Mark Moriarty is the presenter of Cook-in, a new eight-part RTÉ series focusing on home cooking. When he's not making television programmes, Mark works alongside Mickael Viljanen at The Greenhouse in Dublin, which holds two Michelin stars.
Did you grow up in a family where food was important?
My parents worked in mental health, and we ate together as a family every night. Our communication was centred on dinner and I looked forward to it. My mum was a good cook - some of what she did was quite exotic for the 1990s.
What's your most vivid food memory from childhood?
We spent summers in Ventry in Kerry and had a small fishing boat. What I remember is catching mackerel, learning to fillet them, dusting them with flour and cooking them with my mum and granny. They are still one of my favourite things to eat.
What was the first thing you learned to cook?
I did home economics all the way through secondary school, so it was probably fairy buns. I had a great teacher, Brian Dooley.
Did you always want to be a chef?
I thought about being a marine biologist or an airline pilot, but around the age of 13 or 14 I got really into cooking, watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on television. For Transition Year work experience, I went to Thornton's, l'Ecrivain and Neven Maguire's MacNean House, and I was hooked - probably because I had a rose-tinted experience in each, sitting on the pass eating delicious food. The next summer, I worked at The Charthouse in Dingle and got a sense of what it was really like in a busy kitchen, so I knew what I was getting into when I applied to study culinary arts at DIT.
Who has been the biggest influence on the way you cook?
Initially, Kevin Thornton, and now Mick at The Greenhouse, where I have worked on and off since 2012. He maintains a brilliant balance between his obsession and an understated ability to teach. It's a great working environment: everyone feels part of the success.
What's your signature dish?
It has to be the Celeriac Baked in Barley and Fermented Hay with Hazelnuts and Smoked Celeriac Tea that helped me win the San Pellegrino Young Chef title in 2015.
Is there any ingredient that you hate?
I'm not mad on offal.
Is there anything you love to eat that you'd prefer your friends didn't know about?
I use jellied stock pots in my food at home. In the restaurant, we spend hours making demi-glace for jus, but stock pots make everything just as delicious.
What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
In the Philippines, I had balut (eggs with foetuses) and in Hong Kong it was brains. I'm getting better at subtly avoiding weird things.
What kitchen gadget could you not live without?
All you really need is a small paring knife.
What current cooking trend do you dislike the most?
Trends have their place, but my preference is for classic dishes. It might be because I don't know enough about them, but I don't really get natural wines.
What's your desert island cookbook?
Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. I would love to have met him.
What three things do you always keep in your fridge?
Parmesan, lemons, flat-leaf parsley.
What's your go-to store-cupboard meal?
A one-pot wonder of spaghetti with ragù. You cook the ragù slowly in the oven for a couple of hours and then add the pasta and cook it some more. The pasta absorbs the flavour of the sauce. I cook it in episode four.
What was the last great meal that you ate?
I was blown away by the food at the two-Michelin-star Umi in Tokyo.
What's your favourite restaurant in the world?
I go to Bistrot Paul Bert every time I'm in Paris for white asparagus with chopped egg and vinaigrette, steak au poivre with chips, and a huge crème caramel. I do love Oliveto in Dún Laoghaire on Sundays, too.
Which chef do you admire the most?
Gordon Ramsay. He runs a successful restaurant empire, has retained three Michelin stars for years and is a food personality. I don't think there would be the interest in food and restaurants that there is nowadays, that they would be as fashionable, without him.
What do you think the implications of Covid-19 are for restaurants?
There are obvious negatives, but new opportunities will arise as consumer habits change. The big challenge is going to be bringing restaurant food of consistent quality into people's homes.
Do you eat breakfast?
Usually not, but during lockdown I've been having a big bowl of granola and milk every morning, plus a regular lunch and dinner, and I feel so much better for it.
What are you going to have for dinner tonight?
My girlfriend, Grainne, is going to make a prawn curry. She's a very good cook - we take it in turns - day on, day off.
And what will you drink with that?
Water. It's a school night.
'Cook-in' starts on RTÉ One on May 6 at 8.30pm