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Jess murphy with award edit
Jess Murphy with her Blás na hÉireann Producers' Champion award for 2019.

Jess Murphy on how a sports psychologist helped her adjust to running her own kitchen

Her focus on being a good leader has changed the way she works.


Late last year, the Business Post launched its first food podcast with FOOD AND WINE’s new editor Gillian Nelis. Throughout the course of the eight-episode series, Gillian spoke to lots of prominent figures in the Irish food industry.

In the last episode of the series, Gillian sat down with Jess Murphy, chef proprietor at Kai in Galway, to talk about leaving New Zealand, working with those in direct provision and everything in between. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the entire episode is how Jess describes her transition from chef to owner. Owning your own restaurant requires a focus on business, a new outlook on cooking and, of course, significant capital. For Jess, who is a self-proclaimed competitive person, becoming the person in charge of everything was a challenge.  

“Growing up in kitchens, I was always really competitive. So if you were my junior sous and I was one under you, I was going to take you down and get your job. That’s the way I worked and that’s why I’ve done well, I’ve always been on the attack,” she told us. 

“But then when you own your own business you realise you can’t be that person anymore, you have to be a calm teacher. You have to completely change your way of working.” 

READ MORE: Jess Murphy on Parabere 2019

Jess at Kai.
Jess at Kai.

Retraining her thoughts

Part of Jess changing her behaviour saw her undertake cognitive behavioural therapy. She also teamed up with a sports psychologist, former Galway hurler Tony Óg Regan. Working with Tony, her focus was on learning how to better combat problems, develop her management skills and handle pressure.

Perhaps all head chefs could do with a skills course around this subject, but as this is not the case, it’s exciting to see someone make active strides to better themselves and become the kind of person that they themselves would want to work for. 

Retraining her school of thought has helped Jess operate one of the most successful restaurants in the west, while also allowing for a balance in her life and the lives of her chefs. 

She has transcended the boundaries of what many think a chef’s job is: Jess has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Beirut and Jordan, has furthered food initiatives for those in direct provision, and much more. 

With an inspiring career under her belt, Jess is a role model for those in the Irish food industry. Perhaps if more follow her lead, the sector may change for good. 

To hear what else Jess had to say about Kai, listen to Plate: the Business Post Food podcast with Gillian Nelis, which is available on all streaming platforms, including Spotify and iTunes.

READ MORE: Jess Murphy named Blás na hÉireann Producer's Champion 2019