Chef Jess Murphy on Ireland’s Food Renaissance
Ireland’s national cuisine is being redefined – thanks to a growing number of very ambitious chefs, including New Zealander Jess Murphy, 39, who runs Kai in Galway’s West End.
“It’s a really exciting time to be cooking in Ireland,” Murphy says.
“It’s still pretty undiscovered but there’s so much happening. Anyone in the Irish food world who goes on holidays and sees something interesting – in Copenhagen, say – is like, ‘Ah, yeah, someone’s already making that in Donegal,’ ” she says.
For Murphy, the most exciting work is being done by farmers and producers. She reels off half a dozen names – from veterans such as Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork, who recently started curing salmon roe, to newcomers such as Fintan and Turlough Keenan, who are reviving Irish heritage grain production at their farm in Co Monaghan.
Farmhouse cheesemaking had all but died out by the 1970s; now there are dozens of producers, as well as new waves of artisan fish smokers, charcutiers, chocolatiers and seaweed farmers. The rise of microbrewing and distilling has been particularly dramatic. From just two whiskey distilleries in the 1980s, both owned by a single company, Ireland now has 18, with many more in the works.
Kai took home three awards at the Restaurant Association Awards for 2018 – Murphy was awarded Best Chef in Ireland, and Connacht, and the restaurant was awarded Best Digital Marketers.
Murphy is a food columnist for The Irish Times.
Original article by Killian Fox, Financial Times, December 28, 2018.