When a chef and a butcher become good friends in Dingle…
In this blog post I want to introduce you to two personalities that I have had the pleasure to work with and get to know in recent years – Trevis Gleason, author of Chef Interrupted and Dingle Dinners and most recently Burren Dinners, award winning writer and retired chef who together with his wife Caryn and his Wheaten Terriers, Sadie and Maggie, made Dingle his permanent home since 2012 – and, Jerry Kennedy, from Kennedy’s Butcher in Dingle, who provides the community with quality meats from his farm and is the last artisan butcher on the Dingle Peninsula. Well, two characters that became friends a long time ago and that I had the pleasure to get to know very well on my Dingle food tours…
Since I met Trevis, that day at the farmer’s market in Dingle, he has been showing me so much support…and told me straight away… ‘’You’ll have to include Jerry, the Dingle Butcher, on your tour. I’ll talk to him, we are good friends!’’ Then, he handed me a copy of his Chef interrupted, we shared email addresses and the rest has just happened… The best craic was to be had at Jerry’s, every time we visited with a group. Trevis would join us and cook up a few of Jerry’s lamb chops from the Dingle Peninsula for the guests to taste. It is all very strange to look back and think this seems so very impossible to do nowadays. We hope those times will come back very soon!
Trevis kindly answered some questions for us, so you’ll get to know them a bit better…
Trevis, you made Dingle your home, after living in several parts of the world, it must be a very special place to you. You wrote ‘’Chef Interrupted” in which you tell your story and how you have fallen in love with Dingle…in a few words, what is it that made you stay?
My quick response for anyone who asks that of me is usually a tongue-in-cheek “Sure; haven’t you looked around the place?”. It usually gets me a laugh and a break in a tedious conversation so I can nod to the publican it’s time for another pint. The true answer is that, never minding that the other answer is accurate – the scenery around the Dingle Peninsula is some of the most consistently stunning anywhere in the habitable world – It’s the people. It was always going to be the people who make a place what it is and Dingle people are no different. They have welcomed us to their home far deeper, far faster than we had a right to hope. And they have allowed us to make it our home, too.
I know you are a great supporter of Irish produce, and as a chef you are always looking for the best ingredients…would you tell us, what is it that in your opinion makes Dingle such a special foodie town?
Unlike many other places I’ve visited and lived, one who tries things outside of the typical local cuisine are not generally accused as having notions here in Dingle. This has been a trading and fishing port for as long as men have taken to the sea in those endeavors. Where sailors come, so too do the tastes of their ports. For longer than many places in Ireland, Dingle has seen foreign ingredients and the local crews of those boats have tasted exotic foods. Couple that with the fact that many food professional cooks have fallen in love with Dingle as I did, and you’ve a sense of taste and the hands to deliver upon that desire.
As an award winning writer, you have published a few books in recent years…you sat down with many personalities of the Dingle food scene and put together some amazing stories in your Dingle Dinners. Most recently you published Burren Dinners telling the story of renowned chefs and artisan food producers of the Burren in co. Clare. What did you enjoy the most while writing these books?
As I said about why Dingle is special to me, it’s all about the people. I was honored with the opportunity and responsibility of telling the stories of the professionals who make their fame behind the swinging doors of the area’s respected eateries. They are family men and women; they are loveable rakes. Hard-working, hard-playing, passionate, and professional. It was hearing and conveying their stories I loved most… that and the sitting down over a pint or a cuppa to hear them in the first place.
Speaking of personalities… It happens many times, when I walk into Kennedy’s Butcher, that Jerry says to me ‘’Trevis should be calling shortly’’… Jerry really is a character in Dingle, always open to some good craic. As an artisan butcher, he loves what he does, and he really cares about his job. You two are great friends, do you remember the first time you met him?
I do, and I wrote about it in Chef Interrupted. Like most things in town, Jerry knew about me before I even walked in the door – it’s a story about me being locked out of my rental and having to walk to town in my pajamas. Enough said?
What struck me most about Jerry was when I came back with my wife 4 years later. He not only remembered me, he remembered the stories, the guests I’d had visit, and that I liked to cook a goose at Christmas.
How many shop keepers remember someone’s tastes after a four-year absence? He’s a special character in a town full of characters. The last of his kind.
Knowing where our food comes from nowadays is so important. Jerry has his own farm and also sources his meat from local farmers that he knows personally. Ireland has some of the best meat in the world, sheep and cows are free to graze on green grass with some of the most scenic views… Jerry is also the only one sourcing the meat of the Blasket Islands’ lambs, why are these so special?
You are not wrong about the providence of foods being of importance. From local customs of farming to reducing transportation footprint, knowing whence a food comes is and increasing imperative.
The grasses the livestock graze on the peninsula are kissed with the salty mist of the North Atlantic. The vegetables grow in a million layers of sand and seaweed. The summers are short, but its days are long and warm. The damp, temperate winters give the land a time to rest and heal.
We can’t grow everything here on the peninsula, but what we do grow is some of the best I’ve put my professional hands to.
Jerry has won many awards for his produce, every year at Blas Na Heireann he enters the competition with his lamb and brings home one or more prizes. Last year he won 4 Blas na Heireann awards, which brings him to a total of 17 over the years! Gold, Silver, Bronze and Best in the County for his lamb in 2020. Can you give us a tip, or an easy recipe for using his lamb at home?
Jerry is careful in choosing the lambs he takes to the abattoir (and he takes them all himself). If his lambs aren’t ready, he works with a small cadre of farmers he trusts and, still, he hand selects each animal. Because of this the meat is impeccable.
If I were to offer any tips, it would be to treat it simply, season it respectfully, and cook it perfectly. It deserves that respect, because from the farmer, to the butcher it has been given every chance possible to be perfect. It is our responsibility, as the final step from farm to fork, that we do our part.
If you’re looking for a special occasion dish, there is a lovely herb-crusted rack of lamb in my latest book, Burren Dinners (O’Brien Press)
If I say Irish Food, what do you say?
Misunderstood. Underappreciated. Misrepresented. Evolving. Honest.
We love to spread the word and tell everyone out there how important it is to support small artisan producers. Help us here, why is it so important to support local producers?
We hear it every holiday season – purchase from a mega chain store and you buy the CEO a third mansion, buy from your local shop and put the owner’s kid through university. The money we spend on local food goes to local businesses and is then cycled through the local economy. What I spend at the greengrocer, buys his children shoes from the local shop, that shop owner buys mackerel from the local fisherman, who buys his oil from the local supplier, who buys his meat from Jerry who also buys carrots and spuds from the same place I do.
Local food isn’t just about the freshest, high-quality ingredients. It’s about making it possible for people to live and work in a place so many come to visit. It’s what keeps Dingle a ‘real’ place and not just some chocolate box town like other tourist destinations have become.
Finally, Trevis, tell us, what would you cook for Jerry if he was invited for dinner at your house? What would you use and how would you cook it, are you willing to share it with us?
It’s always a privilege and a responsibility to cook for someone who produces the foods I love. Jerry produces the best lamb I’ve ever eaten and he’s a man of simple tastes. I’d, therefore, prepare my recipe for hearth-roasted leg of Dingle Peninsula lamb from Dingle Dinners – in fact, I’d probably prepare that whole menu.
The lamb is seasoned 2-3 days before cooking and hung – by thick twine – in front of a turf fire and set a-spin.
One of the great parts of this dish is that it offers succulent meat from well-done to medium-rare because of the cooking technique, so everyone gets what they like.
Well, you can tell Trevis is a passionate chef and a brilliant writer from the passion coming through in answering our questions… I remember reading about his hearth-roasted leg of Dingle Peninsula lamb for the first time and just thought it was brilliant. I have never tried it as I don’t have an open fire, but it sounds so intriguing, doesn’t it? So once you are in Dingle next time, pay a visit to Jerry! And if you fancy cooking his lamb like Trevis does in front of an open fire, make sure to tell Jerry about it and he’ll know what you are talking about!
For the full recipe, check out Dingle Dinners, but here’s a few hints…
Once you have your lamb, you’ll marinate it with your fresh herb pesto and rest it in the fridge for at least 24 hours. The next day, bring it to room temperature before cooking, put on a fire and prepare your hook on the mantle piece. Hang your lamb, spinning it a good few times and letting it unwind and rewind itself. Baste with more of your herb-infused oil until it reaches an internal temperature of 53° – 56° C for medium rare 57° – 60° C for medium. Rest it for 10 – 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!
(Recipe reprinted with permission by the author and O’Brien Press)