Ireland 'land of plenty' for food - Jamie


THE RAIN bucketed down and there was a match of some significance about to start but hundreds of people still turned up at Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens to see chef Jamie Oliver open the Taste of Dublin festival.

Wearing everything from stilettos to wellies, the visitors huddled under umbrellas to watch the chef work wonders with a shoulder of Wicklow lamb on a bed of leeks, peas and asparagus.

The chef was in ebullient form when he met the media earlier.

He will open his first Irish restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, at the Dundrum shopping centre this autumn. “I’ve always liked Dublin. I like the spirit. I’ve always liked the people. To be honest I think half your people are working in London, in my restaurants.”

He said he had started searching for “outstanding produce” in Ireland and most of the menu would be local produce.

Ireland was “a land of plenty” when it came to food, he said. “You’ve got all the right geography, grass, animals, breeding, farming, no excuses for not having incredible, incredible stuff.”

He said he would be bringing Irish produce he really liked to his other restaurants.

“We’re already buying Irish beef and bits and pieces like that.”

But anyone hoping to see the Essex chef popping his head out of the kitchen in Dundrum will be disappointed. “I’m not going to pretend to anyone that I’m going to be in the kitchen.”

He said his job was to hire the right people. “Really the only thing I do is write the menus, train the senior management and create a culture that I believe is really, really special.”

This is the seventh year of the Taste of Dublin food and drink event and organisers hope to attract 30,000 visitors before it closes on Sunday.

The online ticket price has been reduced from €25 to €20. That does not include the dishes on offer from restaurants such as Bon Appétit and Chapter One. Those tapas-sized dishes cost between four and seven “florins” (worth €1 each).

There are also free samples from food and drink producers, and visitors can take part in cookery classes and wine tastings or watch demonstrations with chefs such as Neven Maguire, Rachel Allen and Jean-Christophe Novelli.

Yesterday’s sittings for the Kanchi Dine in the Dark experience were booked out within half an hour. Diners eat in complete darkness with only their taste buds to guide them.