From LA to Lissadell – the kitchens where cooks love to work

Donal Skehan, Constance Cassidy, Deborah Donnelly and Nessa Robins invite us in

TV chef and ‘Irish Times’ food writer Donal Skehan in the kitchen in his home in Los Angeles

TV chef and ‘Irish Times’ food writer Donal Skehan in the kitchen in his home in Los Angeles

 

TV chef and “Irish Times” food writer Donal Skehan, and his wife Sophie, moved to LA last year and spent eight months finding a house with just the right kitchen. It is the epicentre of the television presenter’s life and where Skehan creates new dishes, videos and photography for his books and numerous media platforms.

Describe your kitchen

“It’s very clean, minimal and white. We are renting in LA so it was hard to find a house with a kitchen which was functional and in a style we liked. Most of the houses in LA are old fashioned and dated – there’s very few of the cool pads we see on TV – so we lucked out when we came across this house as the kitchen was perfect. It’s got simple, white Shaker cabinets with a white Corian worktop. There’s a nice flow in the space to work, and the minimalist background works well as a backdrop for food photography. We’ve tried to inject a bit of our personality into the space with photos, planting, light fixtures and accessories but we’re limited as to how far we can go as it’s a rental.”

How much time do you spend there?

“Less time than I did in Ireland, mainly because the house can get very hot and we have a gorgeous enclosed courtyard just off the back door. It’s where we eat all our meals and spend a lot of time lounging and chatting under the shade of the lemon, avocado and fig trees – it’s a magic spot.”

What crockery and glasswear do you use?

“I’ve been collecting vintage plates for the past decade now. I never pass a market or charity shop without going in for a root around. Sophie, who’s Swedish, introduced me to the Swedish concept of loppis. It’s basically old barns in the countryside where people send all their old stuff to instead of throwing them in a skip, and people are free to come in, have a rummage and take what they want for a euro or two. They are full of treasures, and the crockery I’ve sourced from them is incredible. I use the plates for all our meals and for all my photography as they add lots of texture and interest.”

Donal Skehan: “We’ve tried to inject a bit of our personality into the space with photos, planting, light fixtures and accessories.”
Donal Skehan: “We’ve tried to inject a bit of our personality into the space with photos, planting, light fixtures and accessories.”

What kitchen appliance could you not be without?

“Are salad hands considered an appliance? They’re my most-used gadget which I use to toss salads, stir fries and stir countless other dishes. My Cannon Mark 3 camera is also a must – I don’t cook anything without photographing it.”

Donal Skehan’s new six-part TV show, “Meals in Minutes”, airs on RTÉ One at 8.30pm from Tuesday, June 6th.

Barrister Constance Cassidy lives in Lissadell House in Sligo with her husband Eddie and their seven children. Her upstairs kitchen was once the sitting room of Lady Gore-Booth and has the best views in the house.

Constance Cassidy in her kitchen at Lissadell House, Sligo. Photograph: James Connolly
Constance Cassidy in her kitchen at Lissadell House, Sligo. Photograph: James Connolly

Describe your kitchen

“It’s a very large room with big old windows on each side. It is very basic and I don’t even have a dishwasher – instead there is one sink for washing up, a large table, a fridge and a Lacanche stove which has both a gas and an electric oven. The cabinets are made of very basic materials while the table is an old oak one which used to belong to my parents – it’s the heart of the room.”

Who designed it?

“I suppose Eddie and I designed it, but really we just decided what items we needed to make the room functional and went out and got them – we didn’t put a lot of thought into an actual design – but it works well.”

What is its best feature?

“The view – it’s great no matter which window you look out. From one window we have a view of Benbulbin – which is absolutely stunning, particularly on a sunny day. Then on the other side, the view is over Queen Maeve’s burial site and Sligo bay. No matter what the weather is like, the ocean is always dramatic.”

What appliance could you not do without?

“I don’t really have any appliances apart from my cooker, so I would have to say that I am the appliance that can’t be done without as I do all the cooking, cleaning and serving – with some help from the kids of course.”

How much time do you spend here?

“Generally I am in the kitchen for the length of time it takes to prepare each meal and then for the family to eat it. I also do my paperwork in there, so I suppose it would be the room where we all spend the most time.”

Constance Cassidy in her kitchen at Lissadell House, Sligo. Photograph: James Connolly
Constance Cassidy in her kitchen at Lissadell House, Sligo. Photograph: James Connolly

Anything you would change?

“There is no chimney in this room so I probably can’t have an open fire, but I would like an Aga or stove which would also generate a little bit of heat.”

Food blogger and writer Nessa Robins lives just outside Moate, Co Westmeath, with her husband, Diarmuid and four children.

Food blogger Nessa Robins in her kitchen, in Moate, Co Westmeath. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Food blogger Nessa Robins in her kitchen, in Moate, Co Westmeath. Photograph: James Flynn/APX

Describe your kitchen

“It’s open plan and it feels quite spacious due to the vaulted ceiling. It’s country-style, with plenty of counter space and a very large island. I have a great fondness for antiques so it’s also brimming with crockery, teapots and bits and pieces I picked up at auctions.The cabinets are cream-painted solid wood. The island is also solid wood and painted a duck-egg blue. My larder presses are made from beautiful pippy oak. My brother-in-law, John Claffey, is the talented cabinet maker who made the kitchen.

What’s your favourite thing?

“It would have to be my kitchen dresser. I style and photograph all the photos which accompany my recipes, so I rely heavily on my antique-style props. My dresser holds many of these and like a child with a doll’s house I also quite enjoy rearranging them on a regular basis.”

What kitchen gadget could you not do without?

Our Nutri-Ninja. It’s used on a daily basis for either breakfast smoothies or pre- and post-match nutrient-rich shakes.”

Anything you would change?

“I’m growing a little tired of the cream paint on the cabinets so I’m planning on having them painted this summer. Possibly some shade of grey.”

Deborah Donnelly is an artist and designer living in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin with her husband and four children. Having recently launched her own range of homeware, her quirky ideas are apparent in the room which is designed not to look like a kitchen.

Artist and designer Deborah Donnelly in her kitchen in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Artist and designer Deborah Donnelly in her kitchen in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Describe your kitchen

“I created my kitchen six years ago but didn’t want it to look like a kitchen so I have no cabinets above the counters and it’s all open plan as I really like having wall space. I have subway tiles (the same ones used in the London Underground) and everything else is wood. It’s very easy to keep clean as there are no fiddly knobs or dirt collectors. It’s quite a dark room and in the centre of the house and I really needed to keep it simple – and of course I needed good light fittings. It is not a big kitchen but with my family we needed a lot of counter space – so whether it’s for homework or breakfast, we all have our areas.”

What’s your favourite feature?

“The lights. The ones I wanted were €180 each and I needed six of them. But I got my friend, who is a metal artist, to make some up instead for a tenth of the price.”

What gadget could you not do without?

“My juicer. It’s very strong and I can even juice a pineapple with the skin on. I juice every morning so once the kids get their spinach into them I sort of don’t have to worry as much about what they are eating during the day. I also love my tap which supplies constant hot water.”

What crockery do you use?

“I finally have my own collection of homeware. I probably have the most expensive plates as I had to pay a fortune for samples when I was first designing, so rather than store them away I like to use them.”

Your dream kitchen?

“Maybe I would like a window with a big flower box, a chef on weekends and a big walk-in wine cellar – that would be fabulous. But right now I am happy to have designed my own wine glasses – it gives me great pride.”

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