Chef Meeran Manzoor on his life in food
Here, we catch up with Chef Meeran Manzoor to chat about everything from his earliest memories of food to his favourite flavours and culinary inspirations.
Group Executive Chef of The Blue Haven Collection’s locations in West Cork, Meeran Manzoor manages both Old Bank House and Blue Haven Hotel in Kinsale, which includes Fishmarket Bistro, and RARE, a high end fine dining restaurant.
Originally from Chennai in Southern India, his cooking career has brought him all over the world and garnered him many awards and accolades over the years. Here, he tells us all about the role food has played in shaping the chef he is today, and shows some love to his favourite (and most inspiring) people and places.
What are your earliest memories of food?
My food memories start with a movie I saw when I was seven years old. There was a cooking scene in a forest and I was so amazed by it. At eleven years old I started making my own omelettes and it has continued since.
How would you describe your relationship with food?
I would like to describe my relationship with food as humble, intimate and honest.
What was the first meal you learned to cook?
Pan fried chicken breast with gratinated goats cheese and some other components I can’t remember. It was during my first class at the University of West London, and prior to that I had never tasted goats cheese. It was quite a moment when I took the first bite, goats cheese didn’t like me back then.
How did you set about becoming a chef?
I was very naughty in school and during secondary school I knew that cooking was the one thing I would want to do. On reflection, I think all my childhood memories are related to food. I think it was in my system and I am now very glad that I made this choice at an early age.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
I love dosas for breakfast (it’s a fermented rice pancake, a traditional breakfast from Chennai), but on most days, it’s eggs royale or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
If you’re impressing friends and family at a dinner party, what are you serving up?
I love fish and seafood. If I am going for traditional Indian food, it’s Biryani. If I am going European, it will be salt-baked whole fish or a chowder. I’m a big fan of garlic potatoes and roasted seasonal veggies – I like simple things.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
Anthony Bourdain. He’s inspired me alot in the way he made everyone believe food is the point of connection, and that the simplest things in cooking are very special and chefs are angels (I particularly love this part).
What would your last meal on earth be?
If it’s my last meal I’d like to take two if possible please. One, Biryani and two, my wife’s tomato rice – it’s divine.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
I love pastas, a simple pasta with really good tomatoes, basil, parmesan and good olive oil is just delicious. There’s nothing more comforting than this.
What’s the go-to quick meal you cook when you’re tired and hungry?
A quick egg fried rice or noodles.
What is one food or flavour you cannot stand?
Goat’s cheese – and still it’s in all my menus. It’s a battle trying to conquer goat’s cheese, one day I will win.
Spicy chicken soup and a big warm chocolate cake.
Sweet or savoury?
Fine dining or pub grub?
I would drive miles for a good pub grub.
Favourite restaurant in Ireland?
It’s very difficult to narrow down to one, I have several favourites for each cuisine. But to name one, I will go with Kai in Galway. It’s just simple and super.
Best coffee in Ireland?
I am not a coffee person but whenever I drink it’s always Clonakilty’s Stone Valley Coffee, there is something special in this mix.
Go-to beverage accompaniment?
I love bubble teas, they are so much fun to drink and yet delicious. I have been fond of them since I first visited Thailand.
What are your thoughts on the Irish foodie scene?
The Irish food scene is evolving at such a pace with so much amazing produce at our doorstep no matter which part of Ireland you are from. I am delighted that I am now part of this amazing food scene which I believe will reach new heights in the near future.
What’s your favourite thing about cooking?
That we as chefs are able to spread happiness via food. It just gives me so much joy to be able to cook and then talk to my guests after about their experience. Their smiles just make it all worth it.
What does food — sitting down to a meal with friends, mindfully preparing a meal, nourishment, etc — mean to you?
It means everything to me as a chef and as a person. So many things can go wrong with food but when you make it right it’s just a totally different feeling altogether.
Food for thought — Is there room for improvement within the Irish food/restaurant/hospitality scene?
There is always room for improvement in everything. But with the current food scene I would like to see more emphasis on making people aware of the amazing local Irish ingredients that we have right next to us, be it cheese, meat, vegetables, seafood or alcohol. I see a major shift in the five years that I’ve been in Ireland and I feel very positive about this journey going forward. We are on the right path.
Chef’s kiss — Tell us about one standout foodie experience you’ve had recently.
Recently my wife and I went on a food experience in Dublin, curated by ourselves. Starters in Big Fan Bao, mains in Sole, desserts in Pichet, with drinks after in Fade Street Social and some baklavas on the way back to the hotel. It was a very memorable experience, especially as it was my first visit to Dublin in the five years I’ve lived in Ireland.
Compliments to the chef — Now’s your chance to sing the praises of a talented chef, beloved restaurant or particularly talented foodie family member.
I would like to take this opportunity and acknowledge the effort Chef JP McMahon puts in making the Irish food scene go global. He’s such an inspiration for chefs like me to follow and create our own in time. More power to you chef .
Secret ingredient — What, in your estimation, makes the perfect dining experience?
For me, good food and good laughs in a relaxed environment makes the perfect dining experience.