Revealed: New critic Rachel Allen and six Irish celebrities on upcoming series of The Restaurant
The six celebrities donning aprons for the new series of The Restaurant have been revealed.
First up in the kitchen will be weather and National Lottery presenter Nuala Carey, followed by musicians Paul Harrington and Mary Coughlan, broadcaster Dr Ciara Kelly, actress Aoibhinn Garrihy and Munster and Ireland rugby legend Donncha O'Callaghan.
Marco Pierre White will return to cast a critical eye over their dishes created by the celebs in his Donnybrook eatery and, in the wake of Tom Doorley's departure, he will be joined at the critics table by celebrity chef Rachel Allen.
Rachel told Independent.ie that she was in the middle of filming the new series of The Restaurant when she found out her own restaurant in Cork was on fire.
When the fire broke out last month at Rachel's on Washington Street the celebrity chef's husband called to tell her the bad news, although she says she initially didn't quite understand what he meant.
"My husband rang and said, 'Great, the restaurant is on fire!' and I said, 'Great, it's really busy!' and he said, 'No, it's actually on fire!' and then I heard the sirens in the background," she tells Independent.ie
"I felt awful not being there, but thankfully my husband was there. It's just damage in the ducting and the extraction so that's all being sorted. Thank goodness everyone was fine, that's the main thing, and the building was fine."
This series of TV3's hit show The Restaurant will be Rachel's first as a full-time critic after Doorley left the show.
Rachel describes Pierre White as a "pussycat".
"He's great. He's a strong character but he's a pussycat. He's lovely," she says.
Doorley had been a critic on the programme for fourteen series and Rachel admits they are some big boots to fill.
"Big boots to fill but there's no point trying to be someone else or to emulate someone else's style," she says. "So, no, I didn't try to be someone else. I just came in as myself and Tom had left."
As for the celebrities, she says the standard this series is "really quite high" and there were "one or two big highlights" and "no disasters".
However, she adds, "There were one or two interesting things that I might not necessarily have put together combination wise but no disasters."
As a critic she was mindful of not hurting the celebrities feelings.
"Absolutely, because this isn't their career," she says. "It's all very well me sitting the table to eat food and have a glass of wine. I'm not going to knock every single thing.
"I did need to be slightly critical but definitely I had the empathy for the chef in the kitchen who is normally doing something completely different in their line of work, in their career.
"So you have to keep in mind that this is someone who doesn't do this professional and they were sending out really good meals."
She says it's "not a million miles away" from her BBC series My Kitchen Rules.
Nuala Carey says the experience was "tougher than I expected but overall more rewarding than I had anticipated."
She adds, "The constant pressure in the kitchen I hadn't maybe accounted for how concentrated that was over a number of hours but I'm one of those people who gets stuck in and gives it my all. I really enjoyed it and I wasn't even tired when the whole thing was finished because I was on a high and running on adrenaline."
Nuala says both Marco and Rachel were both very "fair" in their critiques of her food.
"I was a bit apprehensive about meeting Marco but the one thing I would say about him is he was extremely fair. I think he'll give you criticism if that's needed but he's certainly well able to praise a dish," she says.
"I found him a very soft, kind man. He may look kind of imposing because he's a big man but actually I just through he was a teddy bear by the end of it! He says it like it is but he has your best interests at heart as well."
Of her dishes, she joked, "I always say if nobody died in any situation then we've won so once nobody had to leave the table with food poisoning I didn't care!"
Musician Paul Harrington is a bit of a foodie and thoroughly enjoyed his stint on The Restaurant. He gave up red meat and chicken last summer but ended up cooking a couple of meat dishes for the critics on the night.
"It was kind of weird, and I forgot, so when I got to tasting it I realised I had to put some meat in my mouth but I didn't mind. I enjoyed it!" he says.
The Eurovision star's late sister Siobhan bought him a cookbook called Wine and Dine years ago and he pulled a couple of old school dishes from that for The Restaurant.
Of his performance on the night, he says, "I remember a great friend of mine, gone now, Tony Fenton, a fantastic guy, he did The Restaurant some years ago and he got four stars and I remember somebody on the night asking, 'How do you feel you'd like to do?' and I said, 'I'd always feel if I can execute the night reasonably well and people are reasonably happy I'd be okay with that', but I also said, 'If I could lace Tony's boots I'd be very, very happy'."
The Restaurant kicks off on TV3 on Wednesday February 21 at 9pm.