True characters

 

Clodagh McKenna, chef, food writer and TV presenter

My working day. . . starts in Arnotts with a meeting with our head chef, Ben McCabe, and our general manager, Michael Andrews, reviewing and planning. Then it’s in to the kitchen to cook for service. We just re-launched Clodagh’s Kitchen on the second floor and I love cooking the new menu. If I’m not cooking, I’m helping out with front of house service. Then in the evenings I develop new recipes for my next cook book, which is out in October. And of course tweeting.

I’ve very fortunate to have got my fourth cook book commissioned .. . it’s called Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries, and I’m engrossed in it at the moment. Also I have a TV series airing in the US, so between the restaurants, my Gloss column every month, my new book and the TV series, it’s all go.

Serving homemade food to 6,000 people a week in Arnotts . . .is the biggest challenge of my career to date, and I love every minute of it.

I think it’s worthwhile. . . because the feedback from customers has been great, and being able to create homemade, healthy food for a wide audience has always been my ambition.

The hardest thing about this business is. . . margins, need I say more.

The best advice I’ve ever been given . . .is to stop and listen, and also to enable our staff to the best of my ability.

I didn’t originally set out to be a chef, food writer and TV presenter. . . I studied marketing in university in the US and decided when I got back to Ireland that I wanted to learn how to cook, and 15 years later I’m still cooking.

If I wasn’t doing this. . . I’d be doing something creative, maybe acting.

I think the next big trend in restaurants will be. . . raw, healthy food.

My favourite restaurants are. . . Weaver and Cooper in Glasthule for their pizza, Packy’s in Kenmare for their fish and anything cooked by Ross Lewis at Chapter One in Dublin.

When I’m not working, I like to. . . watch movies, run on Dún Laoghaire pier, travel and eat.

My earliest food memory is . . .my gandmother’s afternoon tea.

The best thing I’ve ever eaten. . . That’s such a tough question to ask a chef, so I’m taking the liberty of narrowing it down to this year. And that would have to be a John Dory dish that I had in Packy’s in Kenmare; it was fantastic.

My dream dinner party guest would be. . . Jamie Oliver.

And I’d cook him. . . the freshest fish from our seas that I could find.

Five things I always have in my pantry are. . . pasta, good olive oils, tinned tomatoes, spices and couscous.

I’m passionate about . . .living out my dreams.

I wish I was better at . .. singing.

I often imagine myself . . .not being shy; people are always surprised when I admit it.

Not many people know this about me, but .. . I’m very good at fixing electrical appliances.

My guilty pleasure is. . . anything with chocolate.

Clodagh’s Kitchen Restaurant is at Arnotts, Henry Street, Dublin 1. See clodaghmckenna.com

In conversation with Marie-Claire Digby

PHOTOGRAPH: KIERAN HARNETT

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