This much I know: Trish Deseine, chef and author

My message has always been that it’s OK to be a home cook, says Trish Deseine.

I know how to make cooking fun. I’m not a trained chef. I fervently believe that after a very small amount of knowledge, a lot of cheffy rules are actually counter productive to cooking at home. As long as the flavour is there, that’s the main thing. You don’t have to do things like a chef, that’s all a myth.

My first memory of cooking is helping to make a cheese cake with lemon jelly and Philadelphia cream cheese, which was the height of fashion back in the 1970s when yogurt and ready meals were still novelties.

My father was a beef farmer and my mother was a teacher. They did a lot of entertaining. Watching Mad Men recently, it all looked a bit like that — plenty of orange crochet — but they were serious about how things tasted and whatever we ate had to be properly cooked. 

My father was a French man in the body of an Irish man — he was a hedonist who loved his food. He would make the Sunday roast.

I grew up in Antrim during the Troubles. Northern Ireland was not the best place to grow up in those years. Socialising was hard. It was simply understood that I would move away when I left school. I did a degree in French at Edinburgh University. 

I spent a lot of time in France and was more or less adopted by several French families. I met my future husband, a French man, in my final year in Edinburgh and moved back to France with him and became absorbed by his large, foodie, family.

I never decided to make cooking my career. I’d been working in PR and marketing and had three boys. When I was taking time out at home after the birth of my fourth child, I was shocked at the speed with which my husband started asking me where his socks were. 

So I started my own business selling ingredients and equipment to home cooks in 1999 at the start of the foodie wave. I was doing a demo for the company when and I got spotted by Hachette who were looking for new authors. 

My first book was very accessible to a wide readership and it was an instant hit. It was fantastic, I was full of ideas and we were ahead of the curve. Like a lot of zeitgeisty successes, luck had a lot to do with it.

In my first television series, I got to share the bill with Paris and France, which certainly helped ratings.

I don’t see cooking as competition. I’m pleased to see an Irish woman in the final of Masterchef though.

By the time I was doing television, my marriage was breaking down. 

Performing in public didn’t come easily to me and the emotional distress of coping with marriage breakup didn’t help. Now I can manage speaking in public quite well. My advice to anyone who suffers from nerves is that preparation is the key.

My idea of misery is being a line cook, stuck deep in the depths of a massive hotel kitchen churning out poor quality food.

My biggest fault is using too much butter.

If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d be one of those amazing pioneering women like Gloria Steinem, Nora Ephron, Theodora Fitzgibbon or Edna O’Brien.

My biggest challenge so far has been navigating getting a separation and divorce in a foreign country. It was a rude awakening. I was told I had to toughen up - it is almost like having to train yourself to act in a certain way — but I am who I am.

My two eldest children are in Paris, one is in Bath and the youngest is living here with me in Schull, West Cork.

The trait I most admire in others is difficult to discern, I like people who are genuine and who don’t posture.

So far life has taught me that you need to think carefully if something seems simply too good to be true: be very wary, because if that’s the case, it usually is.

Trish Deseine speaks to food writer Joe McNamee about cooking and writing in West Cork and about Irish food, on Saturday, July 15 in the Maritime Hotel at 6.30 as part of the West Cork Literary Festival.

www.westcorkliteraryfestival.ie 1850 788 789


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