JOHN Doyle wouldn't be the only young man to flee from Ireland in the 1980s, citing that "not much was going on at the time". Yet very few people have quite had the 20-year adventure that this Wexford native has enjoyed since then. Now based in Stuttgart in Germany, 46-year-old Doyle has managed to turn his childhood love of cooking in small-town Ireland into a lucrative career ... and a never-ending culinary quest.
The Irish chef has just become the face of Knorr across Europe, and has been working in association with the company since 1998. "There is lots of adventure, scouting for food, and 'concept mining' in different countries," he explains of his developmental role. "I spent three-quarters of last year in Asia; in Bangkok, Hong Kong, China, Philippines, Singapore, working on various culinary developments."
Sounds like quite the trajectory for someone who grew up 40 years ago in Gorey, I venture.
"Well, I went to Rockwell School (a boarding school in Tipperary) and can remember that I would eat snails and frogs' legs," he counters.
"If you encounter different cultures, you have to get into the nitty-gritty of what people are eating. Having lived in Asia, I reckon we'll be sourcing these foods in the West in 15 years' time."
Leaving Rockwell in the 1980s, John took a job as a kitchen porter in Kilkee House before moving on to other kitchen jobs in Dublin, UK and Switzerland.
"When I went to Switzerland in 1987 and didn't even have the language, that was a bit of a risk," he concedes. "It was a tough environment to be in; more so without the language."
Although John's foodie career then went from strength to strength in Germany -- he later received a coveted Masterchef qualification -- he wasn't immune to the siren call of Celtic Tiger Ireland.
"When everyone was looking in on Ireland at that time, I was proud to be Irish on the continent," he admits.
"I was certainly tempted to come home during the Celtic Tiger. My (German) wife and I sat down and weighed the pros and cons and it was a very close call. When we concluded that we'd stay in Germany. It was an extremely good decision for our family and for my career."
John concedes that there are several young people in Ireland who are in the situation he was in almost 30 years ago.
A life of adventure, travel and culinary escapades are very much theirs for the taking ... once people are willing to put the hard yards in first.
"Many (TV and celebrity) chefs paint a picture of this career as being bright-eyed, glamorous and wonderful, but the hospitality industry is hard work, and you have to have your head in the right place," advises John.
And then, he adds with a grin: "Also, don't be afraid to eat frogs' legs and locusts. There's a reason why people across the world eat these things. The best bit of my job is finding out exactly why."