Cork man Jack O’Keeffe is a true rising culinary star. Former Head Chef of Dublin’s esteemed Cooks Academy and Sous Chef at Longueville House and Greens Restaurant has led Jack to the current position of Executive Chef of one of Irelands leading food service providers, KSG, along with being a regular on Ireland AM.
His former accolades include Unilever Young Chef of the Year and Foodie Forum and Food Festival Young Chef of the Year, as well as being the youngest Euro Toques young chef of the year finalist at only 19 and it’s easy to see why this 27 year old is already a formidable force in the culinary world.
We caught up with Jack to find out more….
- Why did you become a chef?
My mother will happily tell everyone that even from a very young age, I have always had an extreme obsession with food – eating it and cooking it. However at the time she wasn’t too impressed with the mess her 8 year old son used to leave around the kitchen.
I was very fortunate growing up in a household that already had an interest in food and with a father who was constantly on the hunt for the best Italian restaurant wherever he went.
When I think back, my earliest memory of when I really fell in love with food was watching the original seasons of River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I must have been only 7 or 8 at the time. I can just remember my excitement every evening tuning in to watch Hugh create magic from his small garden and to this day I still dream of having my own little cottage in the countryside where I’ll have my little kitchen garden and small holding with a handful of pigs and maybe a cow. I credit Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for introducing me to the amazing world of food and where it comes from. Because of him I first found myself in a kitchen at the age of 15 and I haven’t left it yet.
- What was one of the very first things you ever cooked?
A proper fry up, would you believe it? How to get the bacon golden and crisp, cooking the sausages in the leftover bacon fat, proper fried eggs and difference between great black pudding and awful black pudding – were all the essential parts that my mother taught me when it comes to the perfect fry up.
- What is your ultimate comfort food recipe?
Fried Chicken, nothing else! There is nothing better than sitting a perfectly deep fried chicken thigh on top of creamy mac ‘n’ cheese, it’s a game changer and well, a waistline changer.
- What are your top 3 ingredients you couldn’t live without and why?
Good olive oil, I mean very good olive, the type of oil that will transport you right back to a shaded, tomato vine covered restaurant terrace in Tuscany.
Mint, I have an addiction to this powerful green herb, it just does something magical to everything its added to, especially when the leaves are simply picked and tossed into a leafy salad.
Something acidic, like lemon juice, cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, I always balance my cooking with the magic three ingredients, SALT, SOMETHING SWEET AND SOMETHING ACIDIC, the mix of salty, sweet and sour opens up your pallet and gives you that taste of more after every bite.
- What are your top tips for people cooking at home?
Slow down, open a bottle of wine and tell “Alexa” to play your cooking playlist. Cooking is a joyful experience and should never be rushed or forced, take your time and enjoy yourself, embrace the mistakes and disasters – that’s how you will learn. There is something simply beautiful about creating a tasty plate using the ingredients that you’ve gathered, so slow down and enjoy the journey.
- Name one dish everyone should know how to cook.
Carbonara!! The real version, not the westernised version with cream and white wine. Its the perfect 10 minute dinner! All you need is spaghetti, egg, pecarino and guanciale (pancetta will do as well).
IGTV Recipe Takeover
Jack will be doing a IGTV takeover on our Instagram on 10th May at 1pm, we will also save this is in our highlights section. he will be making his Slow Cooked Lamb Ribs with Potato & Kale. Here is the recipe if you would like to cook along.
Make sure to follow Jack on his own social media channels: