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My life on a plate: chef Adrian Martin who divides his time between Dublin and London

Adrian Martin tells Katy McGuinness about his signature dishes - and endless appetite for biscuits

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Adrian Martin

Adrian Martin

Adrian Martin

Adrian Martin, 28, aka Chef Adrian, is a chef, author and television presenter. Originally from Cavan, he opened his first restaurant, Wildflower, in a converted shipping container in Camden, London, in March. It closed after seven days because of lockdown  but has  been back open since July,  with a menu focused on wild and foraged ingredients. He divides his time between London and Dublin.  

Did you grow up in a family where food was important?

My home place is Bawnboy in Co Cavan and I grew up surrounded by fields; during lockdown I got to re-experience what my childhood had been like, as the second-eldest of four, with two brothers and a sister. For two weeks each year my brother and I are the same age; we're Irish twins. Both my parents grew up on farms and were big into food. I was taught to bake at an early age. We keep chickens, grow vegetables, have a fruit orchard and make wine from the vines in the greenhouse. The first year it wasn't great but we refined it, adding meadowsweet and yarrow grass; we serve it in the restaurant now.

What's your most vivid food memory from childhood?

Every weekend my mum and I would drive over to Bailieborough to collect my granny and bring her back to our house so we could bake apple tarts together.

What was the first thing you learned to cook?

Neven Maguire's chicken korma when I was around eight or nine. I went to the shops and bought all the ingredients after school one day.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a chef/ work in food?

I used to help Neven with his demonstrations from around the age of eight or nine until I was 11. Then I had an after-school and weekend job in a supermarket - it was mainly cleaning and I didn't like it. When I was 14 I went to work with Neven at MacNean House in Blacklion. I was young and the hours were long but I kept going each week from Wednesday to Sunday. There were only five in the kitchen and I learned a lot. I used to stay in a room above the restaurant, so I effectively moved out of home quite early.

Who has been the biggest influence on the way that you cook?

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Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain. He is so approachable. When we had to shut Wildflower down after just a week he answered my phone call straight away and gave me great advice.

What's your signature dish?

There are two dishes that are always on the menu - one is a sea buckthorn soufflé with Irish milk ice cream, and the other is Hen of the Woods mushrooms with Roscoff onions in Guinness, salt-baked celeriac and lots of freshly grated truffle.

Is there any ingredient that you hate?

Bananas, ever since I ate two before playing a football match and was really sick. I can taste them in anything.

Is there anything that you won't/don't eat for ethical reasons?

I'll try everything once, but I try to source ingredients as sustainably as possible.

What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?

When I was working with Oliver Dunne at Bon Appetit in Malahide we ordered snake from the supplier for the craic. It was so disgusting, very chewy.

What's your guilty (food) pleasure?

I eat endless amounts of biscuits. My nickname at home is biscuit face. I like Jammie Dodgers, but I could eat two packets of Kerrygold shortbread biscuits in one go, no problem.

What kitchen gadget could you not live without and what's the most overrated?

We have two Thermomixes in the restaurant kitchen and use them all the time. I'm not sold on sous-vide - we use the water bath to keep purées warm but not for cooking meat. You get more flavour in the pan.

What current cooking trend do you dislike the most?

It's more an eating trend than a cooking trend, but I don't have much patience for people who eat gluten-free to lose weight. Restaurants end up not taking it seriously, which is a real problem for people like my girlfriend who are coeliac. She's extremely sensitive to gluten and if there's any cross-contamination her night is ruined.

What's your desert island cookbook?

Gordon Ramsay's 3 Star Chef and Martijn Kajuiter's Let's Go Disco, I love the way that it combines art and food.

What three things do you always keep in your fridge?

Milk, Kerrygold butter and eggs.

What's your go-to store-cupboard meal?

Spaghetti carbonara.

What was the last great meal that you ate?

I had lunch at Aimsir Lounge back in July and thought it was stunning. I loved the ethos, the service and the attention to detail. I can't wait to go back for dinner.

What's your favourite restaurant in the world?

I've eaten at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay twice and always refer back to it as the best meal of my life. The whole experience is outstanding.

What chef do you admire the most?

Gabriel McSharry was my lecturer in the Tourism College in Killybegs and he pushed me to enter competitions and always got the best out of me. I owe him a lot.

What do you think the impact of Covid-19 will be on restaurants?

I think for the moment people are still afraid to eat out and we are seeing a lot of last-minute cancellations. Our capacity is down from 30 to 10 so that's very difficult. But I want to be safe not sorry, to do it right. Long-term, I think that many restaurants - such as the Boxty House in Temple Bar - that have been in existence for a long time will not reopen. That's very sad.

Do you eat breakfast?

It's the same every day - three Weetabix with milk. It's bland and boring but it gets me going.

What are you going to have for dinner tonight?

I'm craving comfort food so I'm making Irish stew. We only use Irish meat and dairy in the restaurant and we are getting incredible lamb from Achill Island. I cook a salt-aged rump with sea aster, last year's pickled plums and sunflower purée. It's one of my favourite dishes.

And what will you drink with that?

A mug of tea.

Chef Adrian Martin is a European 'Try Lamb' ambassador


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