After almost 30 years in Paris, food writer and cookbook author Trish Deseine returned to Ireland last year and has made Kilcrohane in West Cork her home.
Originally from Belfast, food has always featured prominently in Trish Deseine’s life. “I think my father was Vatel in a Northern Irishman’s body,” she says laughing.
Trish’s career in food writing started in 2000, when after just setting up her own cookshop company, French publishers Hachette approached her to write a cookbook. “They were scouting for new authors at a lifestyle show, where I was demonstrating products.” Her first book ‘Petits Plats entre Amis’ won the prestigious Ladurée and SEB prizes.
Trish’s style of unfussy and simple cooking has received much praise. In France, her 12 cookbooks, all written in French, have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. ‘Home: Recipes from Ireland’, published last year, is a good-humoured cookbook that honours the plain cooking of Trish’s childhood in Northern Ireland.
Inspired by the power of connection made possible around a table, particularly at home, Trish believes passionately that the “current obsession with professionally produced food and drink, how they have become the accepted goal for non-pro cooks to aspire to, is now doing a disservice to everyday home cooking.
“We are ignoring the importance of the ritual of sitting down together every day for ‘any’ type of food. I see it as part of the undervaluing of caregiving in favour of breadwinning that is also a feminist issue.”
Although she misses the abundance and variety from France’s fabulous ‘terroir’, Trish says the friendliness of the people in West Cork make up for it.
And in terms of beauty, in her opinion West Cork is on a par with France. “The breathtaking, ever-changing, light and scenery in West Cork. It has become a physical requirement! Also the freedom and wildness of the place and how connected people are to their farms, land, culture and communities.”
She believes the reason West Cork has become such a centre of excellence for artisan food production is because “this is where it started – or was reborn perhaps? With a handful of pioneers like Sally Barnes, Tim Yorke, Veronica Steele, Frank Krawcyck, Jeffa Gill, Sally Barnes, Giana Ferguson… And thanks to family businesses like Mannings, Organico, The Stuffed Olive and The Glebe who bought from them and still do.”
Her career has been “great fun so far”. “What comes to mind are when my guide to eating in Paris ‘The Paris Gourmet’ made the Observer Food Monthly’s best books of the year, launching ‘Home’ in the Irish Embassy in Paris with my four children there, and being invited to lunch in Coco Chanel’s private apartment, rue Cambon when my book ‘My Little Black Dress and other recipes’ was published.”
Trish has passed on her love of food to all four of her children. She says that rather than encourage them to cook she “encouraged them more to eat ¬ and socialise when they were doing it – I think. Now they are all decent cooks and my eldest is training to be a chef in Paris so I must have done something right?”
She reels off a long list of places in West Cork where she enjoys eating out…“Organico, The Stuffed Olive, Glebe Gardens, Hacketts, the Snug, Mannings, Arundels, the Porcelain Room on Ballydehob …I’m raging I haven’t made it to Deasy’s or Pilgrims yet. Soon, I hope.”
About to start filming two new cookery shows for BBC NI, Trish writes a regular food column for The Gloss magazine and has another project in the pipeline, which she says “it’s too early to talk about yet”. She will also be partaking the A Taste of West Cork Food Festival this month (check out the programme for details).
But her main ambition “(like so many other people) is to one day live in my own place in West Cork with a bit of land and the sea not far and spend my time writing”.