herald

Monday 23 October 2017

guilty pleasures are just a part of life - chef kevin

tasty: Michelin-starred chef tells Elaine McCahill about his chocolate vices, take-away treats and burying butter in a bog

He might be a Michelin star chef, but Kevin Thornton admits he has his guilty food pleasures just like everyone else.

"Ah, yeah, we all have our guilty pleasures, they're part of life," he said.

"If I'm going on a long drive, I do like to have crisps and chocolate in the car."

The long drives he's referring are his trips the length and breadth of the country every week to guarantee that his St Stephen's Green restaurant has the best produce.

"I think restaurants are very important to show off the best of Irish produce," he said.

"And Irish produce is amazing, our food is the best in the world."

He said he's working towards creating a uniquely Irish food product to bring to his Thornton's restaurant in the Fitzwilliam Hotel.

He recently tasted bog butter that was thousands of years old.

"If I was to have a food trend, my food trend would be bog butter," he said.

"We had some in August and it was nearly 4,000 years old."

delicacy

"I buried some butter in the bog, and I'll do some research and go back in six months and check and see what stage before the butter turns."

During his research into the history of the archaic delicacy, he has discovered two reasons as to why butter was buried in a bog.

"One was to preserve it and the other was to thank the gods," he said.

"They were offering the bog something special in the butter because the butter was maybe eight to 10 kilos which was a big thing.

"You're talking about two churns of milk which 4,000 years ago would have been a huge amount of milk.

"I was really excited about it. We tasted it.

"There's fermentation but it's not fermentation because it's gone way beyond that.

"Then you get this taste coming down or right up through your nose - you can smell the ghost of it. It was very special.

"Because it's a historical thing and you can't really take it, I decided to bury some myself."

Unusual projects are a common past time of Kevin's, and aside from the bog butter he recently took part in the FAT exhibition at the Science Gallery in Trinity College.

He took the meat and fat from the heads of 24 pigs and marinated them in a vat of alcohol for a month.

He later cooked the fat at a demonstration as part of the exhibition.

"It was great, it reminded me of my childhood, we used to eat it when we were kids," he said.

"Cooking the fat in alcohol makes it much lighter.

"It's something we've been doing for years. The taste is superb.

"Plus it was very scientific, we monitored the meat and knew exactly what was happening.

"I love doing things like that because it keeps the brain active."

Kevin is also involved in the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2014, one of the most prestigious cookery competitions in Europe.

"I think we have a responsibility to get involved because we've been in the trade so long," he said.

"It's all about education and giving something back, plus it's a great time to become a chef, a restaurant owner or anything to do with food in Ireland at the moment.

"It's all about teaching young people about food. The other day I had this great girl in the restaurant and she told me she had picked me for her project in school, so that was really nice."

So what does a top chef eat at home?

"We cook a variety of different things at home. "We shop every day rather than doing one big shop, so it varies," he said.

Fridge

"I love my bacon and cabbage and my curries, but it depends on what's in the fridge."

Kevin runs one of Ireland's top restaurants, but he's keen for everyone to be able to taste his recipes, so he recently teamed up with Thai take-away Camille to offer his curry to the masses.

"I was delighted to be asked to contribute a dish to the menu and I really hope customers enjoy it," he said.

Kevin has pioneered the Indochine curry which he describes as having a "rich and fruity flavour".

"It's interesting because, it's the sort of stuff we cook at home," he said.

"I did a Thai dish last year after I was in Thailand and I got the influences from there.

"When I make a curry dish I don't like it to be too hot and spicy, I like to be able to taste all the flavours and then pick the meat after that.

"It's nice to branch out and do something different as well."

With his bog butter experiments, no one could accuse him of not doing something different.

hnews@herald.ie

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