Chef Adrian: 'Eat what makes you happy now'

Clodagh Finn talks to chef Adrian Martin about life after the closure of his London restaurant

Adrian Martin will be doing a live bake-along on Facebook today for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’s 65 Roses Day. Picture: SON Photographic
Adrian Martin will be doing a live bake-along on Facebook today for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’s 65 Roses Day. Picture: SON Photographic

Chef Adrian Martin’s new restaurant Wildflower in Camden, London, was booked for six weeks solid when it first opened its doors last month.

The rising star’s focus on fished, foraged and fresh ingredients and his Cavan-influenced cooking “went down a storm”, he says.

Then, the reality of Covid-19 hit home and the bookings started to disappear, table by table, until some 600 had been cancelled.

Martin, named among the most influential Irish chefs in London in this year’s Murphia List, briefly considered operating a takeout service. Then, the authorities cut utilities to Camden and he decided to close the doors of his restaurant temporarily.

His greatest disappointment was having to lay off his 11 staff as he would not have been able to guarantee their wages.

Like many others in the restaurant industry, the global coronavirus epidemic has taken a huge toll on a young chef who poured his life savings into opening his first restaurant.

“We got one week and two days out of it before we had to close,” he says. “I was following the news in Ireland and I closed earlier than everyone else [in London]. We were not going to take the risk. People are dying of this virus.”

Besides, Adrian Martin had a more pressing worry. When he spoke to Feelgood, his brother Seanie was stranded in Peru, cooped up in a hostel that was regularly visited by armed military ordering people to stay apart.

“That puts things into perspective,” he said.

Two days later, his brother was aboard a repatriation flight carrying more than 100 Irish citizens from Peru, and he is now at home with the family in Bawnboy, Cavan.

Adrian has been there since mid-March when he gave up his London apartment. He spoke to all of his suppliers and told them that he would pick up where he left off when all this is over.

It was tough but only for about one day. I never let anything get me down for too long. I manage the stress by working harder and looking to the solution.

For now, the family garden in Cavan – “we’re safe here in the middle of nowhere” – is reaping the benefit of that hard work. He and his brother Cathal are spending these exceptional days planting vegetables in the garden.

And Chef Adrian is also getting a look-in as he puts on his apron to make family dinners in the evening. However, he says people should not give themselves a hard time when it comes to food, particularly if they find that they are turning to the biscuit tin for comfort.

“This is a tough time for everyone and people go to food to cheer themselves up. Just go for it. I am not going to tell people not to eat this or that. Eat what makes you happy now,” he says.

To find out what makes Adrian happy, join him on Facebook today where he will be doing a live bake-along for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’s 65 Roses Day, a charity event that gets its name from the way children often first say the words “cystic fibrosis”.

He has been an ambassador for the charity for several years and knows many people who suffer from cystic fibrosis, including Julian Benson, a judge on Dancing with the Stars.

“It’s hard to believe that this small country of ours is number one in the world in terms of the numbers of people with cystic fibrosis for our population, but we are. We may not be able to change the stats today but we can change people’s lives for the better right now.”

John, Jade and Elizabeth Needham participate in 65 Roses Day. Chef Adrian Martin has been an ambassador for the charity for several years. File picture.
John, Jade and Elizabeth Needham participate in 65 Roses Day. Chef Adrian Martin has been an ambassador for the charity for several years. File picture.

The TV chef and cookbook author (Fakeaway and Create) called on everyone to join in the charity’s home-based activities and donate online to help improve supports for Ireland’s some 1,400 CF sufferers.

He said he was humbled by the friendships he made during his work with the charity, some of whom managed to cope not only with CF but other diseases, and to do so with grace.

It makes him look at his own situation and be thankful. But also determined. The day will come when his restaurant will reopen, he says. “And when I go back, we will go stronger again.”

To support Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’s 65 Roses Day donate online at 65RosesDay.ie.

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