JP McMahon is a chef, restaurateur and author. He is culinary director of the EatGalway Restaurant Group, which comprises the Michelin-starred Aniar, Cava Bodega and Tartare Café. He started working in kitchens at age 15 and studied English and Art history in UCC. In 2008, he opened Cava Bodega with his wife Drigin Gaffey. He is director of Food On The Edge, a conference on the future of food, and is currently doing a PhD on food in 20th century Irish drama. JP lives in Galway with his wife and their two daughters, Heather and Martha.
What's your earliest memory?
Sitting in the front garden of our house in Clondalkin. Though I'm not sure if I only remember it because it was photographed. I think I'm with my grandfather.
What was the first book you loved?
I loved reading growing up but don't know if there was one specific book that I loved. It was only after leaving school that I fell in love with the work of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce.
What's your best holiday memory?
Probably being in Wexford with my grandparents. It was a simple, beautiful time.
What is your biggest fear?
I suffer from anxiety attacks and depression which comes and goes. I suppose I'm most afraid of losing my passion for food and writing. Some days I feel like it could all just disappear.
What are you most proud of?
I think being self-taught in terms of cooking and writing. These are the twin poles that drive me forward. I was not particularly gifted growing up. Persistence over a 20-year period pays off.
What's your least attractive quality - and what is your most?
Snoring must be up there as something that is one of my least attractive qualities but thankfully it doesn't affect too many people. My most attractive quality is probably my generosity. I always need to give people something, whether physical or intellectual.
What's the first thing you'd do if you were Taoiseach?
I would establish a mandatory food subject in primary and secondary school.
What's your biggest insecurity?
Fear of failing, or of going mad.
Who'd you most like to go for a pint with?
John Banville. We could sit and chat about Irish literature.
What fictional character do you most identify with?
The narrator of WG Sebald's Austerlitz. He gets lost in thought and wanders around.
What is your most treasured possession?
My laptop. I have all my writings stored there. Of course, they are backed up as well!
What's your guilty pleasure?
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves.
What item in your wardrobe do you wear the most?
Who are your heroes?
In terms of literature, Joyce and Beckett. In terms of food, Darina Allen and Christian Puglisi. They all carved new paths that were not there before.
When did you last cry and why?
At my grandfather's funeral. It was a sad day and it signalled the end of trips to Mount Merrion.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Nick Cave's 'Push the Sky Away'.
What are you going to do right after this interview?
Get off the plane and head to another book interview in Toronto.
What keeps you awake at night?
My overactive imagination.
What's your greatest passion in life?
Food. In terms of writing and cooking it.
If you had to choose only three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?
Driven. Confused. Focused.
What's your favourite film?
The Departed. I love the way it's shot and the dialogue in the film.
What's the last TV show you binge-watched?
Occupied. A Norwegian series on Netflix. I really enjoyed it.
What's the phone app you use most?
What one piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Relax. It's going to be fine.
What do you regret not doing in the last year?
Jumping out of a plane.
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
To read books instantly.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
Relaxing, reading, spending time with my daughters.
What job would you be terrible at?
An accountant. My maths is terrible and I hate looking at numbers.
Do you believe in a God? No.
'The Irish Cookbook' by JP McMahon is published by Phaido