Lifestyle – Chef JP McMahon has been instrumental in putting Galway on the food map through his own restaurants, the Galway Food Festival and Food On The Edge. Ten years after opening his first premises, his passion is undimmed as Judy Murphy found out when she met him.
JP McMahon doesn’t have to think too hard about the high point of his 10-year career as a restaurateur in Galway City. “Winning the Michelin star for Aniar,” he says simply. Aniar, which opened in 2011, won the coveted award just 14 months later and the Dominick Street restaurant has retained it ever since. “Keeping that is probably the hardest thing we do every day,” he says. Another high point is the staff who have worked for them, many of whom are still in contact.
The low-point for the man who, with his wife Drigín Gaffey, owns two other restaurants in Galway is also an easy question to answer.
“Having to close Cava,” he says of the Spanish tapas bar Cava Bodega which was the couple’s first restaurant – it opened in 2008 on Dominick Street.
Cava closed in early 2013 because of what JP describes as “our equivalent to a bad mortgage”, namely upward-only lease. When the recession came, they were in trouble. It was closed for a year but since its reincarnation in the city’s Middle Street, has gone on to new levels of success. However, at the time they closed, he didn’t know if it would ever re-emerge.
Aniar, meanwhile, attracts food-lovers from Ireland and abroad – mostly abroad, he says – many of whom visit Galway to dine there and in the city’s other Michelin-starred restaurant, Loam.
As well as running Aniar, Cava and Tartare Wine Bar, which collectively operate under the EAT banner, JP has also found time to become a mentor on the RTÉ series, Taste of Success, write a weekly food column for the Irish Times and launch a campaign to have food education included on the school curriculum. He’s also written a cookbook and regularly speaks at food conferences worldwide. In 2015, he broke new ground by launching Food On The Edge, an annual two-day symposium held in Galway every October, which has put Ireland on the international food map. It’s no mean feat for a man who turned 40 this year.
JP McMahon came to cheffing indirectly and without formal training but few people have had more influence on Galway’s or Ireland’s food scene than he’s had.
Dublin-born and raised in Kildare, he graduated in English and Art History from UCC, and during his holidays, worked in the Crawford Art Gallery Café when Isaac Allen of Ballymaloe was at the helm. Before that, JP had worked in an Italian restaurant in Maynooth during his school holidays – his father taught physics in Maynooth University.
At different times too, he worked in the kitchen of Fat Freddie’s in Galway and was head chef there when he and Drigín got an opportunity to open their own restaurant. They opted for a Spanish theme with Cava Bodega. Later came Aniar, with its focus on West of Ireland ingredients and fine dining. That was followed by Eat at Massimo (now gone). Last year they opened a café and wine bar, Tartare on Dominick Street, across the road from Aniar, again focusing on locally-produced food and selling organic wine.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Galway to complete vaccine roll-out by end of the summer
On the first anniversary of Covid-19’s deadly arrival into Ireland, the head of the Saolta hospital group has predicted that all who want the vaccine will have received it by the end of the summer.
Tony Canavan, CEO of the seven public hospitals, told the Connacht Tribune that the HSE was planning to set up satellite centres from the main vaccination hub at the Galway Racecourse to vaccinate people on the islands and in the most rural parts of the county.
While locations have not yet been signed up, the HSE was looking at larger buildings with good access that could be used temporarily to carry out the vaccination programme over a short period.
“We do want to reach out to rural parts of the region instead of drawing in people from the likes of Clifden and over from the islands. The plan is to set up satellites from the main centre, sending out small teams out to the likes of Connemara,” he explained.
“Ideally we’d run it as close as possible to the same time that the main centres are operating once that is set up. Communication is key – if people know we’re coming, it will put people’s minds at rest.”
Get all the latest Covid-19 coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway meteorologist enjoying new-found fame in the sun!
Growing up in Galway where four seasons in a day is considered a soft one, Linda Hughes always had a keen interest in the weather.
But unlike most Irish people, instead of just obsessing about it, she actually went and pursued it as a career.
The latest meteorologist to appear on RTE’s weather forecasts hails from Porridgtown, Oughterard, and brings with her an impressive background in marine forecasting.
She spent six years in Aerospace and Marine International in Aberdeen, Scotland, which provides forecasts for the oil and gas industry.
The 33-year-old was a route analyst responsible for planning routes for global shipping companies. She joined the company after studying experimental physics in NUIG and doing a masters in applied meteorology in Redding in the UK.
“My job was to keep crews safe and not lose cargo by picking the best route to get them to their destination as quickly as possibly but avoiding hurricanes, severe storms,” she explains.
“It was a very interesting job, I really enjoyed it but it was very stressful as you were dealing with bad weather all the time because there’s always bad weather in some part of the world.”
Read the full interview with Linda Hughes in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Great-great-grandmother home after Covid, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery
Her family are understandably calling her their miracle mum – because an 81 year old great-great-grandmother from Galway has bounced back from Covid-19, a stroke, heart failure and brain surgery since Christmas…to return hale and hearty, to her own home.
But Mary Quinn’s family will never forget the trauma of the last three months, as the Woodford woman fought back against all of the odds from a series of catastrophic set-backs.
The drama began when Mary was found with a bleed on her brain on December 16. She was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital, and transferred to Beaumont a day later where she underwent an emergency procedure – only to then suffer a stroke.
To compound the crisis, while in Beaumont, she contracted pneumonia, suffered heart failure and developed COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.
“Christmas without mom; things did not look good,” said her daughter Catherine Shiel.
But the worst was still to come – because before Mary was discharged, she contracted Covid-19.
Read Mary’s full, heart-warming story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie