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Chad Byrne | The Hungry Donkey, Kerry Wild & Global Inspiration

Chad Byrne | The Hungry Donkey, Kerry Wild & Global Inspiration

For the w|ė MAGAZINE May Interviews we reached out to a man who we heard was doing incredible things with  local and simple ingredients….from a horse box in rural Kerry. Interested in how this past year has shaped the way we source, cook and eat we talked to the talented chef Chad Byrne and found out what inspires him, how his cooking has changed and what wild ingredients mean to him. 

Q1. We’ve had a crazy year and a bit….how has cooking and your approach changed for you personally?

This has been an  unexpected year for all of us, both challenging and rewarding. I found value in things I might have taken for granted before. With the hospitality industry shut down for months, I never imagined myself out of work. This lockdown has challenged me. I found the slow pace of living difficult at the beginning but have embraced it and finding my creativity flourish. I started worthwhile projects that were very beneficial to the community and the hospitality industry. The most rewarding being a live online cook along with young adults from “Ability at Work” giving them life skills in the kitchen which has been going for a year now. Another successful project was Chef V Chef, which had 36 Irish elite chefs competing in an online cooking competition whilst highlighting produce from local artisans show casing there produce to a wider audience giving them the platform to excel during what was a tough time. As for my cooking, it has become far more creative using a basic pantry and limited ingredients

I used my skills as a chef to help others in a similar situation to myself by providing structured, simple recipes that could feed a family 5 recipes for 5 people costing  5 euro per meal each week, making it easier for families adapting to a new way of life, with beneficial tips and budgeting practices. I found real value in that time.

Q.2 Has the pandemic brought you any new appreciations in every day life?

Totally ..I’ve learned to slow down and really appreciate the important things. I will strive for a better work life balance -Family is everything and when you realise you don’t need a lot to be happy you can restructure your life to find that balance

Q.3 . Do you think the pandemic has changed how we eat?

I think the home cook has flourished and has really found an appreciation of food, twitter was awash with banana breads, sourdough etc. with home cooks giving chefs a run for their money.  I also think the pandemic given an appreciation to a humble craft, where people have found a value in sourcing and connecting with suppliers making the Irish food community a better richer more versatile place, it’s a huge strength for our Island and has created a positive spark and long it may in continue.

Q.4. What inspires you right now in nature?

In May the nutrients in food is really of the charts. In a month when hedgerows are full of hawthorns and field full of spring lamb and ever improving prospects for agriculture work. I am also tendering the plot for my winter squashes and root vegetables.

May really screams to me about its amazing abundance of produce from wild greens, burdock, seabeet, water cress, lemon balm, wild gooseberries and from the sea herring,  brown crab, lobster, sea lettuce and sugar kelp, radish, rocket .May really is a chefs dream

Q5. What is your earliest memory of eating something wild?

My first experience with wild food was when I was about 10 and in the Cubs we went camping and made nettle soup, since then wild food has played an integral part in my life.

Q6. You’re doing really unusual things with your horse box – ‘The Hungry Donkey’….what inspired you to start it?

My inspiration for setting it up is as real as this cooking is the only thing I know, it gives me energy and drives my creative side. The food we do is Irish premium produce, with global spice, we have created a weekly menu that’s inspired by what’s in season and giving it a twist with quirky fun dishes bringing wholesome food out of its comfort zone, think tacos filled with best irish produce, fun food highlighting province.

Q7. Where do you draw the inspiration for your dishes from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere and sometimes the most random things can pop into my mind and i’ll get to work on creating.  Then sometimes I think what the hell was I thinking and it won’t go on the menu and other times I can strike gold with a dinger recipe.  Most of all my influence comes from the people alongside me and connecting with suppliers. The food is always a team effort from the taste test to the end product where we can all stand behind our food and ethos.



Q8. How do you personally like to connect with nature?

Living in rural Kerry  I feel ‘how can you not connect with nature?’ …. its not something I think about, it’s just apart of me and it seems so simple just spending time in nature is a way of connecting. You can’t not feel it!

Q9. Have you travelled and if so how has this influenced your food style?

I have traveled quite a bit, however my style has lately geared towards south American food and the array of fruity chillis and cocoas they use to flavour sauces its very inspiring as a chef. I also love Turkish cuisine and there baking heritage, the simplicity of Italian food focusing on quality above all else.  These cuisines excite me more than any, I’ve yet to travel to south America but would love to visit Peru.

Q10. What’s your dream last supper?

Bacon and cabbage all day long- can’t beat it!

Twitter/Instagram: @chadpbyrne

All imagery courtesy Chad Byrne

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