Holly Carpenter on her affinity with food and her aspirations to become an effortless culinary goddess
Here, we hear from Holly Carpenter on everything from her first memories of food to her go-to dinner party spread.
Former Miss Ireland turned entrepreneur, influencer, and all round social media queen Holly Carpenter has been sharing her life online for quite some time now. From fashion and beauty content to health, fitness and wellness clips, Holly’s been known to share some sound advice when it comes to food recipes and restaurant recommendations.
Growing up in a home where mealtime was quality time, food has remained a hugely social aspect of Holly’s life. From her favourite restaurants in Ireland to her last meal on earth, read on to get a taste of Holly Carpenter’s life in food…
What are your earliest memories of food?
I feel lucky that I grew up in a home where we all sat down for dinner together at 6pm every evening. Not everyone grows up with that kind of routine, so I’ve always associated food with people coming together. I have vivid memories of eating spaghetti bolognese with my family from a very young age. I also remember the excitement of eating cereal in the morning with my brother Ben, hoping that a toy would fall out of the box into my cereal bowl. I’d be raging if Ben got it and not me.
How would you describe your relationship with food?
I didn’t have a great relationship with food in my early 20s. I went through a period of obsessively counting calories and stressing over the thought of gaining weight from certain foods. I think a lot of people go through that at some stage in their lives and it can feel like it consumes your mind constantly. Thankfully these days I have a great relationship with food. I don’t restrict myself and I have learned how important it is to enjoy a varied and balanced diet/lifestyle. I think that partly comes down to being kinder to myself and feeling more comfortable in my body as I get older.
What was the first meal you learned to cook?
I remember I was seriously impressed with myself when I learned how to make a chicken and broccoli bake in first year. I brought it home for my family to enjoy for dinner but it had been sitting in my locker all day so I don’t know how appetising it was by 6pm. Chicken and broccoli bake is up there with one of my favourite comfort food meals.
How did food become a part of your career/business/personal brand?
I love sharing snippets of my day-to-day life on Instagram. Beauty, skincare and the gym feature heavily, so I started getting lots of questions about my diet from followers. I really enjoy being able to share recipes and restaurants I like with my followers and I get a lot of meal inspiration on social media too. I’m not a qualified nutritionist or chef so I stay in my lane when it comes to recommending different foods. I wouldn’t share a ‘what I eat in a day’ video for example, as everyone’s body and lifestyle is different.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
I make overnight oats every Sunday night. It might sound boring but it’s a nice little routine. I use cute Tupperware jars and they are so handy to throw into my gym bag. I always add Chia seeds, cinnamon, honey and blueberries. I’m a big coffee lover too so I usually make a large coffee with my Nespresso machine and add some hot milk.
If you’re impressing friends and family at a dinner party, what are you serving up?
I enjoy making herb crusted salmon (Jamie Oliver’s recipe) with some baby potatoes and greens. I always go to my Avoca cookbook to find recipes for interesting side dishes. Their broccoli and feta salad is so simple and delicious. I serve a Malteser cheesecake for dessert when I’m going all out. I use edible gold glitter spray for this and it’s stunning.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
My mum Jane. She makes cooking look easy and I aspire to be an effortless culinary goddess like her someday.
What would your last meal on earth be?
Either a giant cheese board with all the trimmings or my mum’s Christmas dinner. Her stuffing and roast potatoes are unmatched, I would leave this earth feeling full and satisfied.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
It’s such a simple student meal but I love pesto pasta topped with cheese. Or sometimes you can’t beat a simple ham, cheese and onion toastie.
What’s the go-to quick meal you cook when you’re tired and hungry?
I usually have a few microwaveable meals in the fridge for when I’m really tired. They’re so handy on days where you don’t have it in you to do a food shop. I’m also a big fan of a chicken and vegetable stir fry with soy sauce and chilli flakes.
What is one food or flavour you cannot stand?
I would say I’m quite open minded and adventurous when it comes to trying new foods but I feel sick at the thought of eating liver. I had it once in France and the texture alone was enough for me to make a mental note to never try it again.
My go-to would be a chicken fillet roll for lunch, and a burrito for dinner. I can eat all day when I’m hungover, there’s no stopping me so snacks are also essential. I have a freezer full of Calippo ice pops, they’re amazing as a hangover cure. Even if you just use them to hold them against your forehead to ease your headache.
Sweet or savoury?
Sweet. I adore chocolate, pastries and ice cream.
Fine dining or pub grub?
Favourite restaurant in Ireland?
Best coffee in Ireland?
Kaph Drury Street.
Go-to beverage accompaniment?
White wine and salmon. My favourite white wine is a Sauvignon Blanc called ‘Walnut Block’. It’s stunning.
What are your thoughts on the Irish foodie scene?
I think we have an incredible selection of restaurants and cafes in Ireland. Whether you’re in the mood for fresh fish in Howth or tapas in town we have so many options, it’s never boring.
What’s your favourite thing about cooking?
I love the feeling when you try a new dish and it works out really well. I wouldn’t say cooking comes naturally to me so I feel really proud of myself when I follow a recipe and it turns out delicious. Also who doesn’t love compliments in the kitchen? I enjoy the act of casually saying “oh this is nothing, I just whipped it up” even though I know I was sweating, having a nervous breakdown in the kitchen over the fear of burning everything.
What does food — sitting down to a meal with friends, mindfully preparing a meal, nourishment, etc — mean to you?
Food is the centre of a huge chunk of my social life. Meeting friends for coffee, going for Sunday roasts in my parents’, and eating dinner in the evenings with my boyfriend are all such important parts of my day and week. Although my boyfriend and I have different work schedules we make a big effort to eat together in the evening. It’s such a nice time to put the phones away and hear about each other’s day.
Food for thought — Is there room for improvement within the Irish food/restaurant/hospitality scene?
I know a lot of places are having issues with staff shortages and increased prices on alcohol etc., so considering all of that I think the Irish hospitality scene is doing really well. People are quick to complain but unless you’ve worked in a restaurant you’ve no idea how stressful it can be.
Chef’s kiss — Tell us about one standout foodie experience you’ve had recently.
I tried the tasting menu in Rare in Kinsale and it was an incredible experience. Each course was sensational and their cocktail menu was amazing too. If you’re looking for something in Dublin then Karachi Restaurant in Bayside is incredible. They offer authentic Pakistani and eastern cuisine.
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 send my compliments to the chefs in Slice Stoneybatter. Hands down the best brunch in Dublin, delicious coffee and impeccable vibes.
Secret ingredient — What, in your estimation, makes the perfect dining experience?
The atmosphere is so important in my opinion. If I go somewhere and there’s a good vibe — friendly warm staff, music playing, candles lit, soft lighting — I’ll be back. These are all important factors that define people’s first impression of a restaurant, before you even taste anything.
Feature image via Alan Keville.