Forced to close up shop the same week he had his biggest turn over only forced chef Ian Marconi to think outside the box - the barbecue box that is. The founder of Jackrabbit tells Lizzie Gore-Grimes why there's more to barbecuing than meat and how he's overcoming the current crisis.
“When I launched Jackrabbit in 2015 and fitted out the foodtruck, I didn’t realise how awkward those things can be!” says chef Ian Marconi. “I had no idea how difficult they are to tow and park. But the truck did fit its purpose as a mobile kitchen, which was brilliant when we were doing festivals and catering boutique weddings.”
After spending a number of years working in the prestigious kitchens of Moro in London, Ian returned to Ireland around 2009. “I wanted to open my own place but then the recession hit so that put an end to that plan.” It did give him the opportunity, however, to launch his market stall The Paella Guys. “When you’re up against it to pay the rent you have to be imaginative. Working the lunchtime markets was originally just a plan to keep me busy and solvent but it also allowed me great freedom to experiment.”
This was when Ian started hosting his own pop-up dining evenings at home, called Parlour Games, which very quickly became a huge hit. “The Parlour Games experience was a more high-end dining affair, offering six to seven courses.”
While working in Moro in London, Ian had cooked almost exclusively with wood and charcoal grill. “Everything was cooked over the grill, imparting all that wonderful smoky, charred, umami flavour and that was something I wanted to bring to my cooking.” This was where Ian developed his love affair with vegetables.
“I am not a vegetarian but I prefer to only eat a small amount of really well-sourced, high-quality meat, served with lots of imaginatively cooked vegetables, salads and sides.”
This ethos formed the cornerstone of Jackrabbit foods. “I realised, once I launched Jackrabbit, and we were catering for big crowds at markets, festivals or weddings, the real work all went into the prep – making the marinades, flavour rubs, condiments and sauces that I used to enhance the flavour of my grilled meat, fish and sides. Customers kept asking me about the sauces so I started selling them.”
Today, Ian’s Jackrabbit condiments, rubs and sauces are some of the best on the market. His green Hot N Herby is a firm favourite, made with grilled tomatoes, charred jalapenos, chilli and roasted garlic, all cooked in his Bertha wood-burning oven. Miix a generous dollop of this fiery salsa through some melted butter to slather over grilled sweetcorn – sensational!
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Get ready for a summer sensation, this recipe for BBQ Shrimp ‘n’ Grits with Chilli Lime Butter from chef Ian Marconi @jackrabbiteats is packed with bright, zingy flavours and a cinch to cook on the barbecue. Ian's got the full how-to video ready for you here and you can find the full recipe over on our website https://kerrygold.com/ie/recipes/bbq-shrimp-and-grits/ Happy Grilling! . . . . . #homecooking #irelandlockdown #cookalong #kerrygold #butter #grassfed #instafood #foodie #kerrygoldbutter #grassfedbutter #healthyliving #realfood #ireland #recipe #instafood #cooking #delicious #healthy #homemade #recipes #foodlover #sweet #foodpics #BBQ #irishfood
The current crisis has certainly come as a huge blow to Ian. “Before the virus struck, we had a concession going in Morton's on Hatch Street and business was flying. It felt beyond cruel that in the same week that we had done our best turnover ever, we had to close up shop.
“My wife is asthmatic and we have two small children at home which meant I was really completely housebound during lockdown but I’m getting back into the kitchen now.” Ian is currently making up and selling killer home barbecue boxes for delivery from his kitchen in Ballymount.
“I get so excited thinking of new ways to inject flavour into barbeque dishes. For this shrimp 'n' grits recipe, I made a spiced lime and chilli butter to serve with the grilled baby corn, paired with charred king prawns and polenta cooked in coconut milk – my version of Asian grits!
“Traditionally, at a barbeque in Ireland, you might expect to be offered five different kinds of grilled (often burnt) meat and one green salad and a potato salad.
“I prefer to turn that upside down and only serve one or two really good pieces of protein – maybe a leg of lamb and some prawns, simply grilled – and then focus most of the cooking effort (and time) on a really interesting selection of sides, using different sauces and marinades for the vegetables – which will be grilled on the barbeque for extra flavour. This will hugely elevate your barbeque game.
“And, of course, one of the easiest and most effective ways to add oomph to any barbequed meat and or vegetable dish is to simply serve two or three different flavoured Kerrygold butters on the side. Such an instant, easy win.”
Kerrygold’s new #AtHomeWithKerrygold series enlists the help of their favourite kitchen experts who have shared tried and tested recipes for you to make at home. From impressive brunch recipes, to date night hits and ideas on what to bake with kids there is something for everyone! Follow @KerrygoldIRL on Instagram for easy-to-follow video tutorials on each recipe.
Click here to view all of the recipes.