Dressed to impress
. . . and we don’t just mean their salads. Five up-and-coming male chefs discuss what they wear off-duty
Cookery school tutor, chef and business developer Anthony O’Toole. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Head chef, Locks Restaurant, Portobello, Dublin
A dedicated and inventive chef, Keelan Higgs had a head start as a child growing up in Delgany, Co Wicklow with a father who managed seafood restaurants. Higgs remembers as a child being at his side, helping him cook, selecting seafood in Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford and visiting markets with him. An honours graduate in culinary arts from DIT, he has clocked up his fine-dining experience working in Guilbauds, Chapter One and in Italy, in Locando Arnolfo, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Tuscany. His fresh pasta is, he says, the best in Dublin.
When it comes to off-duty dressing, “social life for chefs is not big on the agenda,” he smiles, “but I love to go out for dinner [a favourite place is the Chinese M & L on Cathedral Street] and to concerts. I grew up with skateboards, baggy trousers and hoodies and it is difficult to separate myself now from what I was as a kid. I like wearing shirts and jeans that are loose and comfortable such as Carhartt and I live in DC and Vans skater shoes. Everything must be comfortable.” He’s not big into cardigans and suits are only for special events such as weddings and even then they are more casual Ted Baker style, “not like the usual business suit”. When he’s shopping, he doesn’t hang around, but tends to buy everything in one go. “I just grab whatever is there as long as it looks okay. I am impulsive when I cook and when I shop. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s flair and panache in my cooking, but it’s hard to make a comparison with the way I dress. I like to feel that my food looks good and that I look good when I go out.”
Chef and DJ
An inner-city Dubliner from Sherriff Street, Scurry admits that there was no family background of big dinners and he wanted to be able to do that. He trained on the job, never realising that he would one day become a head chef in Coppingers, a leading Dublin restaurant. Before that he was head chef in Gruel on Dame Street, but he has now taken a break so that “I can enjoy this Christmas with my four year-old daughter Mabel for the first time.” He describes his cooking style as “a modern interpretation of classic dishes”, but also combines cheffing with DJing in various clubs in Dublin, around Ireland and abroad where he DJs on yachts in the Adriatic and opens the annual Electric Elephant festival in Croatia.
He reckons that off-duty chefs have a way of getting it wrong when it comes to what they wear because they spend so much time in the kitchen. He has worn the same uniform of jeans and trainers for years. He collects trainers and admits to owning some 45 pairs. “I suppose you could say I am a safe dresser,” he says, adding that he spends money on sweaters and jeans, mostly US brands such as Paper Denim Cloth and Ernest Sewn. “I buy mostly in the US when we are on holiday, but at home I like Indigo & Cloth and Genius. I’m broad-chested and American sizes are good for me, others seem aimed at small Japanese people.”
Chef, bodyboard champion
From Strandhill, Co Sligo, Meehan grew up with the taste of the sea on his fingertips. A champion bodyboarder, he is also a talented chef. He trained first in Sligo, then in Killybegs and spent time perfecting his skills in Harvey Nichols in Dublin, with a few stints in London and later in Padstow in Rick Stein’s Café with Stein’s son, Jack. Back home, Meehan works in McGarrigles pub in Sligo which his known for its live music and great food. It’s number two on TripAdvisor. “We’re known for healthy, unpretentious, non-processed food and I like to deal with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients,” he says. A lot of effort goes into the special seafood tasting menus every Wednesday night. “As an island, we still don’t eat enough seafood,” he says. “I’d like to change that the way Rick Stein did.”
Off duty, his sartorial style is similarly unpretentious and down to earth with a similar emphasis on quality materials. “I guess we are influenced by the Aussies and professional surfers and bodyboarders,” he says. “The style is kind of unique. It’s stylish, a bit quirky, no labels in your face and we buy bodyboard brands to support the industry.” He likes skinny jeans and hoodies and the new style hardwear of Benthik, a surf clothing company recently founded by Irishman Dave Quinn making “waterman’s clothes” such as waxed jackets and heavy-duty lumberjack shirts, a modern take on conventional pieces. “They make cool beanies and undyed denims and I tend to shop online and get stuff that everybody isn’t wearing - mostly bodyboard brands. Here I’m wearing an ‘I Am None’ jumper from Boogtique and a Colombia shirt which was a gift.”
Pól Ó hÉannraich
Chef proprietor, Bloom Brasserie, Dublin
Like many other young Irish chefs, Ó hÉannraich always wanted a career cooking and describes himself as a natural entrepreneur. He attributes his love of, and commitment to, food to his grandmother Moira Smyth, a retired catering instructor who taught social skills in inner-city communities through cooking. After graduating with a culinary arts degree in DIT, he was taken on as head chef in Dax restaurant in 2004 where he remained for two years. Then he spent a year travelling and “eating in around 26 countries”, and returned home to set up a business called Culinary Solutions. Four years ago he bought Bloom Brasserie in Upper Baggot Street. Open six days a week, it now has a Michelin recommendation. Ó hÉannraich also teaches in DIT one day a week and, a fluent Irish speaker, also gives cookery lessons to transition year students in Coláiste Eóin every week.
At over two metres tall, he describes his sartorial style as classic. He wears jeans, shirts and “decent trainers”, but always of good quality.
“I spend a lot but I expect it to last,” he says citing shops such as Hugo Boss and Alias Tom as some of his favourite haunts. He cycles to work from Hanover Quay every morning in Spider fleeces, NorthFace jackets and tartan shirts from Abercrombie & Fitch with Boss runners. Once a year he heads to New York for four days and buys whatever clothes he needs in one go. He admits he’s fussy about his appearance, gets his hair cut by Eric Mooney in C.O.M in Temple Bar every six weeks and loves long overcoats from Alias Tom “because they know what you want and help you”. Like his restaurant, service is what counts.
Cookery school tutor, chef and business developer
A soi-disant culinarian and hipster, O Toole is from Gorey, Co Wexford, and has been cheffing since the age of 13. He inherited the passion for his craft from both his mother and grandmother. He is, according to his Twitter account @No1Culinarian, “obsessed with cookbooks, menus and sherry” and his masters’ degree from DIT was on innovation and new product development. Currently teaching in Catherine Fulvio’s cookery school in Ballyknockan, he has also developed his own consultancy company after helping a catering business to rebrand. He describes his cooking style as being about good basics. “Years ago I was very fussy and it was more about the look of the food. Now it’s more about teaching than getting a Michelin star.” One of his favourite restaurants is the Pepper Pot in the Powerscourt Centre.
He admits that he has a hipster’s interest in clothes, likes being comfortable and is known for his key pieces. They include a Paul Smith messenger bag, scarves in all colours, watches (mostly Swatch), and coloured jeans.
His shopping haunts include everywhere from River Island to Zara and TK Maxx, “but early in the morning. I can’t stand it during the day” and he goes on regular trips to London, Paris and New York both for their shopping and culinary attractions. “I talk a lot to friends about what I am going to buy beforehand. I do my research and I don’t splurge.”
One thing he won’t be seen dead in is a suit - “too restrictive” - and more often than not he’s wearing skinny jeans. “I bring my style in cooking to what I wear when I’m working and I’ll wear jeans with my apron and double-breasted chef’s jacket.”