Saturday 19 January 2019

Michael O'Doherty: You'd think by now that wayward Conrad would stick to life in the kitchen

WHAT is it with chefs, that they just can't stay in the kitchen?

Aside from the plethora of TV shows and cookbooks, Rachel Allen is making sandwiches in O'Briens, Kevin Dundon is cooking steaks for SuperValu and, last week, Gordon Ramsay was in Dublin to inspect his restaurant in the Ritz Carlton, giving the staff a reason to sweep away the tumbleweeds blowing through that funereal folly of the Celtic Tiger.


As a lesson in what goes wrong when you put down your apron and try to become a brand, you'd have thought people would have learned from Ramsay's recent troubles. People like Conrad Gallagher, for example.

Unlike some, many of whom come under the umbrella of 'people Conrad owes money to', I've always had a lot of time for the Donegal man. Leaving aside the 'larger-than-life', 'loveable rogue' cliches, Conrad is a spectacular chef, who has not only been turning out great food for most of his life, but has also shown a willingness to stick his neck out with new business ventures.


Sure, a lot of them have come a cropper, but we admire someone with a bit of ambition, and we tolerate them as long as they learn from their mistakes. And when Conrad came back to Ireland to launch the chic but low-key Salon Des Saveurs a year ago, it seemed he had done just that.

But perhaps that was wishful thinking. In the new Dubliner 100 Best Restaurant's Guide, we had nothing but praise for Salon Des Saveurs, and concluded: "The whole experience will leave you praying that Conrad sticks to what he's good at -- cooking. We're not holding our breath, however."

Conrad, I know for a fact, took offence to this last comment -- a reference to his previous, well-documented mistakes in Dublin and South Africa of having one good idea, but then expanding far too quickly and buggering the whole thing up.

So what's happened in the few months since we published those comments?

A new bistro in Sligo, a cookery school in South Dublin, an autobiography, and now a TV3 show called Head Chef.

Perhaps Conrad can keep all these balls in the air, but if he succeeds, it will be a first for him.

Instead, it all sounds horribly familiar, and begs the obvious question -- does Conrad have a debt wish?


One outcome of his rising profile is that creditors from Conrad's recent business collapse in South Africa are now up in arms about his renaissance, and keen to get their hands on some of his new found wealth.

"We hear he will be earning huge fees from fronting this TV show," said a representative.

They obviously don't know Irish TV that well...

Irish people won't forget Mail's cruel Tribune stunt

Like many people, I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I saw the newspaper stands yesterday.

I understood that the Sunday Tribune wouldn't be published, as the Receiver sought to find a buyer, and it took me a few seconds to realise that its familiar masthead was not a Lazarus-like rise from the dead, but a cynical marketing ploy by one of its competitors, the Mail On Sunday.

And if you thought the gloating of Ray Shah, right, about the loss of jobs last week was offensive, then the Mail On Sunday's mock-Tribune cover took insensitivity to a whole new level. Let's not forget that the Tribune is not dead -- it has suspended publication, and is seeking a buyer -- so there are still signs of life. And for the Mail to so callously tout its demise is akin to the colleague of a seriously injured man sidling up to his wife at his bedside, and with the life-support machine still beeping, making a pass at her.

Most other Irish Sunday papers covet a share of the 40,000-odd sales that the Tribune had, but none would have been so cruel in their pursuit of it. Perhaps the most unforgivable thing about this publicity stunt was the Mail's defence.

Did they hold up their hands and say they were simply trying to win over some Tribune readers? Of course not -- according to its editor, this was "an attempt to persuade people to keep buying Irish newspapers".

Their boast about the Mail being 100pc Irish will ring particularly hollow this morning. Because being Irish is not just a geographical thing -- it's a mindset, a tone, and most of all a feeling of respect towards your fellow Irishmen.

If your parent company is British, and their only concern is to claw back some of the countless millions they've invested and lost in your title, then respect for your country takes a back seat.

When the dust settles, they will realise that they've misjudged the Irish people, something they will come to regret for a very long time.

What will you do as Miss Ireland, Emma?

GORGEOUS Miss Ireland Emma Waldron, left, gave a weekend interview in which she revealed how she wasn't going to comment on current events or pose in a bikini for photocalls, something previous winners like Andrea Roche and Rosanna Davison had no problem with.

Emma said these exact things to a different newspaper some months ago. Which raises the question -- what exactly is Emma planning to do with her year as Miss Ireland, other than talking to newspapers about what she's not going to do?

Enda grilled... on Kildare TV

ENDA Kenny has been accused of cowardice by refusing to appear on TV3's leaders' debate tomorrow night, but the real reason for his absence is that he's obviously too busy giving major interviews to more important media outlets.

A few days ago, he made time to be grilled by Eddie Hobbs on Kildare TV, a seismic event which was immediately followed by Kildare TV News, whose top story concerned the launch of the Naas Chamber of Commerce's White Collar Boxing event in the Osprey Hotel.

Anyone who accuses Enda of running scared of major TV debates, take note...

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