Around the world and back again

Willie Pa 3

Posted on: 10th February, 2014

Category: Food & Wine

Contributor: Sheila Mullins

To the relief of many foodies, Bantry’s Willie Pa’s reopened just before Christmas under the new ownership of Patrick Kiely of O’Connor’s Seafood Restaurant fame. Known for its hearty meals and warm, unfussy welcome, Willie Pa’s retains these qualities under new head chef Sinead Desmond, who has returned home to put her stamp on one of West Cork’s favourite restaurants.

Remarkably, for someone who grew up in West Cork, Bantry native Sinead was exposed to flavours from around the world at her mother Veronica’s kitchen table, a legacy from her parents’ days at sea early in their marriage.

Sinead Desmond

Sinead Desmond

Most Bantry locals will be familiar with the name Jerry Desmond, harbourmaster in Bantry for many years and Sinead’s father. Jerry started his career at sea working on international ships, bringing his new bride Veronica along for the trip. Bored with life above deck, Veronica spent much of her time in the galley with the mostly Indian chefs, where she became acquainted with spices and flavours unheard of back in West Cork. “Back in Ireland, mum passed her love of food onto me and is my biggest inspiration,” says Sinead today.

As a 16-year-old Sinead got her first job in the now closed Sheehan’s Café as a pot scrubber. The buzz of the kitchen convinced her to pursue a career as a chef and she embarked on a hotel catering course in the College of Commerce before honing her skills at Ballymaloe Cookery School in the late 90s.

Having served an apprenticeship in the Crawford Café, Sinead decided to travel to broaden her culinary horizons and stints in Belgium and Thailand amongst other places followed. She returned to spend the next 10 years at The Quay Coop in Cork, where she learned “how to create a vegetarian dish for a menu that is more than just an afterthought.”

After a decade in the Quay Coop, Sinead was ready for new adventures and spent three months on the high seas as a personal chef on The Starry Night, an 82’ yacht, before returning again to Cork, as a chef in Gallagher’s on McCurtain Street.

“After a life spent learning and travelling, I was ready to return home to West Cork,” says Sinead, “both to be closer to my family and to get the chance to work with 100 per cent West Cork produce. We are lucky to live in ‘Produce Heaven’, where the meat and vegetables are so good we don’t have to overdress it, in fact we want the flavours to come through. For example, right now I’m so excited to be ordering pork chops in the market which will be specially smoked for us.”

Restaurant manager Pat Murnane is as passionate as Sinead about putting a spotlight on West Cork produce and she is grateful for his support in putting together a menu that showcases the best quality meat that the region has to offer.

Willie Pa’s is open for food Wednesday – Sunday, 12.30pm – 9pm. Tel: 027 50392  Mobile: 087 7887565.

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Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
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on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

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Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

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Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

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In May 2016, Kerry man Tom Crean, along with Ernest Shackleton and four other crew members, landed the James Caird lifeboat on the rocky isle of South Georgia. The navigation of that small boat, across 1500 km through icy winds and towering seas, is regarded as the greatest ever feat of navigation. They then trekked across the forbidding and inhospitable mountains and glaciers of South Georgia to seek help for the rest of their crew, who were left behind on Elephant Island after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the Antarctic ice.

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