Thursday 19 September 2019

'He has knowledge that you just can't buy' - Chef Adrian on how his dad is vital ingredient in his success

Cavan chef Adrian Martin has exploded on to the food scene, but his dad John is a vital ingredient in his success

Chef Adrian Martin and his dad John. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Chef Adrian Martin and his dad John. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Andrea Smith

Hot chef Adrian Martin (26) says people regularly assume his dad John is his brother. Naturally John (54) is happy to accept the compliment. Adrian, known as Chef Adrian, has really made a name for himself in recent years, but says that his dad has been an amazing support in helping him to bring his considerable energy and passion for food to the public arena.

There's a great synergy there as John has a business called Martin Event Management. It works with celebrity chefs to set up kitchens for cookery demonstrations at food festivals and events, complete with PA systems. John and his team also put on festivals and events of their own all around the country.

One of the big events John and Adrian work together on every year is running The All Ireland Home Cook Champion event, where amateur cooks compete in each county to be crowned champion. Working together as a family goes very well for them and for Adrian's older brother Cathal, who is also involved. Communication is key, they say, so if there are any issues, they thrash them out until there is a resolution.

John is from Kingscourt in Cavan and the family home is now in Bawnboy. He met his wife Anne at 20, and says she is a "wonderful person - the best in the world". They were married in 1988 and have four "brilliant" children. Cathal (27) is Adrian's "Irish twin," and they have two younger siblings, Sarah (25) and Sean (23).

When they were growing up, the children worked after school and at weekends in John's hardware/grocery shop that was also a builder's suppliers and sold cookers. "Cheap labour," jokes John, who has since sold that business. "I'm a real Cavan man."

John describes his son as a "very energetic, very brash" kid who was always mad into cooking. "I wasn't the most academic kid in school, but I loved things that were hands-on, like cooking and woodwork," says Adrian. John concurs that Adrian wasn't interested in school, and recalls being regularly called in as his son was slightly mischievous.

Adrian's memory of his dad is how supportive he was, driving him to Enniskillen weekly for drum lessons and encouraging him around sports.

His mum Anne has also always been a big supporter, and she is on the phone to each of them a few times a day to make sure they're all doing OK.

Adrian worked at Neven Maguire's MacNean House and Restaurant while he was still at school and college, and was in his element for six years there. He did a baking and pastry arts management course at DIT, a professional cookery course in Enniskillen, and a degree in culinary arts at the School of Tourism in Killybegs. He then worked in Bon Appetit in Malahide as head of pastry, and set himself up as a freelance chef in 2013. He did product development for companies and gave talks in schools, and went around the country working with artisan butchers to get his name out there. He still travels to schools to teach young people about the importance and value of good food and gives them simple cookery demos.

When he was 23, Adrian started doing cooking segments on the Six O'Clock Show on TV3, and has become a very popular addition to the programme. He also starred in RTE Player's online shows Fakeaway and Chef Adrian Eats Ireland.

He is looking forward to his forthcoming appearance at Taste of Dublin this week. Apart from cooking demos at the main stage, he will have his own pop-up restaurant there called Adrian's Manor, in conjunction with Manor Farm as he is their brand ambassador,

Adrian began working with his dad in 2013, as John felt that his son was well suited to giving cooking demos on stage. "He was young and brash and mad to get into the scene," he says. "We're lucky that it has gone very well. Adrian has always been very inclusive of other people and he has a very big heart. Mind you, he can be a little bit impulsive at times because his mind is so creative."

A second strand of their relationship is that the personable John helps Adrian out by handling bookings and requests and speaking to people on his behalf. Adrian has written one cookbook, and his second one will be out in November. The first, Fakeaway, contains 90 recipes to encourage people to run to the kitchen instead of the takeaway.

The Martins are a very close family, and all the siblings get on very well together and are very close to their parents. Sarah lives beside Adrian in Dublin, and Sean is the country's youngest energy trader and has just gone to live in Canada.

Adrian lives with his girlfriend of six years, Fiona Coyne from Sligo, who works in marketing with

Fiona is a great help with the social media side of his business. He seems to have a knack of surrounding himself with people who are helpful, I tease.

And chief among these is his dad, of course, who is his biggest supporter.

"Dad is so grounded and down to earth, and he's a big believer in working hard," says Adrian. "He gives amazing advice and has knowledge that you just can't buy."

Taste of Dublin, inspired by NEFF, runs at the Iveagh Gardens from this Thursday to Sunday. Tickets from €15, available now from

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