Anyone who has ever been in Shells or Baker Boys in Sligo knows the special atmosphere and incredible food the cafes serve up. The creators Jane and Myles have brought something truly special to this part of the world and in this edition we talk to Myles the chef behind the food about his approach, his background and what he loves most about the West of Ireland.
Q. What brought you to Sligo?
Surf & my wife. I had told Jane if I was leaving the hot climate of Cape Town I really needed to access good waves. Sligo has blown my mind with the quality of waves here, year round. So I feel I really lucked out moving here
Q. Favourite urban aspect of Sligo and the West?
I love the grits side of Sligo – it’s why I opened Baker Boys down by the docks. Sligo has loads of really cool pockets of the city, with old buildings, history & really cool signage and all with incredible mountain or sea views.
Q. Favourite wild aspect of where you live?
It’s so untouched. I used to be a river guide in Namibia and I’ve started to get back into paddling in Sligo the last few years. You can paddle down a river and not see another soul. It’s really special that way.
Q. Favourite cultural aspect of where you live?
It has to be the music in the pubs. I had never experienced such a pub scene before and even in the smallest of pubs there’s trad music banging out in the corner. The talent here is incredible and really special to experience. Free access to the most amazing musicians all while sipping a creamy guinness. Its pretty mind blowing.
Q. How does your lifestyle here compare to other places you have lived? For instance: Are you busier? More relaxed? Balanced work/life?
Well that’s an interesting question. So I have 2 restaurants and 2 small children. That definitely makes for a busy, and stressful lifestyle. I guess the difference is that things are so accessible here. So despite all my commitments I can still surf, meet friends and head up the mountain. There’s no traffic. Everything is really close, so I think that’s the secret for me to be able to indulge in the things I love too. Jane surfs aswell so she totally gets it and we just tag team a lot to make sure we get our fix. Shells and Baker Boys are both really established now too so we have a strong team which means we can take time off – that’s a great place to be.
Q. You are from Cape Town, South Africa, you met your wife Jane while working in an hotel in Cornwall, and you both moved to Sligo. Is your mantra: ‘West is best!’
It sure is. I never though I would settle anywhere- By the age of 4 my family had lived in Angola, Iran and France. So travel and moving is literally in my blood. Having said that I have yet to find somewhere that can offer us as a family a better lifestyle and access to all the things we love. Even coming home from a holiday, it’s a joy driving into Strandhill.
Q. Would you say living in such a wild place as the exposed Atlantic coast affects the way you think; feel; perhaps even the way you cook? Does the wildness find its way into your creations?
Definitely- I am cook lot more comfort food now- and my cooking has maybe become less refined. It’s all about the flavour- bring flavour into every dishes. I use a lot of dried seaweed for seasoning swell. We are spoiled here with local food- grown literally less than 10km from our doorstep. Bread is huge too- fresh baked bread- we have two bakeries within our cafes and I just can’t go back to a slice pan.
Q. You must be twice as busy, now that you run Baker Boys Café in Sligo and Shells Café in Strandhill. Do you still make time to surf?
That’s the main thing I make time for. The waves here are too good that even on a hectic week I can still make it work. I guess it’s the silver lining of being self employed- checking the charts and then doing the rota 😉
Q. You are an artist too?
Yes and that’s my next chapter. I have just built a studio and plan to devote a lot of time to art and exploring that avenue over the next few years. Jane has booked me on a portrait course next month with Gary Reddin so I’m really excited to get back to basics and find my eye again.
Q. Shells Café is literally a stone’s throw from the ocean. Do you lose much sleep at night when those big winter storms come driving in?
Ha! Jane does. I Let her do the worrying. But yeah it’s a concern for sure. I have good knowledge of the swells and the tides so there’s only really been one to two close call. But Storm Barra was one of these- we were up at 3am making the call- as our bakers arrive from 5am onwards. You don’t want to call people out in treacherous conditions. Our team are amazing too- like they are happy to be on standby and make last minute calls on things- So that helps too.
Bonus question: Elon Musk walks into Shells and says he loves your food so much he wants you to set up a café on Mars. What’s your answer?
No way mate!! We have enough on our plate ….. then I might just ask him whats the pay ;— )
Chef, Surfer, Artist & Dad- Born in Cape town
Studied Fine art and spent the first half of my working life hosting Oveland trips and river guiding in Africa. This is where I developed a skill for cooking- cooking over the fire for large groups of guests. I somehow started doing Chalet hosting too and love the mountains and snowboarding. That’s my second love to surfing and the two really compliment each other. I believe everyone would change careers – the next chapter for me is discovering a career as an artist. I’m really excited about the next chapter.