1. What was your first job in hospitality?
I worked a single day at a café in Belfast when I was 18. It didn’t go well. Since then, I’ve restricted myself to eating and writing about food.
2. What is your favourite cuisine to eat - preferably the opposite to what you work in?
Really hard to say but, on balance, I get most enjoyment from Italian food. Pasta with tomato sauce is the dish I crave most often.
3. Which dish do you most associate with childhood?
Mashed potatoes, fish fingers and (frozen) peas. Growing up in Ireland, I had potatoes for dinner pretty much every day. Mashed potatoes were a mountain with a crater of melting butter on top.
4. What’s the soundtrack to your first love?
This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) by Talking Heads.
5. What do you crave after a long shift?
A shot of good mezcal, e.g. Los Siete Misterios coyote.
6. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – what do you have?
In winter: porridge with raisins and cinnamon, bread & jam, grapefruit, coffee. In summer: muesli, bread & jam, grapefruit, coffee.
7. What is your favourite word?
Calenture. It’s a form of delirium that supposedly afflicted sailors on long sea voyages. They’d mistake the sea for grassy meadows and feel the urge to dive in.
8. If you could go on a culinary extravaganza-eating holiday – where would you choose to do so?
I’m guessing everybody says Japan, but: Japan. I’ve never been. I’d somehow secure bookings at a few devastatingly expensive restaurants in anonymous office blocks in Tokyo, then head out into the countryside to drink sake.
9. All at the same time or coursed out?
All at the same time is fine by me.
10. What is the one area of working in a restaurant you wish you knew more of?
Working in a restaurant (ie. all of it).
11. What is the best cure for a hangover?
Juice of one lemon. Sugar. Salt. Topped up with water.
12. You’re allowed one shift drink – what is it?
13. What is the one thing which guests do that drives you mad?
My hearing is terrible so, as a diner, I get annoyed with people at the next table shouting.
14. Do you have any rituals during a shift?
I’ll adapt this question. Every morning before sitting down to write, I spend about 10 minutes painstakingly preparing a cup of coffee. It’s the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.
15. What’s the last film you saw?
High and Low. (Last film in the cinema: Carol.)
16. Best thing that has ever happened to you in a restaurant?
Ordering snails at a restaurant in the south of France when I was 11. I was a terrible eater as a kid and when we went on holidays my parents would spend half the night vetting restaurant menus to see if there was anything I could eat (ie. chicken and chips). Eventually I got fed up with myself and decided to order the weirdest thing on the menu. I’m not sure I actually enjoyed the snails but they changed my approach to eating. And it was worth it for my family’s reaction when I ordered them.
17. What’s your tagline/motto?
Avoid having tagline/mottos.
18. Photography while eating – yay or nay?
19. Rank the following in order of priority: wine, food, sex
Food, sex, wine.
20. What would be your last meal – drinks included.
Start with oysters and champagne (Wafflart-Antoniolli). Follow with beef and Guinness stew with mashed potatoes (comfort food makes sense in this context). Finish with a very simple but perfectly made chocolate tart. A bottle of Green Spot whiskey might be useful afterwards.
21. What makes you happy?
Going to good restaurants ranks pretty high.
22. How do you relax?
Yoga. Drinking a good bottle of wine. (Not at the same time.)
23. What is the background on your phone?
A photo of my cat sitting on a shelf next to a large wooden rabbit.
24. Favourite Instagram accounts to follow
Olia Hercules has a really nice approach to Instagram.
25. What is the best thing about working in hospitality?
I don’t work in hospitality, but I imagine the camaraderie that comes from working with good people in really intense kitchens is pretty great.
26. Which restaurant are you ashamed to NOT have eaten at?
I wouldn’t say ashamed, but I’d like to eat at Hedone.
27. Who is the person you most respect in the industry?
Fergus Henderson. I take it for granted now, but when I first went to St John Bread & Wine it made me think, ah, this is how a restaurant should be.
28. What is your go to party trick?
I don’t really have one. A friend of my parents used to bite and chew his wineglass when he got drunk and throw empty bottles at the wall when he wanted people to go home. As show-stopping party tricks go, that’s hard to top.
29. Finish this sentence: I eat everything except ...