Derek Reilly, Culinary Director at Aramark (Northern Europe) talks to FOOD&WINE about his pet peeves and current obsessions. 

What’s your earliest food memory?
As a young boy, memories of the ham boiling on Christmas Eve and a real feeling of excitement and anticipation of what was to come the next morning.

What was the most valuable lesson you have learned on your career path?
Consistency, attention to detail and never give up on your dreams. Stay focused and, most importantly, have fun.

What is the first thing you ever cooked?

While training at DIT many moons ago the first dish I ever cooked was a Spanish omelette, I think I made a pretty good first attempt!

What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?

One of my great passions in the kitchen is to inspire and mentor our junior chefs – the only thing I require from them is to have a positive can-do attitude: if I don’t get this I get very frustrated.

Which kitchen tool could you not live without?
I always have a spoon on my person – taste, taste and taste again!

What is your current ingredient obsession?
It’s all about the seasons for me and as winter approaches celeriac is at its best. A much underutilised vegetable, fantastic for hearty soups and casseroles, it adds real depth of flavour to those winter warmers.

What/who are your biggest influences?

The first cookery book I ever bought was White Heat by Marco Pierre White. I was so inspired by the classic French recipes and food photography, I have been obsessed ever since! I have had the pleasure of meeting him serval times and he never fails to inspire me.

What was your most memorable meal?

There are so many, it is impossible to choose just one. I ate at Purnell’s by Glynn Purnell’s in Birmingham recently – bold and innovative cookery at its best.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Indian takeaway...with a glass of Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay.

Dream dinner party guest?

Marco Pierre White for the wild ‘rock n’ roll’ culinary stories; the greatest French chef ever, Georges Auguste Escoffier; the legendary Myrtle Allen whose food philosophy shaped the landscape of Irish modern cookery; and, of course, my wife Lisa, because she’s great company.

What are your favourite eateries at home and abroad?

For me, nothing beats the ambiance and elegance of a Michelin star restaurant. Ross Lewis and Chapter One are the essence of this: skillfully crafted dishes of outstanding quality. A visit to Au Grain de Folie is a real treat, a fantastic vegan restaurant in Paris with exceptional, tasty food.

What/who inspires you?

Where we sometimes lack a defined Irish cuisine we make up in abundance with the finest local food producers anywhere in the world. The impeccable quality of their products, as well as their unwavering dedication, devotion and commitment to Irish food, is inspiring.

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