Neven Maguire: I was amazed at the interest when I told people about my disco days

‘I would love to get the Cookery School open again... I really miss that' 
Neven Maguire: I was amazed at the interest when I told people about my disco days

Neven Maguire.

I am married to Amelda and our twins, Conor and Lucia, are 9 years old and going to school in Blacklion.

As it happens Amelda’s name was also Maguire so she never had to think whether she would change her name when we got married. I come from a large family and have four brothers, one of whom is my twin David, and four sisters, and these days lots of nieces and nephews.  

I never thought about being born to be in this line of work, but with my family background it is not surprising that I was interested in food at a young age and in the ideal situation with my parents having this restaurant to develop that interest. Even with so many mouths to feed my mother always managed to make sure what we ate was varied and interesting. Mum and Dad grew a lot of their own vegetables and we do that now for the restaurant.

For sad reasons, I took responsibility for MacNean House at a young age. My father lost his life in a car accident. With Mum at my side for many years, we got to where we are now. But it was definitely in at the deep end. It was at the time of my early television experiences on Open House with Marty and Mary and he used to bring me to Dublin every Tuesday. I am glad he got to enjoy seeing me get that part of my career started.

What is my proudest achievement… I like to know that a lot of people come to Cavan and Blacklion to eat at MacNean and that a lot of people are living here because of the employment given in the restaurant. But that achievement is shared with a lot of people. You need a good team to run a restaurant.

It doesn’t come easily to answer what my greatest quality is. I grew up with the saying 'self praise is no praise'. But I suppose I have never been afraid of working long hours. Between the restaurant, RTÉ filming, demos, the cookery school, and my work with Dunnes Simply Better, I do put in the miles and the hours. And my attention to detail — which is important in a restaurant.

I like to think my earliest memory was watching George Best score a goal. But that is probably a TV memory. I have always been a Manchester United fan though these days it has not been easy! With my work I don’t get to see as many games as I would like, but I often record them and watch them late at night. I have been lucky enough to get to Old Trafford a few times.

The person I turn to most is my wife, Amelda. She is a rock of common sense. But then she is a Maguire! We discuss everything whether it is to do with the children or the business.

The life lesson I would like to pass on is to work at what you enjoy doing if you can. I have been very lucky that way. 

It means that work doesn’t really feel that much like work. And be respectful of people. A little kindness never goes astray The greatest advice I have ever been given was from my parents. My parents always reminded us that every customer is important. And to treat staff as family. I think I am good at acknowledging the work our staff does. I certainly appreciate it.

Climate change has impacted how I live my life and my work. We put in a new kitchen in the restaurant and it is a lot more energy-efficient. We are good at recycling. I still drive a lot but I am doing things on Zoom now that I would never have imagined two years ago. It is about the world we will leave to our children so we must think about it and change our behaviour.

I was amazed at how much interest there was when I told people about my disco days and the huge collection of vinyl I have. I still get asked about it in every interview. It all came about because Amelda got the decks out of the attic where they had been for years and had them reconditioned. I started having some fun and put a photo on my social media, not thinking much about it, and things went crazy.

I don’t really go through life with a fearful attitude, thankfully. But listening to the news these days I hear more than I want to about power cuts and that would be a business nightmare even though we do have a generator and cook a lot on gas.

We would all love a magic wand that would see this virus disappear. But that is not going to happen. We are all going to have to change how we go about things for a good while, I think. I would love to get the Cookery School open again. I really miss that. It is always so much fun working with people who want to learn more about cooking.

I love travelling to places like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and love their cooking. I always bring back ideas and I have taken several cookery courses while on holidays in Asia. My brother Kenny is a great Thai cook. Maybe if I had taken a different fork in the road I would have opened a restaurant near a beach.

  • Neven Maguire presents Neven’s Christmas at Kylemore Abbey on RTÉ One, on Tuesday, December 7 and December 14 at 8.30pm

 

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