Our Spotlight section features Irish food businesses and individuals who focus on locally produced products and traditional Irish food.

Celtic Cuisine

The Druid Chef

Rory Morahan

Rory Morahan, aka the Druid Chef, is a master of traditional Irish cooking. His venerable approach is enjoyed at the James Joyce House in Dublin, where they serve a truly Joyce-inspired meal. What’s the down side? Dinner is by invitation only.

In his own words…

What are some of the benefits to traditional cooking? Are there any ingredients that are unique to traditional recipes that might surprise people?

The benefits of cooking in the traditional way are that one is practising the art of Irish cookery and creating the unique flavour handed down to us in our youth. Fast food has taken over and we need to stay strong for our culinary traditions.

I create my own different Irish-based ingredients to build a better Irish cuisine ingredients platform. This provides uniqueness to the creative dishes and more interest in the makeup of each dish:

  • Nettle honey
  • Turf oil
  • Blackened Salmon,
  • Charcoal meringue,
  • Celtic seasoning
  • Sea weeds, breads etc.
Also the different style of Irish cookery. These are traditions which we must keep within our culinary culture and practice as art form:
  • The old style of bread baking
  • Fire cooking
  • Slow stove cooking
  • Stewing, braising, pot roasting
  • Smoking
Rory Morahan in the kitchen
What inspired you to pursue this particular focus in cooking?

There are many things which inspired me and these are all in my culture. The language, the music, the myth of the dance, the colour of the Irish landscape, the sound of the river and ocean, the calling of the land, the stories left to us, the hidden secrets to be unveiled.

The memories of different unique flavours, the quality of our natural food source, the rich ocean and river food. Fire, energy, vision, product, nature, flavour, movement creation, beauty (in the art of cooking).

Do you have any favourite memories about food as you were growing up? Was there anything always being prepared around the house?

The salmon trip with my uncle (hunter gatherer) in Louisburgh in the mid 70s. We hiked the shore of the River Bunowen which starts in the Sheefry Hills and makes its way down through South Mayo running through Louisburgh, Co. Mayo. I was never fishing and my uncle was a master, had control of the river and the knowledge of the natural way of the river and where the fish could be caught.

We stopped and he geared up to fish and instructed me on the safe way to wade in the river. We fished for two hours and caught three salmon. The sheer joy of fishing and the thrill of seeing the dancing, shining salmon being caught and manpowered to the bank in the net and being bagged for the journey home, the excitement of reaching the house and telling the story of the wonderful day fishing. Then to see a whole salmon being cooked in the oven and having it for our dinner.

I remember the first taste, so flavoursome, but not strong, so soft and how it broke down into the flakes, served with a big pot of spud Irish butter scallions and garden salad. This was a memory of food of heaven and this flavour has been locked into my culinary hard drive ever since.

Could you talk a little about the value of traditional Irish recipes and the importance to future generations?

What is a recipe? It is a set of ingredients brought together to formulate a creative dish. In Ireland we had no real recipes, only necessity food. It is so important to find our culinary history and re-establish this and bring it back to the table of the world as Ireland has been very shallow in the past 100 years with recipe definition; and although we have plenty of different recipes in our modern cuisine, the traditional cuisine has lost a lot of the value of how we cooked and ate.

As we are all from farming stock, the family was the centre of all values in Ireland and the way we farmed and created our food source is so important. This rich food source shared at the family table, which lately has been lost to TV dinner (chicken ping chicken in a microwave) and fast food. The tradition of Irish cooking and the enjoyment of sitting at the table and eating as a family is the important message for the new generation. Know what you are eating and learn what is good for you.

Is there anything a layman wouldn’t know about what you do?

The layman would not know my interpretation of Irish cuisine or celtic cuisine as I use all elements of the Irish celtic culture within the creation of my food recipes ( Michael Flatley of cookery). My style of cookery is meaningful and has a connective style influenced by our history and culture. I don’t just cook, I reenact a story through food cookery.
James Joyce House
Any interesting business plans in the works or anything you have participated in/created that people might want to know about?
I noticed you have restaurant at the school in the works!

  • The James Joyce House (pictured at 15 Usher Quay, Dublin) is something waiting to happen in culinary academic events
  • Planning more TV work
  • Creating more Culture through food
  • The journey of the Druid Chef goes on
  • Culinary theatre at large music festival to be announced
  • At present working on Hatian culinary project
  • Writing a Celtic Cuisine book

Are there any points you’d like to drive home about your mission?


There is a fabulous cuisine lurking underneath our history and steeped in our culture; great food has been practiced in this beautiful land of ours from the dawn of the first settlers as we have been given the land of rich food and great products.

We lost our culinary way in the 1800s when the landlords took control of the land and the food. Now it is time for Ireland to rise again in the culinary sense, create and develop our home-grown cuisine based on all our wonderful indigenous ingredients and show the world our culinary art and the wealth of knowledge, creativeness and presentation of flavour, taste and uniqueness we have shown in all our other Celtic art forms: music, dance, poetry, Celtic art and language.

Culinary James Joyce

When I look at Irish cuisine, it was defined by just a few simple dishes which were the basic diet for most Irish families 50-60 years ago. If we look farther back at the time of the famine the Irish peasant population was reduced to only the pig in the kitchen and the potato crop, which in the end, failed us and the great famine took hold. This country still had great quality ingredients but these were hidden behind the imperial walls of the British gentry. This is where the shallow platform of Irish cuisine separated as the rich gentry cooked like in Britain and the peasant Irish cooked to survive.

As each year the Saint Patrick celebrations take place, the world is asking for Irish cuisine. This is presented in different formats from Irish stew to corned beef and cabbage, and to full Irish breakfasts and some nice baked breads, but this is a far cry from what other nations and countries present as a cuisine.

Today’s chef creates a confusing cuisine when representing Ireland with beautiful dishes and a great mixture of flavours and interpretations, but when you peel everything back, there is no substance and it’s only a mismatch of different ingredients forced into an Irish context. Example: Wicklow lamb with an Italian twist – pure nonsense from the point of Irish cuisine.

My challenge in cookery is to create a meaningful style of cookery which links the culture and food in one presence. This is where I found the joy of the James Joyce House and the connective style of cookery which connects me with the work of Joyce in the domain of James Joyce.

Recently we hosted a dinner for a group of journalist from all over the world. They did not know what to expect from the venue or this event as the house is as it was – with very little by way of facilities. The dining room where the dinner served at the great banquet in “The Dead”, from the book The Dubliners, fit 14 people plus a vacant seat for the uninvited guest. These journalist were in Dublin to cover the events of the 1916 uprising celebrations and this was part of their program.

From my side, when I cook in the JJ house for different people on different occasions, the menu is always linked to James Joyce and his work; and I get a feeling of Joyce surrounding me when I am in his domain.
Blackened Salmon
The culinary James Joyce experience menu

Bloomesday croute was served as a welcoming gesture. This is house brown bread with strips of kidneys livers smoked bacon with a creamy herbed mustard glaze.

The starter was an interpretation of all about Dublin using all Dublin produced products with our special blackened smoked salmon.

Smoked Guinness blackened Irish salmon in a Caesar salad, north Dublin Gem lettuce, smoked blackened Irish Salmon, Irish bread croutons, Dubliner cheese shaving and Guinness honey mustard dressing. This is Dublin in a salad linked to the domain of James Joyce

The main course: filet of Irish beef Martello style.

Rich man / poor man – this is a dish which is based on the vision of the Martello tower in Sandy cove. Filet of beef, Irish beef woven potato cake, tomato, Guinness onion marmalade, styled as a tower, served with a James Joyce whiskey sauce.

Family style assorted green vegetables and lumper potatoes with rock salt butter and scallions

Dessert: Rich Swiss chocolate torte (Joyce connections) with a warm berry compote. This dessert relates to the Swiss section of James Joyce life and the warm compote of berries the Swiss Irish connection.

The culinary James Joyce experience menu is not just the consumption of food as per a restaurant, but it is the event which is the unique experience as the James Joyce is not a restaurant and does not profess to be a restaurant. It is merely the house of Joyce which people have the privilege to visit and sometimes dine at.

I prepare, cook and explain each dish, all at the same time and I am in view of the guests. I also sit with the guests and we exchange stories about all kinds of different subjects; most are Joyce related. The dining is very casual and it suits what we do in the James Joyce house as each guest is in the space where James Joyce created his work and the house is as it was.

For me nothing can touch this experience because one must be invited and accept the offering. There are no frills, but the magic of the house as it stands and the great Irish product being cooked very simply.
The Druid Chef

Rory Morahan – The Druid Chef
The James Joyce House