Food on the Edge 2016: Cliodhna Prendergast

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th September 2016

Food on the Edge 2016 is just a few weeks away so we are taking a closer look at some of this year's speakers - Cliodhna Prendergast.

The first chef under the microscope is Cliodhna Prendergast, she's the founder of website Breaking Eggs which aims to get kids into the kitchen both cooking and playing with food from as young as possible. This is quite fitting when the topic of discussion at Food on the Edge is the future of food. The Staff Canteen caught up with Cliodhna to find out more about her website and why she thinks it's so important for people to understand where their food comes from.

Cliodhna Prendergast

As a speaker at Food on the Edge 2016, Cliodhna’s vision for the future of food is to start with the children and the rest will follow.

“It’s the future of food but it’s really about starting in the past,” she explained. “It’s the whole cycle of food which needs to be highlighted to parents. We have to start living in a society where we support farmers, support butchers, support growers – rather than buying everything in the supermarket. You need to bring your children out and introduce them to the butcher – without this there is no connection and no community.”

She added: “So, yes it’s about supporting from the ground up with the children but it’s also about supporting the community and showing everyone that these suppliers are a vital part of our society.”

Looking at this year’s Food on the Edge chef line up, which includes Massimo Bottura, Pierre Koffman and Claude Bosi to name a few, Cliodhna’s concept appears very unique to her peers and understandably she does feel a little intimidated when looking at the names she will be joining.

>>> See the full line up here

 

She believes hers is a unique perspective but she was also keen to be a part of the symposium because she’s excited to see it in the west of Ireland.

“It’s fantastic to see this happening in the west,” she said. “There’s lots of things going on in Dublin all the time so it’s amazing that all these chefs from all over the world are coming to Galway.

“People need to talk about these things and be educated. It’s also important that it’s not just people from the food industry, it’s interesting for everybody - we all eat!

Cliodhna’s website Breaking Eggs is aimed children and parents but she is a trained chef first despite confessing she did not want to be in the industry as she had spent her childhood growing up in a country house hotel.

Cliodhna's children:

Iseult, Milo and Jake

She said: “I used to hang out in the kitchen with the female chef we had at the time. I was eight and she said ‘you’re not hanging around in the kitchen unless you are doing something’. She taught me how to make ice cream and because I could do that they thought I was fantastic and never let me out of the kitchen again!”

She spent several summers in the kitchen after that, it was during this time she was introduced to foraging which as she says ‘in the 80s was not very common’. She explained: “I got totally into that! I really enjoyed being able to go out and pick things then cook them. So, I think my interest in cooking developed through that.

“We had a sea trout fishery so I used to fish and when the shooting season came around in winter we plucked, cleaned, cooked and ate woodcock and snipe and wild duck.

“I also remember my first real field mushroom, I can taste it to this day. My aunt and uncle have a farm in Mayo where I was shipped off for a week of my summer holidays. We got up at 6am to pick mushrooms in the fields, brought them home and fried them in butter for breakfast. Nothing like it. The smell lingers in my memory, and this I think is what a lot of kids miss out on, the smells of the kitchen that provide the memories of a life time of food being really special.”

Adamant she didn’t want to continue life in hotels (as she associated cooking with them) Cliodhna went to college to study art but she found herself cooking tarts for local restaurants in order to make money during her time there.

“I spent more time doing that than actually being in college doing art!” Laughed Cliodhna. “I thought I may as well go back into the kitchen again. I went to Dublin to work for a chef there and I never got out of it again.

“My love for the kitchen came once I was in it really. It wasn’t what I was striving to be when I was in school but if I had thought about it properly, that would have been what I would have done – instead it happened haphazardly.”

After working in several Dublin restaurants, she went to Newport House before deciding to do a Ballymaloe cookery course.

“I did it the wrong way round. But I think I learnt an awful lot more due to my experience beforehand. The course got me back interested in the art of food and where food comes from and the foraging wasn’t crazy anymore – when I was doing it, it was completely crazy!”

Cliodhna took on a head chef role at Delphi Lodge in Connemara where she stayed for 11 years until her third child was born and she decided it was time to spend more time with her children. And so Breaking Eggs was…..er hatched!

“I still wanted to do something but I didn’t know what,” explained Cliodhna. “There was one big way I found I could connect with the kids and that was through cooking. Being in the kitchen and making stuff, they got such joy out of it, as did I.

“I would pretend I didn’t know anything and it opened up a level playing field between us. That’s where the idea of Breaking Eggs came from.”

She added: “I just felt as though people had gotten away from cooking with their children, so much so that some kids had no idea about food what so ever. I think my generation missed out on their parents cooking with them at home and everyone got busier – plus microwaves were invented.

“I think there is a missing generation in all of that who don’t have a clue how to cook. I thought it was quite important to teach children from a young age and in the simplest way possible. Breaking Eggs is not just about cooking, it’s about going out to meet the producers, the farmers and the fisherman so they can see where food comes from and see the passion behind those producers.

Cliodhna created Breaking Eggs four and a half years ago and it has naturally evolved from a weekly concept to a series of programmes which are released sporadically.

“It wasn’t possible to film that often with the children and due to the cost,” she explained. “On the site people can access recipes, a blog and free videos but they can also sign up for a box set of ten programmes at a time.

“People’s kids tend to identify with my kids, that’s what it’s all about and then they think ‘I can do this’. They feel like they know my kids which is something we hadn’t thought about in the beginning so it’s nice that has come about.”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara

>>> Read more on Food on the Edge 2016

 

 

Ticket prices for the two day event includes lunch on both days, entry to Monday night party where the audience gets to meet and mingle with speakers. Tickets can be purchased from www.foodontheedge.ie

For a full List of confirmed Food On The Edge Speakers for 2016 visit: http://www.foodontheedge.ie/speakers.html 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th September 2016

Food on the Edge 2016: Cliodhna Prendergast