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Modern food and wellness expert Aisling Larkin on her life in food

Modern food and wellness expert Aisling Larkin on her life in food


by Sarah Gill
11th Jun 2024

Here, we catch up with Aisling Larkin to chat about everything from her earliest memories of food to her favourite flavours and culinary inspirations.

Aisling Larkin is a food and wellness expert endeavouring to educate, motivate, create and curate a food wellness lifestyle achievable by all. She believes that contentment, confidence and wellness are all within our reach, and provides simple, nutrient-dense recipes that are good for you, your soul and the planet.

Aisling Larkin will appear as part of the incredible lineup at Dublin’s legendary culinary festival, Taste of Dublin in Merrion Square this weekend.

Here, she shares her life in food…

Aisling Larkin

What are your earliest memories of food?

Boiled eggs and soldiers with my dad at 6.30am before he went to work and then as we got a little older, we would be running out the door to the school bus and there would be a whole salmon wrapped in newspaper sitting on the bonnet of the car that my uncle would have dropped in after catching it in the river.

How would you describe your relationship with food?

Joyful and so full of appreciation and gratitude.

What was the first meal you learned to cook?

I remember less about the what the first meal was, but I remember so much more about the vibe. It was and my mom and I in the kitchen. There was a sense of togetherness, away from the world, gentle chatter in the kitchen with my sisters. Lots of fun, creativity and a sense of nurturing. It was simple things I think, like buns, scones, and soda bread and then things like scrambled eggs, lasagne, roast salmon.

 

How did food become a part of your career?

My journey to here has been very multidimensional – it has always been food first. I wanted to learn how to cook, then I wanted to learn how to teach people how to cook. So, I did that and that. Then I wanted to learn the details of developing products, so I did a Masters in Food Product Development & Culinary Innovation.

Then I wanted to learn more… I wanted to learn about the psychology and physiology of eating, so I travelled to the States and trained in feeding therapy and went back again a few years later to train in Mindful Eating Coaching. Learning how to eat is as important as what we eat, so I spent 9 months commuting over and back to the University of Helsinki in Finland to learn from world leaders about food education.

I have culminated all of this into a career that now spans weekly broadcasting on radio and television, content creation, consultancy and food design and curating purposeful events. My brand now is about conscious and considered choices, it is about a modern, yet simple approach to food that is better for you and your family.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

I have a trifecta rotation of eggs, oats and loaded toast. I rotate these each day so a typical week might look like my power scrambled egg on Monday, overnight oats with chia seeds, jam, peach and raspberry on Tuesday, loaded toasts with mushrooms and wilted spinach on Wednesday, boiled eggs with peanut rayu and wholegrain toast on Thursday, granola on Friday and loaded toast with nut butter, banana and blueberries on Saturday. Sunday is a total wildcard.

If you’re impressing friends and family at a dinner party, what are you serving up?

My infamous dinner party grazing boards to start and a signature cocktail, followed by monkfish and langoustines roast in a Café de Paris Butter, local wilted greens, confit garlic mash & crispy purple potatoes. For dessert, I would be torn between citrus or chocolate – maybe a grapefruit meringue pie or a chocolate marquis.

Who is your culinary inspiration?

Ina Garten for home cooking. Ross Lewis for work.

What would your last meal on earth be?

Artisan sourdough bread, lightly toasted and with Kerrygold butter ever so slightly melty on top, coupled with a stunning glass of champagne.

What’s your go-to comfort food?

Tea and chocolate.

What’s the go-to quick meal you cook when you’re tired and hungry?

Scrambled egg and hot smoked salmon on a wholewheat sesame bagel.

 

What is one food or flavour you cannot stand?

Liquorice!

Hangover cure?

Cheese and onion crisp sandwich and Coke Zero.

Sweet or savoury?

Savoury.

Fine dining or pub grub?

Gastro pub dining – my favourite way to eat.

Favourite restaurant in Ireland?

The Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.

Best coffee in Ireland?

Trá Coffee from Waterford.

Go-to beverage accompaniment?

Depends on the beverage, tea and Club Milk for dipping is a classic, smoked almond, Nocellara olives and cheese with wine.

What are your thoughts on the Irish food scene?

Inspirational, respectful, grounded. I am so proud to be part of this Irish food scene, but it is something I never take for granted. Chefs like Paul Flynn, Ross Lewis, Derry Clarke, Darina Allen – they have all paved the way for the likes of me and my generation. We grew up on their foundational beliefs of what Irish food could and should be. It is my job to carry on those philosophies and build on them.

What’s your favourite thing about cooking?

Flavour pairing – I love pulling together flavours, classic pairings, unusual flavours that work and new surprises to create dishes that excite and comfort.

What does food — sitting down to a meal with friends, mindfully preparing a meal, nourishment, etc — mean to you?

It is my everything. It is safety, it is home, it is love, it is where my heart sings. If I cook for you and give you my food it is my way of expressing a form of love, trust, friendship, kinship with you. When we cook, we pour hours of thought, time, effort, creativity, and love into it. To gift that to someone is special. And all you ever ask for is a little thank you.

Food for thought — Is there room for improvement within the Irish food/restaurant/hospitality scene?

Yes we all, government, LEO’s, chefs, retailers, customers, need to support our small local, artisan producers (who pour their heart and soul into everything they do ) to create the best produce they can for us each and every day. We need more innovation hubs, small commercial kitchen spaces around the country like the Space Enterprise Centre in Dublin 7. That space is exceptional. We need more of those dotted around.

Chef’s kiss — Tell us about one standout foodie experience you’ve had recently.

We were in Spain recently and there is an amazing artisan ice cream shop that does the most amazing ice cream flavour pairings – Yuzu and vanilla, confit ginger, olive oil and lavender. It was extraordinary.

Compliments to the chef — Now’s your chance to sing the praises of a talented chef, beloved restaurant or particularly talented foodie family member.

Oh wow, there are so many people in the industry I look up to. Rachel Allen is phenomenal, her work ethic and personality is second to none, Anna Haugh from Myrtle Restaurant in Chelsea is amazing in her philosophies to work, life, food and culture. Eunice Power, the CEO of the Waterford Festival of Food is a powerhouse and visionary for what she is doing with the festival.

Secret ingredient — What, in your estimation, makes the perfect dining experience?

Well, now that you ask… my dining events are close to perfect from what I hear. When I ask my guests who come to my ‘The Gathering Dinner Parties’ and my wellness retreat they all say the same thing. I create a relaxed, casual yet luxe vibe…. I use only quality produce creating dishes with simplicity which are joyful, a fabulous libation (or two) and most of all the possibility of spending time with new and interesting people.

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