As we count down to the 2019 FOOD&WINE Awards, in association with Rémy Martin, and the launch of our rebrand, we are taking a moment to reflect. Here, chef and junior writer, Jordan Mooney sheds some light on what inspired her throughout her culinary career.
"Whenever anyone asks me about my earliest food memory, which I'm asked a lot more than you may think, I always think about making fairy cakes with my Dad and sister. They were simple bakes, topped with basic water icing, but we thought we had created masterpieces. These baking adventures kick-started my love of things food-related, something I'm still exploring.
Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time writing little stories - none of which were any good - that pushed me towards a career in journalism or teaching. However, to my own surprise, when it came time to fill in my CAO, I panicked and fell back on my love of food, deciding to undertake a course in Culinary Arts.
The first thing you need to know about professional cookery is that it's not like Masterchef or The Great British Bake Off: you work so hard, for so many hours in tiny, hot kitchens, accidentally slicing off the tips of your fingers or burning your arms. You will shout more expletives than you ever thought you knew. You will realise you haven't seen your friends in weeks because you're always working when everyone else is off. You'll sweat buckets, stain your chef whites with raspberry coulis and treat your knives like your own children.
But you'll also make some of the best friends of your life when you spend hours together day after day at work. You learn to experiment with new flavours and foods. You experience the 'buzz' of a good service and burst with pride at having your head chef compliment your food. Whether you think all of that sounds good or bad, that was my reality of being a chef. It was hard, tough and thankless, but I loved it.
I wanted to be like my culinary heroes, like Clare Smyth, Anthony Bourdain and Elena Arzak, so I worked hard and tried to learn as much as I could. I pored over recipes and annoyed my head chefs to let me try new ideas. At home, I whipped up weird baked goods and spent a lot of time and money trying to perfect macarons. In college, I undertook courses in molecular gastronomy, running a restaurant and wine studies.
At some point, everything changed. While I loved - and still love - cooking, I realised that my childhood passion for writing had stuck with me and I decided to try to marry everything I knew about cooking and writing together. I found myself wanting to write about food, instead of only cooking, so I reached out to the team at FOOD&WINE in the hopes of securing an internship. With no previous experience in magazine production or professional writing, I didn't have much hope, but then I found myself interviewing for a three-month internship with FOOD&WINE back when it was a magazine.
I was successful and threw myself into the position, working four days at the magazine and three days in a restaurant. While I was there, I was consumed with the idea of food writing, devouring other people's work and trying to learn as much as possible. Working with FOOD&WINE was an eye-opening experience for me, as it showed me so much about Ireland's food community. I learned about the hard-working producers scattered throughout the country, the initiatives to highlight Ireland as a food destination and so much more. Above all, the experience showed me that there was something in me that hadn't been fully satisfied with just cooking and I discovered that writing about food was something I wanted to do professionally.
When Dee Laffan took over the reins at FOOD&WINE last year, she invited me to join the team and it has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I've found a way to combine my two ambitions - cooking and writing - while being fortunate enough to highlight Irish food, restaurants and chefs. For someone that started on the other side of this coin, I think I'm extremely lucky to be able to now write about the thing I love. With the latest FOOD&WINE Awards fast approaching, I can tell you that we have a truly special day planned, as well as a whole host of new and exciting changes coming to the site soon, and I'm so glad to be part of it all!"