A labour of love

Posted on: 6th May, 2014

Category: Food & Wine

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Above: Mike O’Donovan and Diana Dodog at the Food Depot on Sundays in Courtmacsherry.

Masterchef, an elopement and a new business venture…busy times for Diana Dodog and Michael O’Donovan, a couple whose shared passion for food has led them into each others arms, around the world and right back again to the little fishing village of Courtmacsherry in West Cork that is home. Diana and Mike chat to Mary O’Brien about life, food and a labour of love.

Using experience and ideas gleaned from their travels, Diana and Mike have customised a vehicle to create a mobile artisan food mobile. The Food Depot is a gourmet street kitchen on the move showcasing the range of fine produce that West Cork has to offer.

With John Dory literally hopping on to the grill, it’s so fresh, and seasonal and local ingredients like wild garlic picked from the woods in Courtmacsherry, used in all of the tasty dishes lovingly created by Diana, the Food Depot already has a loyal and hungry following. And, if you go down to the woods (Courtmacsherry Woods) you’ll be in for a nice surprise, because every Sunday from 11am, the Food Depot is based at the end of the village. Gourmet food by the water’s edge, for less than a tenner, what more could you ask for?

A native of Hungary, Diana, who moved to Ireland in 2005, met Courtmacsherry man Mike when they were both working in the Kingsley Hotel in Cork. Both have trained and worked in the hospitality trade and are self-taught and passionate cooks. After travelling and working together for a number of years throughout North and Central America and New Zealand, on returning to Ireland, Diana did something that she’s been talking about for years — she filled out an application form for Masterchef. “I got nervous and only applied in the final hour,” says Diana. “When I got through I was over the moon.”

Diana couldn’t practice any of her dishes for the competition, as she was staying in hotel rooms. So, every dish had to come from her head. “I was up and down between West Cork and Dublin for months…in the village they thought I had left Mike,” she says laughing.

Masterchef was a stressful but very exciting experience for Diana. “I loved every minute of it,” she says. “I felt that if I got down to the final ten I would be happy, but I am very competitive in nature, so I’m thrilled to be in the final. It’s three girls now to the finishing line. We’re going to South Africa for the final two challenges and then it’s back to the studio to cook our final three-course meal.

Diana says she has never wanted anything more in her life. “I was so dedicated and focused throughout the competition and I really wanted to push myself. You don’t know that you’re able for it until someone really pushes you to the limit.

“I’m always cooking for my friends and family and of course they give me positive feedback but to hear positive comments from a Michelin star chef, that’s what gives you confidence.

“I just soaked up everything and never wanted it to end, —I would love to have had more mentoring and master classes.”

Diana says her inspirations are her mum and grandma. “My mum has worked in a kindergarten for over 30 years and she loves children. While she was at work my grandma looked after me. I was always hanging off her skirts. She baked every day and we dug up carrots and potatoes in our garden. This is how I grew up and these are the memories that have stayed with me…cooking and eating with fresh and local food ingredients.

“Goulash is one of Hungary’s more famous dishes or our Hungarian pancakes with rum, dark chocolate and walnuts,” says Diana. But it’s her layered potato dish that won Mike’s heart! Potatoes layered with smoked chorizo and boiled eggs and baked for an hour in the oven to allow the juices of the sausage to release. “I like to cook tasty dishes from humble ingredients,” she explains. “It’s what I grew up with.”

A trained barista, Mike is a self-confessed coffee addict and uses Badger and Dodo beans to make an exceptionally good cup of coffee. “People don’t expect the coffee to be so good and they come back for it,” says Mike. “He puts art on it and everything,” says Diana laughing.

“We share the same passions and interests, which is why I think we work so easily together,” says Diana. “If she hadn’t gone for Masterchef, I would have,” says Mike laughing. “Yes, he’s as good a cook as me but a better baker,” says Diana. “I have more patience!” explains Mike.

Although the couple, who got married in the spur of the moment last January in New York, plan to keep their gourmet street kitchen in West Cork this summer, who knows where the Food Depot will take them after this. It’s onwards and upwards for Diana and Mike and don’t forget to tune in to MasterChef to watch Diana work her magic in the final on May 7.

For more information on the Food Depot Gourmet Street Kitchen and locations follow them on facebook or check out the website www.fooddepotireland.com.

 

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