5 Minutes with Chef Conor Spacey

Fri, 15 May 2020
Conor Spacey

At I Love Cooking we are big fans of Conor Spacey and his sustainability ethos. Make sure to follow him on Instagram.

Conor Spacey is one of the co-authors of the Chef’s Manifesto. It consists of sixteen chefs in collaboration with the United Nations for the development of sustainability within the food sector and to implement change, putting chefs at the centre of fixing a global food system. This has grown to over 700 chefs across 72 countries and work with many NGO’s to make real change.

Conor has received many accolades for his work in sustainability including being the only 3-star catering company in Ireland with the sustainable restaurant association for all of Foodspace kitchens. In the last 2 years he has travelled all over Europe to share his work.

We caught up with Conor to find out a bit more….

  • Why did you become a chef? 

I never planned on becoming a chef. When I was in school I didn’t know what I wanted to do but knew that school wasn’t something I enjoyed and felt that if you were in anyway creative or thought outside the box then you were seen as being trouble or misbehaving.

So as soon as I could I left school early without any exams. Back then the hospitality industry was always seen as somewhere that school dropouts and misfits would go to. As I needed a job and also wanted to travel I went to the UK. My first job was as kitchen porter in a large hotel. 

When I started working and got immersed in the atmosphere and adrenaline, I was hooked. I used to watch what all the chefs were doing and was amazed by the creativity that they used to create fantastic food.

For me I found a place where people were encouraged to be creative and think outside the box. While growing up my mother always cooked lovely food and I have great memories of our small back garden with runner beans, potatoes, apples etc growing. I always felt I had an understanding of what food should be and the importance of where it came from. 

One day in the hotel a young commis chef called in sick. I remember knocking on the head chefs office door and challenging him. It was very busy at the time as we were in the run up to Christmas and I asked the chef to let me cover the work that the commis was doing but only if he agreed to take me on as a commis if he was happy with my work. I really remember him laughing and saying “why not, it’ll be fun to watch you make a mess of things”, after two days of working in the commis section I was offered a fulltime roll as a commis chef and it all took off from there.   

  • What was one of the very first things you ever cooked? 

I remember I must have been about 10, I found a recipe for rock buns and thought that I would surprise my parents by baking these and bringing them into the sitting room while they were watching TV.

I still laugh as I remember their faces when they politely tried to bite into them. I remember thinking “sure they’re called rock buns, they’re meant to be rock hard”. The positive side is that I learnt to make them correctly since.

  • What are your top 3 ingredients you couldn’t live without and why? 

A good quality Irish sea salt is a must for seasoning food.

My mother/scoby that I use for all my homemade vinegars and kombucha.

Finally real butter , it’s so important to have this as a staple in your kitchen to use in many dishes, finishing sauces and glazing vegetables.

  • What are your top tips for people who want to be sustainable in the kitchen? 

Don’t try and make changes all at once, you’ll find that it may become overwhelming and regret starting it. Begin with the easy wins, like how you shop, simple dishes with leftovers and how you store food. Once you get the hang of this it will build your confidence and you can do more and more to make your kitchen a zerowaste, sustainable place that is better for you and the planet 

  • Name one dish everyone should know how to cook.

It’s got to be an omelette. Learn how to do a simple omelette correctly. Where you only use a pan, cook it very quickly and ensure it’s nice and fluffy. You need to learn how to control temperatures, speed, seasoning so that you ensure it is light & tastes great. There are a few cooking methods involved in this and once you learn it you can then apply it to cooking other food.

Conor will be doing an IGTV take over on Sunday 17th May 2020 at 1pm. Make sure to join in and if you fancy cooking along here is the recipe:

Asparagus with Spaghetti & Cashel Blue

Ingredients

  • 200g Spaghetti Pasta
  • 2 tbsp Irish Rapeseed oil, plus extra to serve
  • 2 Irish garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 250g asparagus (ends trimmed), cut into small pieces
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • handful basil leaves
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted
  • 50g Cashel Blue, crumbled

Method

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Tip in the pasta and cook for 1 min less than pack instructions.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Stir in the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt, and fry for 1 min until fragrant. Add the asparagus and lemon zest, and cook for 4-5 mins until the asparagus is just tender.
  • Drain the pasta and tip into the asparagus pan. Add the lemon juice, ½ cup of the pasta water, stir through the basil, grind over some black pepper, then divide between bowls. Top with the pine nuts, cashel blue and a drizzle of rapeseed oil to serve.

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