Oh Brother: recipes from one of Dublin's favourite cafes
Garrett Fitzgerald says food should be ‘designed to offer nourishment and pleasure’
Garrett Fitzgerald: “For me, it is about creativity and enjoyment, enjoying the end result but actually enjoying the process of cooking too.”
He doesn’t look much like the typical late vocation chef or restaurateur, but then Brother Hubbard and Sister Sadie, the much-loved Dublin food businesses jointly-owned by Garrett Fitzgerald, aren’t run-of-the-mill cafes either.
Both the elder Brother, on Capel Street, and little Sister Sadie, which followed across the city on Harrington Street, have a strong focus on what they call their “community of customers”. The hipster vibe is undeniable, and they’re very individual – just like their co-owner, who has just published The Brother Hubbard Cookbook (Gill Books, €27.99).
Almost five years ago, Fitzgerald left behind a law and economics career – he was a senior manager for the Commission for Energy Regulation – and he and his partner, James Boland, decided to shake up their lives. Reading an article in the Guardian newspaper about “the psychology of regret” was the catalyst. Fitzgerald says it gave him “that Eureka moment . . . just go do it, get on with the dream and the adventure”.
Fitzgerald’s springboard to a new career was the 12-week course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork, which he describes as “life changing”.
“The Ballymaloe approach to food has been so influential in terms of who I have become as a cook. The care and thoughtfulness that should go into food – from understanding your ingredients, the purity of the food, right through to the presentation of the end result. Darina [Allen] and Rory [O’Connell] are so passionate about food, and the Irish food scene in particular, that it is infectious.”
Just last week, Fitzgerald was back at Ballymaloe, checking in on Boland, who has just started on the course. As joint-owner, Boland oversees the administration and business side of Brother Hubbard and Sister Sadie. Fitzgerald looks after food, operations and business development, and they run both cafes together.
With his cooking credentials secured, Fitzgerald embarked on a two-year culinary adventure with Boland, travelling extensively and then working for a year in a cafe/bakery in Melbourne. It was while they were in Melbourne that the idea for Brother Hubbard began to take shape.
With the germ of an idea taking root, Fitzgerald left Australia and took the long route home, spending four months exploring the food scene in the Middle East.
What he saw and ate travelling through Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, and Syria inspired him to bring a taste of the Middle East back home. “It was before the troubles, so I was fortunate to spend a month in Syria, where Aleppo was a particular highlight,” he says.
In 2012, the pair opened their first cafe, Brother Hubbard quickly proving to be just what the market, chilled by economic woes and in search of more affordable dining options, was looking for. Sister Sadie followed two years later.
The food served at Brother Hubbard is healthy and wholesome, “designed to offer nourishment and pleasure”, and Fitzgerald is also part owner and plays a “supporting role”, in Piply, the healthy option food delivery service in Dublin city.
This ethos is at the core of Fitzgerald’s new book. Food that’s good for you can also be interesting, a touch exotic, and always delicious to eat.
“It is something I felt very passionate about – not only the food in the book but also the way the recipes were written. I’ve tried to write in a conversational, supportive style. The unofficial subtitle is ‘A Friend in the Kitchen’ and I hope that is conveyed. For me, it is about creativity and enjoyment, enjoying the end result but actually enjoying the process of cooking too.”