The first time I ate ... oysters, lobster brains, Tayto, curry chips, Brussels sprouts and more

Paul O’Connell, Sarah Breen, Tom Kerridge and a host of others share their food memories

Ireland rugby coach and former team captain Paul O’Connell has a special memory of eating his first oyster.

Ireland rugby coach and former team captain Paul O’Connell has a special memory of eating his first oyster.

 

Paul O’Connell, Ireland rugby coach: I can hear the jokes already as I answer this, but the first time I tried oysters was at my wedding. I have loved them ever since. One of the bonuses about liking oysters is that when you are out eating with a group, there will always be one or two who avoid them, which means I tend to get more than my fair share. No complaints here.

Christine Walsh, head chef at Éan, Galway: In 2019 I ate at my friend Takashi Miyazaki’s restaurant, Ichigo Ichie, in Cork. I really like going to a brilliant restaurant alone. I always feel relaxed and it lets me just enjoy the food without the small talk. He served me raw lobster brains, lightly torched on toast, and it’s been one of the most amazing and memorable bites of food I’ve ever had. I think about it quite a lot actually

Sarah Breen, co-author of Aisling and the City: The first time I ate proper Chicago deep dish pizza was in a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona, and I haven’t eaten it since because it’s impossible to find. I’d happily eat pizza, all varieties, every day until I’m in the grave.

Robin Gill, chef and restaurateur: I’ll never forget the first time I tried game, it was grouse in the first restaurant I worked at in London,The Oak Room by Marco Pierre White. There was a dish where the breasts and legs were removed from the carcass, arranged beautifully on the plate, then the chef Robert Reid took the bloody carcass in his hands and squeezed the blood and guts onto the plate creating a sauce. This blew my mind and I will never forget it.

Indy Power, food writer: I don’t really remember it myself, but my parents have a framed photo in their house of me around 12 months old, eating my first ice-cream, on a holiday. I’m just wearing a cap and totally covered in ice cream. It’s one of those iconic family photos, and I recreated it with my son, so I love it even more now.

Erica Drum, chef and cookery tutor: I must have been about five or six. We were visiting my dad’s twin, auntie Ann, in Waterford. I was so impressed by her stunning garden and conservatory, full of exotic plants, including grapes and figs, soaking up the September sun. She plucked one off for me, gave it a rub and encouraged me to take a bite. Pure heaven, and so much more juicy than the fig roll texture I was expecting.

Greg O’Shea, Olympian, TV personality and former winner of Love Island: The first time I ate pizza, I knew I was in trouble because I loved it so much. It’s a struggle, trying not to eat pizza every day.

Stephen McAllister, chef-proprietor of Spitalfields and The Pigs Ear: My first sushi made by a master, was at The Araki a three-star Michelin sushi bar in London. It only sat eight people and served a omakase style tasting menu. It was nothing short of magical and like nothing I had ever experienced before..

Sene Naoupu, Ireland women’s rugby union international: I remember the first time I tried Tayto and curry chips when we first moved to Ireland. Now, I love Tayto and it would be rude to not have curry chips or a Supermacs after a night out in Galway.

Rosanna Davison, actor, model, author and nutritional therapist: My mum used to create the most amazing homemade selection of delicious treats for our birthday parties as children, from dainty sandwiches and scones to little chocolate marshmallow cupcakes, Rice Krispie cakes and beautifully designed birthday cakes. It’s one of my earliest childhood memories of food and the happiness it can bring.

Paul Byrom, Irish tenor: The first time I ate chorizo, I was blown away. I first tried it on a family holiday to Nerja in Spain, so needless to say whenever I am back in Spain, anything with chorizo on the menu is first choice for me.

Caitlin Ruth, chef with a food truck based in west Cork: The first time I tasted fresh blackcurrants, I was in my friend Bridget’s garden in Ardfield, Cork. We don’t have them where I grew up in New Hampshire, and because I had tried my daughter’s Ribena and thought it was vile, I wrote off blackcurrants. Now they are my favourite fruit. I love that overwhelming sour deliciousness, just like tamarind.

Sham Hanifa, chef-proprietor, The Cottage restaurant, Carrick-on-Shannon: The earliest food memory I have of something that was delicious was my grandmother’s lime and green pepper beef. Even today, I am still trying to remember and perfect things that she cooked for us. When my mother visits Ireland and cooks for my family and I, it always brings me back to my childhood.

Tom Kerridge, UK chef and restaurateur: The first time I ate fish and chips was on the beach with my mum and dad as a kid. It has very special memories for me.

Richie Castillo, chef with a pop-up restaurant, Bahay: When I was really young, I remember my uncle in the Philippines bringing me to get pork barbecue skewers on a side street in Pateros, the town where my dad grew up. My dad makes the pork at home still, but it’s just not the same as getting it on the street in the Philippines. Street food just tastes better.

Sarah Battle, Home Economist and lifestyle content creator: In 2003, when I worked in Galway, I can remember trying the potato and pea curry at the Saturday market; it was divine. Potato and peas, who knew?

Ryan Mangan human anatomy graduate who shares his recipe on Instagram @TheFoodAnatomist: The first time I remember eating Brussels sprouts was for an eating contest in Portugal, which I won.

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