our children while Fergus took care of The Twelve,” explains Manon.
“But, I’m still very involved behind the scenes and help out whenever is needed, which is often a lot,” she laughs. From working late nights, knocking down walls and running a hotel in a pandemic, it’s fair to say both Fergus and Manon have been faced with some difficult challenges as a couple, but perhaps the biggest challenge they face is escaping work.
“Like any couple in this situation, we never stop talking about work. It doesn’t go away - even when we take a holiday,” says Manon. “But that’s not a bad thing. We love what we do. The challenge is to remember that our children, friends and family are not as involved as we are, so we need to consciously remind ourselves of that when we are all together.”
As for whether or not the duo would recommend that other couples to follow in their footsteps, the duo says that the hotel business is a challenge you need to be sure about.
“Be sure it’s what you want to do. The hours are endless, not reflected financially and it can become very demanding on your relationship,” Manon says. “Regardless, it’s worth trying. We both love challenges and we often question as to why we continue at times... but here we are!”
Our favourite dish
“Having lived in Canada, a lot of our cooking is heavily influenced by the cuisine we were exposed to, like Greek and Japanese food,” explains Manon. “But I actually grew up in the Caribbean and there are several dishes from ‘back home’ that I just love to cook. The stand out favourite has got to be my Caribbean stewed chicken”
Caribbean stewed chicken
- 100ml Worcestershire sauce
- 100ml ketchup
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- One bunch coriander, chopped
- One bunch of spring onions, sliced finely
- A few sprigs of thyme
- Freshly ground salt and pepper
- A whole chicken, cut into pieces
- 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- Boiled rice, to serve
- In a bowl, mix together the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, garlic, ginger, onion, tomato, coriander, spring onion and thyme with salt and pepper to taste. Add the pieces of chicken and coat with the marinade, then cover and leave in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
- Next, heat a cast iron pot over a high heat and add the oil. Before it starts to smoke, add the brown sugar and stir until just before it begins to caramelise.
- Next, add the chicken and brown in the oil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove any water from the pot and increase the heat to high to ensure chicken is golden brown.
- While the chicken is browning, add a cup of water to the marinade then add to the pot with the chicken. Reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for approximately 40 minutes.
- Once the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has been reduced to your liking, divide between plates and serve with cooked boiled rice.
For more from The Twelve, click here.