Wednesday 22 November 2017

'It just went wrong!' - Maria Walsh talks that performance The Restaurant and the future of the Rose of Tralee

Maria Walsh
Maria Walsh

Jennifer O'Brien

She captured the hearts of the nation when crowned Rose of Tralee in 2014, but Maria Walsh has admitted that winning over the critics on TV3’s The Restaurant proved to be a more difficult task.

Thursday night’s episode saw Maria attempt to win over Marco Pierre White, Tom Doorley and guest critic Kevin Dundon with her prowess in the kitchen.

And her controversial decision to use a sorbet as a starter and then deconstruct a Philly cheese steak ruffled more than a few feathers on the show.

“Having sorbet as a starter was an idea that caused a bit of trouble and everyone thought I was mad,” Maria laughed.

“Then there was my Aunty Cathy’s cheesecake - if I was on death row, it would be the meal I would eat, but it just went wrong and didn’t taste like my Aunty Cathy’s cheesecake at all.”

With the eyes of fifty diners and three critics on her creations, was world renowned chef Pierre White the critic Maria was most eager to win over with her culinary skills?

“Well, he had some really positive things to say about my main course,” she revealed.

“Marco was in a sense one I wanted to impress because we were in his establishment.

"I thought I could bat my eyelashes at Marco and that my Rose-y smile could win him over…

"There were bets on in my house with most people thinking I wouldn’t even get a star,” she added.

“It went surprisingly well and I was happy with the score I came out with.”

Walsh, who represented Philadelphia when she won the Rose of Tralee has since re-located to Ireland and recently set up an events company called Juniper and Rose with business partner Avril Reilly.

And she stressed that she remains eternally grateful to the festival for the platform it has given her in recent years.

“I love the festival - it has done such great and wonderful things for me and I always like to give back,” Maria said.

“I still keep in contact with the Roses and Escorts from my year and other years and it’s still very much part of my life and I'm MC at the Kildare Rose selection this weekend.

Despite many criticisms about the festival being “dated", Maria is confident that it progress in a positive manner.

“I think the fact that I was its first known gay Rose has probably helped shine a light on the festival in terms of it moving with the times.” she said.

“The average female who is attracted to or takes part in the Rose of Tralee is very modern and outspoken and independent - she could be a guard, a teacher or in fashion like I was...

“The festival has it’s little bubble and It’s just a case of opening the bubble of the festival out to people who might not have believed in it. I think we are slowly but surely knocking down those walls.”

As for cooking, Maria admitted that even after her experience on The Restaurant, she still leaves most of the cooking to her partner, TV producer Shauna Keogh.

“I wouldn’t be the most confident of cooks - I’m a convenience eater to be honest,” she said.

“I leave the main courses to my partner - she loves cooking.

"Why break tradition?”

The Restaurant is on TV3 on Thursday at 9pm.

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