We talk to award-winning chef Gary O'Hanlon about what he loves, hates and can't live without
What’s your earliest food memory?
Coming home from school every single day and mammy having dinner ready on the table. We loved her for it. In later years Daddy got in on the act too to be fair. I think he invented charred food before it became fashionable. His home-made chips though are a thing of legend around Ramelton.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned on your career path?
To understand that a great restaurant experience isn’t just about the food. In fact, there are so many things that have got to be perfect even before a customer takes their first bite: how their phone-call was answered, the music, the smell of the restaurant, straight knives and forks, impeccable service… I could go on.
What is the best thing you ever cooked?
It has to be a seafood feast I cooked with my old friend Pat Saiya in Boston on Christmas Eve 2003. Pat has an incredible palate and she’s an amazing cook. I had to be on form cooking alongside her that’s for sure.
What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
Smokers. For me smokers are two things in a professional kitchen: time-wasters and bad palates.
What kitchen tool could you not live without?
Good knives. You don’t need many. A close second, especially when cooking at home, would be my Kenwood K-Mix. I love mine.
What is your current ingredient obsession?
I wouldn’t use the term obsession but it’s got to be a high quality sea salt. Irish of course and better again, Jordans Atlantic Sea Salt from Donegal.
What/who are your biggest influences?
This will annoy some Liverpool fans but I’ve always modeled myself and my work ethic on Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane. Sir Alex for times when I need to make tough decisions for the good of my career and Roy Keane for the daily drive it takes to go at each day at 100%.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Chickatees. Bag after bag of crumbled up Chickatees. There is no point in me telling a lie. I’ve my moments when it’s crackers, white truffle honey and Crozier Blue Cheese also, but you did say guilty pleasure!
What are your favourite eateries at home and abroad?
At home in Ireland: An Port Mór, Westport; The Tannery in Dungarvan; Thyme in Athlone; The Pigs Ear, Dublin; The Olde Post Inn, Cavan; Ananda in Dundrum; and Burritos & Blues on South Anne Street, Dublin.
What/who inspires you?
You know I really look up to guys like Tim O Sullivan, Derry Clarke, Ross Lewis and Kevin Thornton. The day you think you’re a good chef go eat something Kevin cooked and you won’t be long realizing how far you’ve got to go. I ate in l’Ecrivain a few years ago with my buddy Frankie Fish and Derry came out and sat with us for a while. I hung on every word he said, no joke. And I remember Ross Lewis taking some time out from a Eurotoques event to sit and chat with me. I’m not sure he knows just how much the advice he gave me meant to me, but it did. I’ll never forget his decency.
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