Nnow a long adopted Corkonian, she received the highly prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, which was presented to her by the French ambassador to Ireland last week in the Douglas outlet of her On The Pig’s Back.
The Menu recalls when, as a young chef making daily trips to the English Market for produce, Isabelle set up her first tiny little stall and he continues to marvel at how she expanded that micro-business into the finest Franco-Hiberno food enterprise in the land (onthepigsback.ie)
Certain old-school chefs of The Menu’s acquaintance have yet to get their first pocket calculator, so great is their technophobia, but there is no escaping the fact that digital social media has revolutionised the hospitality industry.
To think otherwise is to make life very hard indeed for all you might argue a chef’s job is to cook and how difficult it is to eat a tweet.
One solution is Traffic Media, run by Garvan Grant, husband of star chef Domini Kemp, which is particularly suited to small, emerging businesses too busy to also conceive of and execute a social media strategy that builds up an online following that translates into actual bums on seats (trafficmedia.ie).
And while you’ve got the interweb fully cranked up, restaurateurs may also be interested in Cork-based start-up Tablepath, which offers a restaurant management software product that helps to manage many aspects of the business, including reservations, marketing, forecasting, vouchers, and website. Current clients include Greene’s Restaurant, Cliff House Hotel, Cliff House Townhouse, and Hayfield Manor (tablepath.com).
While The Menu has been enjoying a near-meatfree January, other hardier and younger bucks than he may well fancy getting stuck into a quarterpounder or three as part of Cork Burger Festival (Jan 30-Feb 5) in tandem with Ballymaloe Relish, taking place in multiple venues across city and county.
It includes a hunt for Cork’s Best Burger (festivalcork.com). Jess Murphy, chef/proprietor of Galway’s Kai, one of The Menu’s most favourite restaurants, is to deliver a one-off menu on January 31 based on favourite recipes.
As he has long been keen to witness the impact of the ‘New Irish’ on our native cuisine, the first choice, Polska: New Polish Cooking, by Zuza Zak, sounds especially intriguing (kaicaferestaurant.com).
Back to school
It’s back to school once more for The Menu beginning with the new Cliff Academy at Lyons, Co Kildare, offering workshops and masterclasses from some of Ireland’s top chefs and producers as well as more extensive courses.
Next up is a Valentine’s Special (February 12) from Paul Kelly, of the Merrion Hotel (cliffatlyons.ie).
Annam Indian Cookery offers a Vegan Thali (Feb 4, annam.ie), while Elke O’Mahony will teach a Digital Marketing for Food Businesses (beginning Jan 30, biasasta.ie).
‘Let them eat cake!’ cries The Menu Antoinette but, rest assured, it is only a reflection of his abiding preference for a slice of good sourdough, toasted, buttered, and slathered with an especially splendid jam over most baked confections — and Wendy O’Byrne’s Apricot Jam is an especially fine jam. (Actually, all Wendy’s traditionally made jams are very fine indeed, a recently consumed Spiced Cherry & Plum also deserving of especial mention.)
Any good apricot jam will always capture The Menu’s heart but when it as sublimely rendered as the pot he enjoyed over the Christmas holidays, beautifully set, neither runny nor rubbery, and judiciously sugared for a superbly-judged sweetness with a tart, lemony lift in the tail, then all is very much right in his world!
Wendy’s Jams are available at Mahon Farmer’s Market on Thursdays, and selected outlets. (Tel 087 638 0106)