Alice Jary of Rúibín Galway on the importance of being committed to making change
Here, head chef and co-owner of Galway’s Rúibín restaurant gives us an insight into the important role played by food in her life, and how cooking became a form of therapy.
Opening along the docks in Galway city back in 2019, Rúibín bar and restaurant became an instant favourite among locals and tourists alike. A labour of love by owners Richard Kennan and Alice Jary, the energy they’ve been putting into their business has certainly been paying off.
Here, we catch up with head chef and co-owner Alice Jary to get her take on the Irish foodie scene, the best restaurants in Ireland, and the secret to the perfect dining experience.
What are your earliest memories of food?
My mum is an amazing cook, so it has always been a huge part of our daily home life. I have been helping her in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. I always remember baking little fairy cakes to take to school.
How would you describe your relationship with food?
I just love it, I love everything about it.
How did food become a part of your life?
I went to GMIT to study culinary arts after school, and then just went from there working in kitchens in Galway and London, then I met Richie and it just became our goal to open a place together.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
First things first, coffee! I don’t usually eat breakfast, but on Sunday mornings I love a simple bagel with Herterich’s coffee and maple bacon, and cream cheese.
If you’re impressing friends and family at a dinner party, what are you serving up?
I always go for family style, and I generally choose a cuisine and go from there. A lot of the time we go for tacos, and I’ll make something like a barbacoa with a lamb leg, a big stack of tortillas, and a load of little salsas and sides.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
It’s impossible to choose just one. There are so many incredible chefs out there, thinking outside the box and pushing the boundaries, and there are so many people I work with daily who inspire me.
What would your last meal on earth be?
My mum’s roast dinner.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
A really spicy curry with all of the sides.
What’s the go-to quick meal you cook when you’re tired and hungry?
I would grab some good quality pasta and make a quick sauce with anchovies, tomatoes, olives and chilli.
What is one food or flavour you cannot stand?
A bacon sandwich and a cup of strong tea.
Sweet or savoury?
Fine dining or pub grub?
It really depends on the situation. I love going for a fine dining meal with other hospitality people, talking through the dishes and flavours, and wondering ‘how do they make this?’ However, pub grub, when it’s done well, is hard to beat.
Favourite restaurant in Ireland?
I couldn’t choose a favourite, because I have had some incredible meals here — and there are still so many restaurants on my list of places to eat! Some standout ones for me are The Universal and Éan in Galway, and Kai for lunch is great. Uno Mas, Big Fan, and Fish Shop in Dublin are all excellent. Top of my list of places to visit next are Goldie and Dede, both in Cork. I’m loving what they’re both doing.
Best coffee in Ireland?
Favourite coffee is Calendar Coffee in Galway. I love their ethos, and the coffee is class. But my favourite coffee shop is Urban Grind. I love everything about it, and the coffee is consistently great.
Go-to beverage accompaniment?
Wine and cheese for the win!
What are your thoughts on the Irish foodie scene?
I love the movement towards shopping local and eating seasonably and sustainably that has come about since lockdowns. There are so many amazing growers, farmers, producers, bakers, etc. on this little island and it’s so wonderful to see them getting the recognition they deserve.
What does food — sitting down to a meal with friends, mindfully preparing a meal, nourishment, etc — mean to you?
It’s huge, there is food for every situation — if you’re sick, if you’re down, if you’re celebrating, or trying to impress. From planning a meal, to buying the ingredients, cooking, serving, eating. It’s like therapy for me.
Food for thought — Is there room for improvement within the Irish food/restaurant/hospitality scene?
There is always room for improvement. One thing that needs improvement straight away is working conditions within our industry. We have to shine a light on abuse in the industry and be committed to making change. It’s so important to break this cycle and teach younger chefs — and hospitality workers in general — not to accept it as the norm. This has to happen now.
Chef’s kiss — Tell us about one standout foodie experience you’ve had recently.
When Éan in Galway first opened with Christine leading the kitchen, I went with a friend and we ate every dish on the menu. It was outstanding and I will remember that tomato dish forever.
Compliments to the chef — Now’s your chance to sing the praises of a talented chef, beloved restaurant or particularly talented foodie family member.
Richie’s family home, Roundwood House in Laois, used to be run by his parents, and is now run by his sister Hannah and her Husband Paddy. Roundwood House is magical, it’s the best of the best of Irish hospitality. Christine Walsh is unbelievably talented and she is doing important work on changing the culture in kitchens. Grainne Mullins is incredibly driven and talented, and her chocolates are stunning. A special mention here to my sister, Ruby. She started out her career with me in Rúibín from day one. She moved to London in the summer to work at Manteca in Shoreditch. Her drive and passion is second to none.
Secret ingredient — What, in your estimation, makes the perfect dining experience?
Great food prepared with love, warm and relaxed service, and good drinks. If you have those three things, that’s perfection.