Having worked in hospitality in New York for over a year, one of the first things people would say to me is "oh, I hear the food in Ireland is terrrible."
I had to do a LOT of convincing to make them think otherwise. Sure, you Google Irish Food and all the searches bring up grim, traditional dishes that resemble slop rather than anything edible.
But with a long history of incredible produce, fresh seafood, and some of the most exciting chefs in Europe, how is our reputation still so bad? Irish cooking has always been quite rustic, but a new generation of chefs are adding a beautiful lightness to our cuisine, and it needs to be more globally recognised.
Irish food is actually some of the best in the world. Here's why I love it so much...
The farm to table produce is outta this world
Artisan producers and family farms can be found all over the country, supplying some of the best restaurants in Ireland as well as local grocery stores and farmers' markets.
With sustainability and keeping things seasonal a key player in recent times when it comes to menu options, Irish producers are absolutely killing it right now.
Those mushrooms on your plate? They could be handpicked from Ballyhoura. That Gubbeen cheese? It's made by the chef's neighbour.
Being an island means the seafood is fresh AF
Our waters have such an abundant stock of tasty sea creatures, and Irish seafood is renowned for being some of the most flavoursome, and being able to get fresh fish delivered every morning is a real advantage.
Galway native oysters, crab claws, Dublin Bay prawns, salmon, scallops, fresh mussels... The list goes on and on, and we can't get enough of it.
Seafood is having a real moment right now, with chefs making some amazing creations - Klaw's blowtorched oysters spring to mind, as well as pretty much any Fisherman's Platter you'll get on the West Coast.
We know how to merge traditional and modern
Homecooked Irish meals have a real warmth about them, from comforting stews to juicy racks of Kerry lamb.
We're now learning to take the traditional ingredients that have always worked well, like Irish beef or cockles, and put a modern spin on them, adding bolder flavours and experimenting with smoking and fermenting techniques.
Pretty plating is a help, too.
Some of the most exciting chefs are right here
From JP MacMahon's Aniar, which is a gorgeous delight of contemporary Irish cuisine and intriguing details, and Matrijn Kajuiter at The Cliff House whipping up perfect seafood to the classic Patrick Guilbaud's residence at The Merrion Hotel, Ireland has its fair share of food masters.
The Michelin Guide's most recent list just goes to show how many chefs are slaying it right now. A whopping 12 restaurants have Michelin stars, and 25 Irish restaurants received a Bib Gourmand, which honours incredible cooking at a reasonable price.
And our local restaurants are the best you'll find
Whether you stumble upon a hidden gem in a small village in Cork or have a simply amazing neighbourhood restaurant just around the corner from you, it's the local food heroes who we're really loving right now.
For me, it's the sheer choice of dining options we have on such a small island that wows me every time.
Dublin favourites such as Richmond and Bastible are constantly pushing the boat out with new menus and interesting ingredients, and it's that level of creativity and want to never settle that makes the food scene in this country so exciting right now.
Next time someone gives out about Irish food, tell them they're clearly eating at the wrong places, because if there's one thing we do right, it's food.
Header image: Chapter One/Instagram