The first time I met Eddie Atwell was during the brief reprieve in lockdowns last July. I had heard of a young chef who was doing great things in a dreamy hotel on the ocean in West Cork. Eddie Atwell is the head chef at the famous Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff and his approach is rooted in wild connections. From foraging to growing his own, here soil to table connections play a vital role in what is served in the restaurant. We spoke to the talented chef about how lockdown has impacted his work, his inspiration for his food now and his love of seasonality.
Q1. What a weird year since we met down at your beautiful hotel….how has cooking and your approach changed for you personally?
Upside down would better describe it- society has had a real health check! The season at the hotel was short but intense, although fruitful in terms of great produce cooked and sold. Since it was short my cooking turned to home, feeding my nearly 2 year old daughter and pregnant partner. Cooking for ‘customers’ you live with could be viewed as cooking for life’s biggest critics! But it has been fun and a lot of smart cooking in terms of nutrition, cost and brain food. I’ve always appreciated my surroundings as it compliments cooking and menus. It is crazy though that driving into glengarriff in a 7 day week in summer you don’t see the mountains or smell the same smells or take in the beauty that is here, being able to explore this more has been great.
Q.2 Has the pandemic brought you any new appreciations in every day life?
I’ve always appreciated my surroundings as it compliments cooking and menus. It is crazy though that driving into glengarriff in a 7 day week in summer you don’t see the mountains or smell the same smells or take in the beauty that is here, being able to explore this more has been great.
Q.3 Do you think it has changed our approach to food and how we eat?
The pandemic has taken people back to home cooking, also running a household 7 days a week balancing the shopping in terms of cost and variety.
Q.4. What inspires you right now in nature?
You can be inspired in west Cork in any direction, the sea views, mountains, forest and the general flora that surrounds us. To see the produce naturally in abundance both edible and non is pretty special.
Q5. What is your earliest memory of eating something wild?
I remember watching the caterpillars swarm my dad’s nasturtiums when I was young enough and wondering what the fuss was about, I wasn’t too impressed…….. different story nowadays
Q6. When I visited you last year I saw the deep connection you have to the land you grow the food for the restaurant on. How does the land and nature inspire your dishes?
Our approach at the hotel will only continue to grow and evolve in the same natural direction, there is a real joy to connect our surroundings with our food. I’ve always believed in seasonality as you see it and that comes from utilising the garden at each and every stage from shoots to fruits.
Q7. How do you personally like to connect with nature?
Theres no better connection than taste testing the plants at every stage in the tunnel, the raw ingredient tells a lot.
Q8. Are there any particular cultures which have found their way into your food style?
After catering college I travelled to England where I continued my training, I saw many cultures and cooking styles, foraging and growing alongside amazing regional produce.
Q9. What are your top 3 wild/garden ingredients and why?
Salad burnett, great little leaf with a mild cucumber flavour adds a fresh dimension to any salad. Mexican tarragon, such a unique version of tarragon that flavours very well in cream and oil infusions, versatile sweet and savoury. Last but not least- Sea beet, this sea spinach has a grfeat depth of flavour and has it own unique texture, works very well with all fish and a substantial green as a garnish
Q10. What’s your dream last supper?
Aoc restaurant Copenhagen- a selection of dishes, had a very memorable meal there couldn’t be topped.