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Richie wilson sole  main edit

In the kitchen with Richie Wilson

The chef talks family, packed fridges and ruined carpets.


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

That's why in our series In the kitchen with... we talk to some of our favourite chefs about their food habits outside of the workplace and today, we're chatting with Richie Wilson, executive chef at SOLE and FIRE restaurants in Dublin.

A chef of over 20 years, Richie has previously worked in The Tannery, Thornton's and was also executive chef at various hotels in Dublin, including The Clyde Court, The Morrison and more. 

Here, Richie tells us more about his life outside of the kitchen.

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Do you cook a lot at home?

Yes, of course; my wife Sue always says “You don’t get a dog and bark yourself!”. I have always enjoyed cooking at home, especially when there is time to stroll through butchers, supermarkets, fishmongers and the like. When you have lots of time and no real plan until you start shopping, inspiration comes from the ingredients in front of you. Sometimes these experiments are a huge success and enjoyed by all in the house, sometimes not so much!

More often than not the meals I cook at home are prepared in advance to try and make some sort of effort to helping out at home. I have three young children and my wife also works so if I can put together a couple of dishes in advance life is a lot easier for everyone.

Who do you usually eat with?

When I am working I am not there at meal times obviously and I would normally come in quite late. Sue would always wait up with me while I’m eating dinner which is great, eating alone would really upset me. When I’m off we always sit together, family meals are a time to slow down a little, talk together and catch up on what everyone has been doing. These are my favourite meals, regardless of the food.

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

There is honestly only one or two things that I am not a huge fan of. I’ve never liked walnuts, I would eat them but I have never been fond of them. Rice is another but when I say rice I mean just plain steamed rice. I love burritos, sushi, pilau and any rice dishes that have lots of flavour, but just plain rice is not for me.

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What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?

I am a very classically trained chef so the ingredients that I am never without are the bases of classic cuisine. All add so much to every dish but are put together in so many different ways. Thyme, but it doesn’t grow fast enough in my kitchen window and I use it so much that I would say I buy a plant every week. Garlic - you get so much flavour from something so small. Onions because they are so versatile; they have a different flavour for almost every cooking process you can think of and another again when they are used raw. Wine - the reduction of wine can form the base of almost any dish, getting you off to the right start. Potatoes because I am Irish after all, I don’t believe there has ever been a time where I had no potatoes in the house! I’m not sure I could ever do without butter and olive oil either but if I can only choose five ingredients…

What's in your fridge right now?

A lot, I did the shopping yesterday so it’s full. With five of us in the house we go through an enormous amount of milk, so there are 11 litres of full fat, three litres of low-fat, four litres of strawberry milk - Ben’s favourite - at the moment. There's also gallons of apple, orange and pineapple juices because Jake and Emily both have their favourites. The vegetable drawer is full of carrots, onions, garlic, shallots, green beans, fresh corn, spinach, leeks, celery, parsnips, baby gem, rocket, and a turnip. We also have chicken fillets, rib-eye steaks, hake fillets, a leg of lamb, salami, Parma ham, pepperoni, coleslaw, lots of butter and a good selection of cheese. Of course, there's some Prosecco, wine, water, and a beer or two! There is always a lot of eggs and things to make a good breakfast for the day off, but it all clears out pretty quickly though!

What is your default dinner after a busy week?

I’m not sure I have one in particular. I like asking everyone in the house what they’d like to eat when I’m off and I try to please everyone - there have to be some perks to your Dad being a chef! But, I am guilty of enjoying really good wings and a beer after service before my day off. I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting that recipe and it is always evolving.

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What is your favourite kitchen gadget?

I was never one for collecting gadgets like spiralisers and things like that, but I couldn’t be without a full set of knives in the house and good chopping boards. I do love my KitchenAid Cook Processor, I’m not sure if that's a gadget or not, but it does absolutely everything, from slow cooking to slicing, mixing, puréeing and more, so I suppose that is my favourite gadget

Do you have a favourite chef or cookbook?

I have been inspired by a lot of chefs through the years and I continue to be all the time. These days,  I'm really inspired by guys like Alex Atala, David Chang, and so many others who push the boundaries of ingredients but link so much back to their own communities. In the past, chefs like Paul Flynn, who taught me so much, and legends like Paul Bocuse, Anthony Bourdain, Anton Mosimann and many, many more have been my inspiration.

I think there are two though that really helped me fall in love with food from a very young age: Rick Stein, who just has the most inherent understanding and love for all things food, and Keith Floyd, who I never saw follow any sort of recipe, it was always a bit of this, a lot of that - so natural!

Have you ever had a kitchen disaster?

I am sure I have had many but very few that the customers knew about. I think the worst nights I’ve had in kitchens were all in 'soft openings' - there was never anything soft about them!

I do recall one incident at a very high-end hotel. We had a number of private dinners on at the same time in separate rooms. I was delivering bisque to one room when the trolley caught on the very expensive carpet and the whole pot went over. I remember walking straight around the pool now settling into the carpet and into the room where the guests were patiently waiting for their soup course. I told them exactly what had happened and that I was going to serve another soup left from one of the other private rooms. They were very understanding and loved the other soup, but there we had to replace the carpet!

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

I have prepared food that I thought was amazing but it’s what makes others happy that really counts, you can’t be your own critic. Sue loves a carbonara that is finished with smoked cheese. Every time I prepare it I try to make it better but it’s the best thing I’ve ever cooked when she loves it.

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

Seasoning is not just salt and pepper. When I explain this to my chefs, I can still hear my old head chef explaining it to me and I hope that I come across as passionate as he did all those years ago.

What would be your last meal?

I would have to think about all the things I have never tasted before and try to fit them all in. I would hate to leave this world without trying as many things as possible and I have so many more still to try. I couldn’t possibly go back to an old favourite just before I die - maybe I should start a list now so as not to leave anything out.

What is your favourite dish to cook?

Right now my favourite thing to cook is a huge pot of steaming mussels with lashings of cream stuck in the middle of the table with Sue and the kids around it. Plunging lumps of fresh bread into the juices served with plenty of conversation and laughter - what more could you possibly want!

Keep up with Richie on Instagram and find out more about SOLE and FIRE restaurants online.

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