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Thursday 14 November 2019

'I am a bit of a swashbuckle when it comes to money'

Chef Gary O'Hanlon
Chef Gary O'Hanlon

Irish chef Gary O'Hanlon is well-known for his appearances on the popular Virgin Media One series, The Restaurant. Originally from Ramelton in Co Donegal, he now lives in Longford with his wife and two children.

He recently became the executive head chef at Chateau du Coudreceau in Loury, France. He will be giving a cookery demonstration at Athlone Institute of Technology on November 27, as part of Fáilte Ireland's Taste of Place training programme.

What's the most important lesson about money which your career as a chef has taught you?

I'm an eternal optimist but as a chef, I have learned that in the restaurant trade, the only guarantee is that dark days are around the corner.

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What's the best advice you ever got about money?

To always save something. I got that advice from an uncle of mine. I'm a bit of a swashbuckle when it comes to money - but if I see something I want, I find a way of working hard enough so I can save the money for it.

What's your favourite Irish coin and what do you like about it so much?

The old Irish punt coin. We used to call it the 'reindeer' coin. I managed to get one off my brother when I was a young boy and bought what seemed to be a lifetime supply of Cannonballs [chewing gum].

What's the most expensive country you ever visited?

I would have to say the US - especially New York and Vegas. I used to live in America 10 years ago. I visited NY and Las Vegas a few months ago, and was amazed at just how expensive things have got over there. Prices have taken an incredible jump.

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

A car. The most spur-of-the-moment purchase I ever made was the morning after I watched the first Fast & Furious movie. I passed a dealer in the US and saw a Mitsubishi Eclipse GT Spyder - the model of car used in that movie. I went into the garage and gave it a $1,000 (€900) deposit for the car - and then went back later to pay the rest.

What was your worst job?

Without a doubt, gathering spuds in Donegal.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

Just about every car I buy - as I just like speed and power. I've never really made a crazy financial mistake, though. For as loose as I am with money, I'm equally not stupid with it.

What was your best financial killing?

I hired an $85,000 Mustang GT after arriving at Boston Airport a few years ago. When renting out the car, I managed to tick a box [on the car hire application form] which I thought I had ignored.

Ticking that box saved me $15,000 in car hire excess [the amount of money you have to pay to a car hire company if you damage a hired car]. We hit an ice patch at 20mph after we left the airport - and the car was written off. I would have had to pay an excess of €15,000 if I hadn't ticked that box.

If you won the Lottery, what would you do with the money?

I'd look after every member of my immediate family, every member of my wife Annette's family and my closest friends. I've always been very generous; I get a lot of joy out of that. I'd also buy the fastest car ever seen on the streets of Donegal.

Would you buy Irish property now?

Absolutely. As a chef, I'd always buy Irish. My dream would be to buy a property in Downings. I also love Rosslare. So if I had money to invest, I'd be torn between Downings and Rosslare.

What's the most expensive thing about being a parent?

Creche fees. Even for people who earn two incomes, I think it's shameful how expensive it is to put children into creches in Ireland.

Do you ever haggle?

I haggle all the time. As a chef, it's bred into you.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

A fast car. The ability to eat in good restaurants. Good shoes; I've more shoes than most Irish women.

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