Donal Skehan talks about reconnecting with Irish cuisine in West Cork


Lots of cooking shows are full of cheese, but Donal Skehan’s latest gig might just be his gooeyist yet. The celebrity chef has just left the Wild Atlantic Way when he picks up the phone, trying but failing to take advantage of some free time.

“We had this idea of ​​a food-centric road trip and we were humming and wondering where to go. It was obvious we had to go to West Cork. It’s the birthplace of good Irish food. I wasn’t. stayed that a couple of weeks ago and knew we had to go back, ”he says.

And so a new movie, Donal and Nico’s cheese road trip, was born. After the restrictions began to lift, the Dublin chef headed west in search of the finest Irish toast ingredients with Nico Reynolds, owner of Lil Portie and Chef Ireland AM and Today Show.

The trip has been a highlight of Skehan’s summer so far. The Food Network star returned to Ireland with his wife Sophie and their two sons when Covid first struck, but only now does he feel like he’s truly reconnecting with home.

“I feel like we’re just settling in now because there have been so many different blockages and every time I felt like life was starting over something happened. J “I really feel like this summer has been fun to reconnect. It’s like we’re finally home,” said the 35-year-old.

“The opportunity to go and visit these farms in Cork was incredible. I’m only back a year and a half from Los Angeles so reconnecting with places like this where the products are so good was great.


The first stop on the trip was Ron D’s food truck in Ballydehob, followed by a visit to the Gubbeen farm outside of Schull and a visit to Durrus Cheese. The stop at Ron D’s was particularly interesting for Skehan.

“I used to take the pulse before I left Ireland and now there are so many places to follow. Ron D’s is a perfect example. I had no idea their bread was so prolific. were saying about their history and where the idea came from. They lived in America and so came up with the idea for grilled cheese toast from there. It was really interesting to hear about it, ”says -he.

“There are a lot of these little places that have diversified what they’re doing throughout the lockdown and looked for new ways to bring food to the masses. It’s great to see, it’s a great time to travel to Ireland in terms of food. “

The food truck boom over the past year has delightfully surprised Skehan. He used to hang out with the moving places in Los Angeles but didn’t anticipate the trend would develop here.

“I never really thought they would become a thing in Ireland. I think I would have continued to think that if we hadn’t had the lockdown and been forced out. We’re a lot more used to it. eating a hot sandwich out on a rainy day now that we were before I guess, ”he says.

“We have two young children and this is also our way of eating now. There is no longer sitting time for two hours. It’s like ‘What can we take that can be wrapped up so that we can take the road as soon as they start to drive? ‘”

Irish summer

Donal and Nico’s mode of transportation caused some difficulty.

Skehan will be back soon to visit West Cork, but he may choose another mode of transport next time. “We thought we’d have a cool pickup truck so we headed over to this Volkswagen camper van. No one should listen to Nico if he says my driving was bad because I drove that damn pickup truck through West Cork on my own without electricity direction, “he laughs.” I went to Ballydehob and they said they could feel the clutch when I got into town. “

Nico’s review of the van trip isn’t quite five-star, but he goes lightly on his driver. “He did a great job given the circumstances. There were a few incidents where I felt the brakes were not working properly. I was trying to support while I held the seat, ”Nico said with a burst of laughter.

He had enjoyed West Cork’s offerings before, but hadn’t been to the area for almost a decade. “It’s such an interesting part of the world. Durrus was like a fictional Narnia. I already knew Fingal from Gubbeen but coming down to see the herds was amazing. I mean, a belly full of cheese and the sun shining in West Cork would remind you that life is not so bad.

Both chefs say their favorite part of the trip was a sunny barbecue at Galley Cove. “We ended up there on one of the most glorious days. I had never been to this part of Cork and it was amazing. It was really like we were having a wonderful time. We sat on the beach and cooked some food on this amazing little charcoal barbecue, ”Skehan says. “We had sandwiches and went swimming, I mean, what else do you want from an Irish summer?”


Skehan will spend the rest of the summer filming a new TV show in Ireland set to air next year. After that, is it back in sunny LA?

“We had really planned to come home for a long time while I was filming. The idea was that we would go back to California afterwards, but once we went through the process of moving everything and the blockages hit it didn’t make sense to go back. We feel better now also with the children. I always feel like you’re walking on water in Los Angeles. It feels a bit safer here, ”Skehan says.

“And while I loved the LA food scene, it was nice to reconnect with good Irish produce. I had forgotten how special it is to a degree. I got distracted by things. like Korean BBQ. They have a great selection in Los Angeles, but knowing where the food comes from and how good it is is really something uniquely Irish. It’s something you realize more when you come home you. “

It was a tougher decision to stick to as the July heat wave fades into memory, but Skehan says we can expect to see more of it as life returns to normal.

“There are times, like the gray days in August, when we think we could be in 35 degree heat, but we put that aside. I think the boys are pretty settled here. Much of the work. that I was doing in Los Angeles It was for six week stays, so I think if we go back it will be for extended stays, probably not to live full time. “

  • Donal and Nico’s cheese road trip will premiere on RTÉ Player on September 1st.

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