Temple Garner fell into kitchens as an angry young man and found other angry young men there, all looking for approval from “a big angry head chef”. A nod was all you needed. And when you got yelled at you took it because everyone around you was taking it too.
Now he runs his own restaurant, San Lorenzo's in Dublin's George's Street. We're talking machismo and moustaches in Forest Avenue, the Dublin restaurant of chef patron John Wyer, who is sporting a bare upper lip for the first time in years. He shaved off his trademark moustache recently because beards and 'taches were everywhere, he says. "I was very attached to it." He has to hold up a leaf of cavolo nero kale up to his mouth as a stunt moustache for the photograph.
The only one with any respectable facial hair is JP McMahon from Galway’s Cava, Aniar and Eat. The three chefs have gathered here to talk about and cook their Movember Meal, a starter, main course and dessert. They’ve gone for manly food. There’s meat in everything, even the dessert.
As a rich starter, Wyer has used a loin of Wicklow venison, a one and a half year-old female sika deer from the lowlands whose meat is plumper than her mountainy cousins. He’s teaming the meat with pureed parsnips which are poached in milk and made more unctuous with brown butter, truffle and hazelnut oils. He puts a griddled slice of salt-roasted beet on the plate and finishes with some tea-soaked prunes.
Garner's main is pork belly rolled around a gremolata of garlic, lemon and parsley, tied and roasted. It's teamed with a simple creamed spinach, except instead of spinach he's using cavolo nero kale, which he gets from Enniscorthy grower John Dockrell, sweated gently for 30 minutes with onions and garlic and then cooked for the same time again with cream. The third element is crown prince squash, sliced and roasted with honey and olive oil, "Jamie Oliver style".
McMahon’s dessert is a chocolate mousse made with pig’s blood. “Well, they said they wanted something manly.” He got the idea from Spanish cooking. Galician cooks use pig’s blood in sweet things like pancakes. And the flavour? “It’d kind of stop you in your tracks.” The first impression is the chocolate and then there’s an iron aftertaste. “It’s cooked but you feel a bit like a vampire after eating it.” And where does a home cook get pig’s blood? “Any small butcher. And it freezes really well.”
To temper the blood he puts in honeycomb and blackberries. He grew a moustache for Movember once, "but my wife couldn't look at me straight." He thinks pale-skinned Irish men find it a harder look to pull off. "Ten of us in Cava did it one year. When you see one guy with a moustache it's a bit strange – when you get 10 all together in a restaurant it's really odd." Made in Movember Cheffing is just one of many creative areas involved in Movember 2014, when moustache-growing develops on an industrial scale. "Made in Movember is our theme this year and champions the best of everything Irish, from field-to-plate food production to mountain climbing," says Neil Rooney, country manager for Movember, which has become the largest non-governmental fundraiser for men's health in the world, raising €8.7 million in Ireland since 2008 and €409m worldwide since 2003. The focus is on men's mental health and men's cancers, in which early intervention created by public awareness can prevent mortality.