I have to introduce you to one of our chef teachers, Rory O’Connell. He’s Darina’s brother. Older or younger, I don't know. All of our teachers thus far have been really good but Rory is my favorite, by a mile. His manner, his way of talking about food, his panache, personal style, and his personality have stolen many of our hearts. He’s a gentleman epicurean. Everything about him is cool.
Our first time to have him lead the afternoon demonstration was last week when Darina was to leave the country for a spell. Was it only last week? It seems I’ve been here for a season, already. In any case, she’d told us he was coming and would be here while she was away and had put one of his cookbooks on display for us to look through.
Now, we've known him for a week, and like him so well that when he appears, we all notice. "Rory's here!" So when he came through our kitchen this morning, dressed in his civvies, everyone oohed over how stylish his outfit was. If I were a guy, I'd so dress like that. Dark blue Wrangler jeans, rolled at the hem just once, tan leather lace-up shoes, no socks, a light blue oxford shirt and navy tie with a navy V-neck sweater, and his ever unkempt, bed head.
We quickly came to look forward to him being the presenter du jour. Some people do that sort of thing well and others...don’t. Most of the teachers here are very good. Some, are artists and inspire you. When annotating my typed handouts during the demos, I try to get the actual words being said about a particular process or thing and, in so doing, began to notice Rory’s delightful way of speaking.
I intend to keep a record of the way he says things, going forward, but for now, I have a few good ones to share with you. I wish I could also share his voice with you. Ooma always said the most pure English was spoken in Dublin and I have no idea where Rory and Darina were raised, apart from the "midlands of Ireland." But his speech is well-cultivated, like I imagine Ooma meant, with a resonant and soft Irish brogue. All that said...
One of our dishes today was a chocolate pudding, rather like a soufflé, with it’s whipped egg whites folded in at the end. When he took it out of the oven and was presenting it and telling us how else to do it, he said, “You might have secreted a little cherry in the bottom of that soufflé dish...a little soldier move.”
Demonstrating another, similar dish, Fluffy Lemon Pudding, Rory was teaching us about the necessity of carefully folding in your egg whites. “The purpose of introducing egg whites to your pudding is air.” Carefully folding, he said, “Don’t let that egg white bully you! Take control of the situation!“ As he continued folding in the egg whites he spotted some unassimilated white and mumbled, “rogue egg whites…” 😂
With a gigantic specimen on his cutting board, he said, “This is organic, as you can see. It doesn’t grow anything like conventional cabbage.” Having finished cooking his cabbage, he said, “Cabbage doesn’t want to sit, it wants to go to the table immediately.”
In considering what else to add to cabbage, he said, “Caraway can be delicious…other people’s version of hell.”
He tasted something he was cooking that didn’t have enough salt, said, “oh God, that needs a lot more salt.” He dashed a good bit in, tasted it and said, “transformed!”
In describing its charms in a sauce or soup, Rory said, “Bay leaf gives a bit of an exclamation point!”
Discussing making Shepherd’s Pie and Moussaka from all the shoulders and legs of lamb we all roasted today, Rory said, “they can be either quite good or why bother?” When his came out of the oven he said, “Now, this one is telling a slightly better story!”
“Don’t gallop off with the trends of the time.“ I can't remember he was referring to here but I nearly sprayed sparkling water, squelching a laugh.
“I’m the fastest shrimp peeler in the world.”
“You'd have to have your head examined if you were to do this in a bistro or café.“ Referring to a delicate presentation he was creating that was most extraordinarily artistic.
“The last thing you want is to look like you’re being too fancy,” as he was doing more fancy artwork on a dish.
"Now, this is not pure floristry. These flowers (beautiful Society Garlic blossoms) are relevant to the theme of the dish."
“Would I be tempted to…yes, oh no…I would not. If you weren’t looking...I would.” 😂
I only wish I'd been keeping this record since last Monday, when we first met him but I didn't know what I didn't know. I will absolutely be on my toes from now on. When Rory's in the room, I'll have my pen at the ready.