This Much I Know: Chef, Jess Murphy

This Much I Know: Chef, Jess Murphy

Food cooked with fear is disgusting.

I absolutely don’t believe chefs have to shout to be heard. Good kitchens are all about communication and team work. It’s about co-operation and learning that you’re not in competition with everyone else. I had to learn that. For years, when I was coming up the ranks, I’d be trying to do better than the next person.

Since I was nine years old, I knew I wanted to be a chef. I had to wait until I was 20, though, before I left New Zealand.

My first memory of cooking is with my grandmother. She had a huge farm and used to cook for the shearers where I grew up in Wairoa in the middle of nowhere on the North Island’s east coast.

I was a very outgoing tom-boyish kind of child. I helped my dad to kill pigs from the age of four.

The worst job I ever had was when I was in high school, about 13 or 14, it was crutching which means shaving sheeps’ arses so they don’t get maggots. I’ll never forget the stink.

I left school at 16 and became a dish washer in a local restaurant for two years. I moved to Australia and put myself through college.

Ambition is 100% more important than talent — you have to have the drive to succeed.

My favourite saying is ‘it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up again.’

I believe in always trusting your gut. And in fate. I met my husband Dave in the Australian outback. He’s from Carlow. We moved here 15 years ago and opened our restaurant Kai 11 years ago.

I don’t think I’d have had the opportunity to work so closely with farmers and producers anywhere else. I look on it as cooking food with a community based ethos. I’m literally able to ask a farmer to grow a crop of corn and say I will buy all of it. We get our laundry done around the corner, we buy our spuds at the end of the road. It’s all local. If you’re lucky, you might even get an edible flower on your plate.

My biggest challenge has been working so hard. Running a restaurant is pretty hardcore.

Your adrenalin is pumping until at least 10 at night. Learning how to breathe in a stressful environment has been of amazing help to me whenever I feel overwhelmed. It really calms me down. I try to teach the breathing technique to others — and, I started writing down my feelings to figure out why I was feeling so overwhelmed.

I just turned 41. Nowadays, they more or less leave me on my own to do what I want to do!

I think Irish people are very humble, certainly when it comes to the food culture here, which is going from strength to strength, thanks to so many immigrants adding to it.

The trait I look for in friends is being able to pull the piss out of yourself.

What irritates me most is mansplaining. I still get it now and then.

My idea of misery is working nine to five in front of a computer.

My idea of happiness is eating a great meal.

If money wasn’t an issue I’d be doing exactly what I am doing.

I work a lot and don’t really have another past-time — I’ve very creative and did try my hand at art but I wasn’t that great at it.

My favourite place to unwind is going for a walk in Salthill.

I believe in some kind of after life. I’m part Maori. We all come from somewhere, but the body is just a shell. When you die, the spirit flies off.

My biggest fault is thinking that everybody else always knows what I’m talking about.

Because sometimes I don’t even finish my sentences….

So far life has taught me that there is only one of you, so be yourself.

Jess Murphy owns and runs Kai restaurant in Galway with her husband Dave Murphy and is a high profile supporter of the UNHCR

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