The 32-year-old chef Trisha Lewis is not rewriting the canon of French gastronomy or daring to challenge the Le Roux brothers' methodology in her new cook book. After losing 30 stone - and putting most of it back on over the years - the chef, who was morbidly obese, is on a healthy-eating mission after taking her battle with weight public on social media .
Now, almost 10 stone lighter, Trisha makes no bones about her ambitions.
"I'd love to go into media and have my own chat show on TV, a 'Trisha' show," says the farmer's daughter who grew up one of nine sisters on a diary farm in Kilbehenny, Co Limerick. Trisha studied professional cookery at CIT and is now the executive chef at Jacobs on the Mall in Cork city.
Trisha's Transformation is both the title of her new book and the Instagram account she started in 2018 which now has 108,000 followers - or "transformers", as Trisha affectionately calls them.
In addition to recipes for meals, dressings, sauces and snacks, the book also maps out Trisha's personal journey, which has taken her from an all-time high of 27 stone 1lb in 2017 down to her current weight of 18 stones 9lb.
The chef shares the recipes that she has used over the last two years as she lost weight through a combination of nutrition, sleep, personal training, gym work, walking and watching her portion sizes which, she admits, was her downfall.
One of her favourites is the Turkey Yuk Sung (see right) which was her favourite dish to get in the local Chinese.
"It is so tasty, I had to find out how to make it at home. The key here is to have crunchy, fresh iceberg lettuce. The turkey mix is easily reheated so you can make it in batches."
Putting on weight is a professional hazard for chefs and people working in kitchens. Tasting as you go, a little knob of butter for flavour, a dollop of cream to deepen the sauce, a dash of wine to give it a kick and then there's the eating very late after a busy day in the kitchen.
Looking back, Trisha says that she was worried about her weight impacting on her career. She never wanted to change jobs, she says, because she works for "a lovely Kerry family at Jacobs on the Mall" but she was afraid of being judged by her size.
"I'm the executive chef and I hated interviewing people because I thought, 'they are going to think I'm not a good chef because of my size'. Actually, I put so much energy into the kitchen it ran perfectly - but I never put anything into myself."
Trisha was poised to undergo a gastric bypass abroad three years ago. Privately, she had fears about the procedure, concerns about whether it might transfer one addiction to another.
"I knew I had an addictive personality with smoking, and with food, so I said to myself, 'Oh, that's the last thing I need now.' I did not want to tell my family of my concerns because I always felt I was letting them down but it was myself I was letting down."
Ironically, it was a made-up story her sister told her about a favourite Spanish dish that stopped Trisha in her tracks and she talked it out with her concerned family.
"My sister Annie said, 'You know if you have this done, when you go to Marbella, you will never be allowed to have Prawns Pil Pil because the oil will separate and could kill you. If you can step up onto that Aer Lingus flight, you can step into a gym - you need to cop on'."
Trisha's book has some tasty and inspiring food suggestions but it is a shocking read, too, as the author opens up about the bullying and fat-shaming she endured during her school days.
All the fat-shaming - on the street, on planes, in a pizza bar - and people going out of their way to make horrible comments on nights out, had a devastating effect on Trisha's mental health but she is quick to point out that 99.99pc of people were fine - it was just the .001pc who left her in tears.
"I was made of many stones but I wasn't made of stone," she recalls. "I decided that I was no longer going to be a punching bag for the uneducated. I am currently fighting the battle of beating the bulge but I love my life. I spend most of my days smiling and having fun. I wanted to write my book to share my story, the ups and downs of a radical weight-loss programme. I wanted to help anyone who may have been in my position and show them that you have never gone too far.
"I have myself come from being depressed and not wanting to wake up to now going to sleep excited for the next day to dawn. The recipes that I chose are simple, tasty and cost-effective. I picked them because I find the food you need to eat in the typical diets are boring and non-sustainable. I would like to lose weight but I do not want to lose flavour."
These days, one of Trisha's favourite dinner is monkfish with tenderstem broccoli and carrots.
"I don't like processed food. I was trained as a chef to absolutely adore the product that you are producing."
When it comes to her faults, she admits it was portion size and the lack of a routine when it came to eating.
"I might not have breakfast for weeks. I didn't do a weekly shop for three or four years and now I'm a brand ambassador for Aldi and I love food shopping."
Trisha's intention now is "to keep going until I'm 12 stone 13lb. My goal is to lose just over half my body weight. I don't have a time on it. I have stopped chasing the numbers. I am chasing the feeling. I feel good, I feel like a woman, I feel so pretty and happy lately that if the weight is second, like a bonus, it doesn't matter so long as I keep going."
'Trisha's Transformation' by Trisha Lewis (Gill Books, €19.99) is published on May 29
Hake is a beautiful, versatile fish that will take on the flavour of its accompaniments so well. It has a subtle flavour and is kind on the palate. Ham and petits pois combine with the zestiness of the lemon to make this an incredibly flavoursome dish!
2 pieces of fresh hake, all bones removed
Salt and black pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice
For the salsa:
50g good-quality butcher ham, shredded
50g frozen petits pois
2 tsp lemon juice a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped (reserve some sprigs to garnish)
1. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Pop your hake on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
2. Drizzle over some olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Pop your tray into the preheated oven and roast the hake for 15 minutes.
3. To make the salsa, heat a pan, add a drop of oil and sauté off your ham. Let the ham crisp up so it nearly starts to caramelise.
4. Add in your frozen petits pois and let the heat of the pan defrost them. Finish off with your lemon juice and chopped mint.
5. Serve your hake garnished with some lemon wedges and some fresh mint leaves, with the salsa on the side.
½ tsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
400g turkey mince
6 button mushrooms, sliced
½ a red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 tsp reduced-salt soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
4 spring onions, sliced
½ an iceberg lettuce, leaves separated and washed
For the yoghurt dressing:
60g natural yoghurt
2 tsp garlic purée
2 tsp sriracha sauce
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1. In a large pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut oil over a medium heat until softened.
2. Add in your turkey mince, mushrooms and pepper. Use a spatula to mix the mince around until browned. Add in the ginger and cook for 8 minutes.
3. Add in the soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onions.
4. To make the yoghurt dressing, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Now you're ready to assemble your yuk sung.
5.Scoop a dollop of your hot mix into a lettuce leaf, using it like a cup. Top with some yoghurt dressing and garnish with chilli and sesame seeds.
This hearty, flavourful dish makes a lovely veggie dinner on its own, or you can add some chicken or pan-fried fish on top to make it more substantial. The key to a good risotto is to add your liquid slowly and allow the rice to swell.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 sticks of celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tsp curry powder
300g arborio rice
1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into small pieces (slice a piece off for garnish first)
2 reduced-salt vegetable stock cubes dissolved in 1 litre of boiling water
Salt and black pepper
A small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1 spring onion, chopped
1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pan and lightly cook off your onion, celery and garlic until well softened.
2. Add your curry powder and cook until the fragrant smell wafts up. Add in your rice and stir to coat in the oil. Stir through your cauliflower.
3. Gradually add some hot stock and stir. Once the rice has absorbed the liquid, add some more liquid and continue on until the stock is gone. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Quickly pan fry your reserved cauliflower slice. Garnish each dish with the cauliflower slice, spring onion and coriander.