Monday 19 February 2018

The Irish chef who is teaching France to cook

Trish Deseine's book about 'plain Irish cooking' is a huge hit in the home of fine dining

Trish Deseine has a 'no stress' attitude to cooking.
Trish Deseine has a 'no stress' attitude to cooking.

David Chazan

Trish Deseine is not a household name here, but the food writer from Northern Ireland is one of France's best-selling authors of cookery books, with sales of more than a million copies.

In the country that invented gastronomy, she is now as well known as Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver. Her 12 cookery books, written in French, have inspired a generation of home chefs and food writers. The French edition of Vogue magazine has named her one of the 40 most influential women in the country, where she has lived for three decades.

The 51-year-old farmer's daughter from Antrim is credited with fundamentally changing the way many ordinary French people cook. Despite the traditional Gallic disdain for Irish or British cooking, her practical "no stress" recipes helped the French to overcome their fear of failing to live up to the demanding standards of one of the world's greatest cuisines.

"I think I was one of the first voices in cookery writing that let them off the hook," she says.

"I had kids and a job and my approach was to go for maximum taste and pleasure with minimal fuss.

"Perhaps it took an outsider to say you don't have to go through 50 complicated steps."

Deborah Dupont-Daguet, the owner of the world's largest cookery bookshop, La Librairie Gourmande in Paris, said the first coo kery book she bought was Deseine's Petits Plats Entre Amis (Little Dishes Between Friends).

"It's weird but I learned French cooking from that book. You would never see those types of tips in a French cookbook 15 years ago. It's completely crazy but it took an Irishwoman to tell us these things."

The bookshop's co-owner, Sophie Daguet, said Deseine had succeeded against the odds. "It's not obvious for a foreign author to become so well-known in France, but her books are clear, fun to read and pleasant to look at. We get a lot of people asking for them.

"These days, there's a lot of demand for other foreign cookery writers too, like Yotam Ottolenghi, but she was there years ago."

Deseine said she had also appealed to people's greed, with unabashed books such as Je Veux Du Chocolat (I Want Chocolate).

Now Deseine has taken on a new challenge. In her latest book, Mon Irelande, published in English under the title Home, she seeks to convert the French to the simple virtues of "plain Irish cooking".

"I know it's a very difficult thing to do, but I love doing difficult things. A lot of the earlier books I wrote for a French audience have a lot of Irish and British touches, so this is really just a step further."

She has now returned to live part of the year in Ireland. Based in West Cork, she often travels to Ulster.

"The food scene in Ireland is tremendously exciting now," she said. She loves Ulster home baking and her book showcases new Irish cooking as well as the traditional staples of bacon, cabbage and mackerel.

Having conquered France, her fame is now spreading here. She is now preparing Autumn cookery shows for BBC Northern Ireland.

Irish Independent

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