Mark Moriarty is one of the busiest men in Ireland at the moment. After winning the title of World Young Chef of the Year, it has been all systems go for the young over-achiever and last weekend was certainly no exception.
Moriarty served as one of the main attractions at the brand new four day food festival – Taste City Fusion – and created a four-course Medieval Banquet in Christchurch Cathedral, cleverly coining the phrase ‘peasant chic’ for the event.
At just 23 years of age Moriarty has a CV that would be envied by some of the most esteemed and experienced chefs in Ireland. From working as a chef-de-partie at the Michelin star Greenhouse restaurant to winning the ‘Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year’ at just 21 and going on to win the ‘San Pellegrino World Young Chef of the Year’, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Thankfully, Moriarty was able to take time out of his hectic schedule to talk to The City. During our catch up, he revealed how he came to terms with giving up his dreams of working in a cockpit for working in a kitchen and how he has tried to remain humble and down to earth despite his extraordinary success.
Where did your love of food stem from?
“It all started when I was a kid and I used to go fishing with my dad in Co. Kerry. He had a small boat, so we used to fish for lobster and mackerel, that’s when I first realised food was something I was really interested in. I then started watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage series religiously and after that my interest in food continued to develop and I started reading and watching as much about food as I could.”
When did you first decide you were going to be a chef?
“When I was in fourth year I was really interested in home economics and my teacher at the time told me I should write to some restaurants and ask for work experience. So, with his advice, I took it upon myself to hand write ten letters to the restaurants I deemed to be the best in Ireland at the time. This endeavor resulted in me completing two weeks of work experience in Kevin Thornton and Neven Maguire’s restaurants and after that I was hooked.”
Could you ever see yourself doing something else?
“I think if I was to ever do something else it would always have to be food related. I just love the buzz of working in a kitchen too much to ever give it up. However, the first thing I ever wanted to be was a pilot, but that ended when I was about thirteen or fourteen once I realised my real passion lay with food.”
What made you decide to enter the competitive side of the culinary world?
“I wasn’t the best at sports in school, so once I discovered I was good at cooking I knew it’d bring out my competitive side and let me excel at something I enjoy. When you enter a competition on your own it’s a totally different ball game to working in a restaurant for a chef, because when you’re working for someone you always know that it’s going to come back to the head chef if there are any major problems, whereas when you enter one of these competitions independently it’s just your neck on the line. Although it’s really scary, it’s also really thrilling.”
Describe in just three words how it felt being named ‘San Pellegrino World Young Chef of the Year’.
“Proud, satisfied and fearful.”
You’re an advocate for Irish food at home and abroad, do you think Irish food has gotten the international recognition it deserves?
“No, I don’t think it has, but the last two years have suggested that the next five years are going to be very big for Irish food. The past year we have had the World Young Chef award, the Michelin guide handed out four new stars to Irish restaurants and the Food on the Edge symposium that took place in Galway. So, I think now that our culinary talents can be seen on a world stage we will finally start getting the recognition we deserve.”
Dublin city has an abundance of excellent, high quality restaurants, what would be your three favourite food spots?
“The Greenhouse, 777 on George’s Street and Forest Avenue.”
Do you think events like ‘Taste of Dublin’ and ‘Taste City Fusion’ will help showcase the talent and quality that Irish cuisine has to offer?
“Yes, definitely, these events make food very accessible to the general public as well as the ‘foodie’. The events vary in price so you can still make the most out of the festivals without breaking the bank. I’d love to see these events expand around the country over the next few years.”
Finally, what advice would you give to any budding young chefs who want to mirror your achievements?
“Focus, believe and achieve. It’s also really important to have a good balance, especially if working as a chef is going to be sustainable in the future. I made sure not to miss out on all the things I wanted to do while I was working. I went to Thailand and on a J1, so as well as doing crazy hours in work, I always made sure there was a balance and I always had something to look forward to.”