The fourth episode of Beyond The Menu, Mark Moriarty's new television show, aired on RTÉ last night, which saw the young chef visit Forest & Marcy in Dublin to spend time with Ciaran Sweeney, his former mentor.
The first episode in this new six-part documentary saw Mark take a look behind the scenes at Pilgrim's in West Cork. In week two, Mark visited Clanbrassil House in Portobello to find out more about one of the country's youngest head chefs, Grainne O'Keefe. Last week, we saw Mark journey back to West Cork to visit Rob Krawczyk from Restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob.
Last night, Mark visited Dublin restaurant Forest & Marcy to spend time with his former mentor, Donegal native Ciaran Sweeney. As with Gráinne and Rob in previous episodes, Mark and Ciarán had a very easy camaraderie, highlighting their existing friendship. This is where the strength of this show lies, as when Mark and the guest chef have a relationship, it comes through very well on screen and pulls the viewer into the story. The lack of awkwardness allows us to get straight to the meat of the episode, which is the guest chef's relationship with their food and the people around them.
This episode marked a reunion of sorts between these two great chefs who had previously worked together; Ciaran had trained Mark back when he was learning his craft and the pair had also run pop-up restaurants together.
This episode was particularly interesting because we got to see so much of Ciaran's life outside of the kitchen including him and his daughter making 'Aoibhinn's risotto'. Seeing Ciaran interact with his partner and daughter showed that yes, great chefs do have interests outside of the kitchen and that work-life balance really is hard to achieve.
Ciaran spoke at length about the pressure of the kitchen, like burn out and the pressures of alcohol and drugs. There was a sort of haunted quality to this speech, as Ciaran told Mark how he nearly went down that path himself until his partner came into his life and how he has seen many friends and colleagues go down that path. We have all heard, and maybe to some extent seen, the damages that addiction and an unbalanced lifestyle can cause. With the current chef shortage so prominent in Ireland, it's critical that head chefs try to alleviate the pressure on their young colleagues, which seems to be something that Ciaran is focused on.
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What an amazing journey it has been @forestandmarcy, I would like to thank every single person who was a part of it for the 3 and a half years. Served the last potato bread a few weeks back now and had time to reflect... A massive thanks to John and Sandy Wyer for the opportunity and I will be forever grateful. Extremely humbled by the experience & loyalty of every guest that dined. I wish the restaurant every success in their next chapter. Here's to my next adventure. ⚡
Towards the latter half of the episode, we saw Mark and Ciaran travel to Donegal to create their pop-up. Focused on local seafood, like hand-dived scallops fromJerry Gallagher, turf smoked salmon from Declan Mc Connellogue of The Haven Smokehouse and fresh crab from Pete McBride, this pop-up was the most harmonious of the season.
It was clear that Ciaran and Mark knew how to work together and the resulting dishes looked absolutely spectacular. Seeing Ciarán in his native Donegal showed another, more harmonious side of him. He mentioned throughout the episode that he sees himself and his family settling down in the county in the future, so this pop-up was sort of like a taste of what's to come.
Overall, this episode was one of the best yet. Both Mark and Ciaran were perfectly happy to work and chat together, allowing us to really get down to the nitty-gritty aspects of what chef life is all about. My only criticism is that I would love for the episode to last an hour, instead of just 30 minutes so that we can really get further into the chefs, their lives and their food.
Tune in next week to hear our thoughts on episode four of Beyond The Menu, which will see Mark team up with Holly Dalton, former head chef at Gertrude.