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Image by Melanie Mullan.
Interviews

In the kitchen with Jess Murphy

The Galway-based New Zealand native talks staff meals, wooden spoons and the joy of a roast dinner.

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Have you ever wondered what chefs eat when they're not in their restaurants? Us too.

That's why we've decided to launch a new series In the kitchen with... which sees us chat with some of our favourite chefs about their food habits outside of the workplace.

We're kicking off with Jess Murphy of Kai in Galway. Born in New Zealand, Jess has been working and living in Ireland since 2003. She opened Kai, which holds a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide, with her Irish-born husband David in 2011. The restaurant focuses on locally sourced, seasonal produce to create inventive daily menus.

READ MORE: Jess Murphy on how a sports psychologist helped her to run her own business

Aside from being an award-winning chef, Jess has spent much of her time on projects outside of the kitchen: she 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. 

Here we chat to Jess about her daily food habits.

Do you cook a lot at home?

Yes, I try to but I’m only at home two nights a week. One night we normally make a big roast dinner and then the second day I’ll make soups or hotpots to bring to work.

Who do you usually eat with?

I normally eat with whoever is on that shift. We always sit down for a big staff meal after lunch and dinner service. Staff meal is the most important meal in the restaurant. It’s so important for the morale of the team. If someone is having a bad time or going through something then we all sit down and try to fix it together. You can sort out most problems in the world over a good staff dinner.

Are there any foods you have to or choose to avoid?

I have to avoid aubergines because I’m allergic to them. Apart from that, I'll have a good go at anything! Also, I really want to like tripe but I’ve had a few bad experiences so far.

READ MORE: How to wine and dine like a pro with Gerry McMahon

Food from Kai. Image by Melanie Mullan.
Food from Kai. Image by Melanie Mullan.

What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?

Butter, gin, tonic, Vegemite and bread. Because chefs don’t eat at home! 

What's in your fridge right now?

Well, I’ve run out of gin. So Champagne, full-fat milk, butter, cheese.

What is your default dinner after a busy week?

A roast dinner. You can’t beat a roast dinner. It’s like all your childhood memories wrapped up in a big hug. The more potatoes the better!

What is your favourite kitchen gadget?

A wooden spoon. It’s old school. When you love something you’re making, that love and energy flows down the spoon and into the dish. I buy my wooden spoons from a man that sells them in the Galway Farmer’s market.

Do you have a favourite chef or cookbook?

One of my favourite chefs of all time is Rory O’Connell and one of my favourite cookbooks is Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen.

READ MORE: What to eat in Galway

Jess Murphy. Image by Melanie Mullan.
Jess Murphy. Image by Melanie Mullan.

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

I’ve had too many to mention!

What's the best thing you've ever cooked?

Roasted leg of hogget with salsa verde.

What is the best cooking tip you've ever been given?

I know it sounds cheesy but low and slow is the golden rule.

What would be your last meal?

Lunch at The Greenhouse.

What is your favourite dish to cook?

My favourite main course to cook is lobster Thermidor. I would also make an ox tongue terrine for a starter and my favourite dessert is a fig leaf ice cream.

Keep up to date with Jess on her Twitter and Instagram pages.

READ MORE: White chocolate panna cotta recipe