Canadian chef Randy Lewis takes a culinary road trip across Ireland.
Chef and travel enthusiast Randy Lewis describes himself as the “Phileas Fogg of food”. He has travelled the world learning how to cook the cuisine of each country he visits. His travels have taken him from his hometown of Edmonton in Canada to Australia, India to Thailand, and everywhere in between. He now calls the West of Ireland home.
Previously, he’s taken viewers on culinary adventures to Morocco, Kenya, Cuba and Hong Kong. Now, he’s hitting the road again, and he’s taking us along for the ride.
In his new mini-series, Randy packs up a Volkswagen California campervan and takes us on an adventure exploring the South and East of Ireland. Along the way, he celebrates some of the country’s finest food producers before cooking up a feast using quality Irish ingredients.
Some of the places he visits are Woodcock Smokery in Skibbereen, Franciscan Well Brewery, Clashganny Organic Farm, Gaelic Escargot and a Wagyu Beef Farm in Wicklow.
The mini-series is jam-packed full of food, cooking and adventures. It also gives a heartwarming snapshot of the wonderful Irish hospitality that awaits when you travel around this beautiful country.
We caught up with the busy chef to hear all about his journey from Canada to Clare and got his top tips for campfire cooking this summer.
Take us back to the beginning and tell us how you go into cooking.
“I started cooking from a young age. My mom was a single mother and she would be working so I’d have to cook for myself.
I started cooking probably at the age of 13, washing up dishes and stuff like that. Then at 14, I was cooking pizzas, and it took off from there. I left my hometown at 17 and started travelling around North America, from Edmonton down to LA and then back up. Anthony Bourdain was my true inspiration for me so, like him, I started travelling the world to learn how to cook.
I was working in restaurants and hotels, from the worst restaurant in Bondi Beach to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver. When I was 18, a chef gave me some advice. He said, ‘after every year you should leave your job and find a new one, just to give yourself a broad range of skills.’
So, I took that advice and moved around and travelled learning to cook around the world.”
Why did you decide to come to Ireland?
“When I was working in Australia I met some Irish friends and we kept in touch. In 2005 they said there was lots of work in Ireland, so I packed my bags and headed over. I stayed in Dublin for six months but wanted to go West to surf. So I hopped on a bus and ended up in Lahinch.
Once here, one job just led to another and I got a few lucky breaks. At the age of 26, there was a hotel opening up and I was asked to be the chef. That was all going really good, then the recession hit.
During the recession, I received an offer to work in Asia, so I took it. I lived in India for two years. During my vacation time, I’d go work in Thailand. I’d call up hotels and asked if I could work for a couple of hours in the kitchen in exchange for room and board. It’s a great way to learn about the local cuisine.”
Tell us about opening your restaurant Randaddy’s.
After a few years working in India, I returned to Ireland to my house in Lahinch. One day, I was walking down the beach and discovered a little cafe, which the manager was looking to lease out. I walked in and ten year’s later I’m still here.
It’s come a long way from the 30-seater cafe with no patio. We’ve turned it into a 200-seat restaurant with a 100-seat patio right on the beachfront. It’s such a great setup. It’s located in the number one surf destination in the country. The Cliffs of Moher are beside me, the PGA golf course is behind me, and you can throw a rock from the patio and hit the ocean. I couldn’t dream of a better location to have my first restaurant. It’s a beautiful place.”
No stranger to being in front of the camera, Randy has filmed cooking shows in Hong Kong, Kenya, Cuba and Morocco. Now, he’s taking a road trip and cooking his way across Ireland.
What can viewers expect from your new Ireland mini-series?
“This is what I have done my whole life. I want to know what is going on with the food in each country. For this series, I wanted to show off Irish produce and what’s cooking in Ireland. I’ve fallen in love with the people and food and hospitality, and I want to share that love with the viewers. Knowing the story behind food makes the food so much better than just having a meal placed in front of you.
The show highlights new products and producers that I hope people will try for themselves. Seeing the food, the adventures and the route we took I hope will inspire people to follow the same food trail. Viewers can also recreate the recipes from the show at home or when they are on the road.
I hope people will watch me cooking on a campfire and say ‘he made it look really easy. All he did was take a pot put wood in it, put a grill on top and cooked on flames’. Campfire cooking doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. Just throw down some wood, throw down your grill and throw down some food on it.”
You make it sound so easy!
Do you have any tips for those of us looking to do a camping road trip through Ireland this year?
Pack light. All you really need is a small cooking stove or makeshift campfire that you can put a grill on top of. I’d say bring both. Just gather things along the way. There are so many little towns that you’ll be driving through that you can pick up ingredients along the way. Don’t stress about ticking things off a checklist.”
For visitors to Ireland, what dish would you encourage people to try to get a taste of the island?
They should be drinking Guinness, that’s for sure. I would say they should try bacon and cabbage with mashed potatoes, a nice chunk of homemade bread with Kerrygold butter on top.
Now that sounds delicious. Sláinte.
Also, keep your eye out on I Love Cooking’s IGTV for Randy’s takeover later this month.