With over 18 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, Erica Drum is a private chef, cookery tutor, and food stylist. She hosts pop-up supper clubs in her Dublin home. She’ll be at Taste of Dublin: Festive from November 28 to December 1. Here, she shares her career moments and top tips for reducing food waste.
Tell me a little about your career path – what led you to become a private chef, cookery tutor, food stylist and supper club host?
My family is very focused around food, hosting and entertaining. There was a dinner party every week, and I feel like I was born to be part of it all. I went on to study hospitality management in DIT, worked as a chef and in a mixture of roles, and for the past 12 years was mainly in front of the house. From here, I moved to work for myself and combine my love of cooking and hosting into what I do now, and I love it.
What would surprise people most about what you do?
I love to travel so much that I get joy out of eating airplane food, just because it gives me a happy feeling of travel, no matter how bad it is!
What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?
In 2017, I went to open a restaurant when the premises went into receivership on day one. I was distraught. Looking back, it shaped my future in a way I could not have imagined. I turned to cooking to get through the heartache, but with that, realised my true passion was to feed others and be creative. Getting out of your comfort zone is a very difficult task, but you will learn something new every single day.
What ingredients are you excited about working with at the moment?
I love mixing flavours from all around the world, and using locally sourced produce to create exciting new dishes. Our produce in Ireland is second to none, and the sooner we all realise that and its value, the better.
What ingredients would you suggest people try cooking with this festive season?
I get sad hearing the disdain some people have towards Brussels sprouts and cabbage. It usually stems from them being cooked badly in our past. I love to do my sprouts simply fried in miso, honey and butter, which gives them a crispy, caramelised edge.
You’re an advocate for reducing food waste and sustainability – what simple steps can everyone take this festive season that you feel would make a huge impact?
The biggest thing we can all do is start to become aware of our waste. Take a moment to think every time we put anything edible in the bin. We should respect food with the high regard it deserves. When loading your plate or others on Christmas Day, just serve very small amounts. People can always go back for more. Otherwise, “our eyes being too big for our belly” comes into play, and the leftovers on the plates are just scrapped into the bin.
And are there bigger steps you’d like people to make in 2020? And do you see a big change in the way food will be packaged, purchased, and disposed of in the next year?
I am a keen advocate of stopping food waste. This all starts with our thought process in the first place. I think it is really important to educate people about the severity of the situation. For example, I plan to be involved with talks and meet-ups about the subject and host demos on how we can stop our food waste in the kitchen. I do not doubt that this will be the forefront of everything that is produced and packaged in Ireland going forward. It is quite simply an unavoidable situation. We can vote with our euro and, as said on T-shirts at JP McMahon’s Food On The Edge, “Gastronomy is Democracy”.
What will you be talking about and cooking at Taste of Dublin: Festive?
I will be doing some very quick and delicious Christmas canapés for all to enjoy, including some vegan options. I will also MC some of the talks with Irish chefs and will be asking what they see happening with the future of Irish food.
Is there anyone else at the event you’re looking forward to hearing or learning from?
All of the chefs and how they are finding the new challenge of making their kitchens sustainable.
What are you looking forward to cooking yourself this Christmas?
I plan to create some new plant-based dishes that can still give us all that nostalgic feeling of home-cooked Christmas food, but with a twist. I look forward to trying out some new fermentation methods on my small autumn harvest, such as artichokes.
Taste of Dublin: Festive runs November 28 to December 1 at the RDS, Dublin. For details and tickets, visit dublin.tastefestivals.com.
Follow Erica at @drums_kitchen