2016 was an interesting year for me, to say the least. It was a year of extreme ups and downs, a year of new experiences, a year of intense learning and meeting new people and in tandem, a year of struggling to adjust to a new career and industry, personal issues and a failed business venture. Overall I’m not sorry to see the back of 2016, there is something about a new year beginning that offers the chance of a fresh start. It’s time to reflect on all the good and bad things that 2016 presented, let go and push on. 2017, here I come!
Here’s a look back at some of my favourite moments of 2016. There have been some great memories that will last me a life time.
January 2016 began with the long drive to Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co. Cork. I was terrified and excited in equal measure driving down the M8 in typically miserable Winter weather. The 12 week course was amazing – the most wonderful experience. The ethos, food and passion on show will stay with me forever but consequently I’ve struggled greatly with a Ballymaloe hangover – after studying intensely about every different element of food production and cooking, it’s been very difficult for me to accept that most jobs only contain one small part of all that I learned. During my time there, the students hosted a Masquerade themed pop-up dinner. To my delight, I was selected as head of the main course. After hours of thinking, testing and tasting we served a delicious Stuffed Lamb Breast with Pearl Barley Risotto, Celeriac Puree, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Wild Garlic Salsa Verde. Not long after the course ended, Darina Allen kindly published my recipe in the Irish Examiner, a very proud moment for me. Here are some of my favourite pictures from my time at Ballymaloe:
Just a few days after finishing my course, we jumped on a plane to Florence. My parents, my brother, his girlfriend, Ali and myself enjoyed a few days in the Renaissance City before taking the train to Bologna for a one night stop off. We had a great time catching up, eating beautiful food and taking in all that each city had to offer without too many tourists to contend with.
Once I headed home, it was time to settle into some work. After a struggle with deciding what to do and a quick flirt with returning to sound engineering, I started work at Gaillot et Gray on the 12th of May, the day before my birthday. It was a great place to work and although the early starts were a killer (my alarm was set for 3.30am Tuesday to Friday and 2am on Saturday) it was a joy to bake wonderful bread and pastries. I learnt so much from Gilles, Emma and Fergus and although I never got to try their French style wood-fired pizza while working there, I did a couple of weeks after leaving – it was delicious. I left after 6 months to pursue my own business venture (more on that later).
Over the summer, Ali and I attended numerous events, including Bluebells and Buskers at Killinthomas Woods, Rathangan. It consisted of a beautiful walk around the scenic woods with local musicians and poets performing on every corner. It was also our first year to attend Bloom in the Park and although I’m no gardener or flower enthusiast, the food village had more than enough to keep me entertained.
In August, I hosted The Kinneagh Kitchen Pop-Up Italian Restaurant in Chat n’ Chew, Newbridge. To my delight it sold out and we served 50 punters a 4 course set menu.
2016 was a good year for eating out – we had some delicious meals in beautiful surroundings across the country. I’m not going to pick a favourite but Mimosa Bar de Tapas, Burtown House and BeaNice would all be up there. It was also a good year for my blog – coming second in the Irish Blog Awards, Food Experience category.
At the end of November, I took over the deli at Daybreak in Athgarvan. It was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish but I decided to call it a day on the 23rd of December. There were numerous reasons for my decision. I became very worked up and overwhelmed during the first couple of days of business, as it seemed like I could never really make the deli my own – although I could sell some of my own style of food, there was also a big demand for produce that I couldn’t stand over. Money worries were another major part of my issues as to do it properly, I had to employ somebody to come in with me. I coped badly for a week until I ended up at the doctor – acute anxiety brought on by extreme stress. It was a real mental and emotional struggle to see the deli out until Christmas and I wouldn’t have done so had I not hired Louise to come in for a few hours everyday. Massive thanks are also due to Ali and my parents for all their support and help. I have no pictures to document my time at the deli – probably a testament to how I felt about it, but there have been a mountain of lessons learnt.
And now to welcome in the New Year. I’m excited for what 2017 WILL bring. 2016 served as a steep learning curve and a humbling lesson – letting me see what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not mentally cut out for the pressure or stress of a professional kitchen but maybe that wasn’t in the master plan anyway. This year will see a renewed focus on my blog – trying my best to document and champion local, seasonal and artisan food. Kildare has evolved into a county with many excellent producers and the quality on offer here is second to none. There are various career options running around my head but I will take the required time to think them through and not rush into anything (naively) again. 2017 will see me stick by my principles and whatever I end up doing (food or otherwise) – I want to enjoy and take pride in doing it.
So goodbye to 2016 – 2017 BRING IT!