Chef Stuart O’Keeffe
Next Wednesday, July 24th, we will be joined in the studio by Chef Stuart O’Keeffe, talking about his show on OWN, Home Made Simple and his hot new mobile APP. Co-host Brendan Bradley also hosts a fun game of kitchen sounds to see just how well Chef Stuart really knows the kitchen!
I learned very early that to feed means to love. Being a child in my mother’s kitchen was a pretty spectacular gift; it was there that I learned what it meant to put your heart into your cooking. Watching her prepare dinners for the family, I became fascinated with all that it took to construct a meal. In addition to being the family chef and a mother to two boisterous boys, my mother owned a clothing business that she ran fulltime. Despite that, she still made it a point to create meals using the freshest ingredients available- I can’t remember a time when she used anything frozen or packaged. The example she set taught me that cooking from the heart was a creative outlet as well as an effective way to care for others. My attempts to learn from her often resulted in placing myself underfoot. However, she was patient and allowed me to help her as best I could; by the time I was seven years of age I had become a right handy sous-chef. Around eleven, I was able to find my way into my aunt’s kitchen as well, where my cooking instruction expanded. I would often abandon my homework in favor of helping her bake lavish pastries and pies and was always fascinated with the way ingredients would come together when used with care and enthusiasm.
While my affinity for cooking was obvious, no one knew it would turn into an avid fascination leading to a BA in Culinary Arts from the Dublin Institute of Technology. There, my natural interest, joy and intrinsic abilities merged with a classical, formal education. Being in close proximity to France and its abundance of culinary history and influence, as well as having the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe while in school, enriched this experience. I spent four months in a small restaurant just outside Bordeaux working and being trained in the preparation of classic, high-end French cuisine. I also spent time in Dublin, furthering my experience with the hearty, robust ingredients that make up Irish fare. Traveling and cooking in various cultures not only expanded my skill set, it taught me the single most important rule to cooking: using fresh, local, top-quality ingredients is the secret to producing good food.
Coming to the US
I moved to America to expand my career and was lucky enough to be met with opportunity after opportunity. Napa Valley was my first stop and it was there that I was introduced to the American love for food and wine. The culinary philosophy in Napa is simple but astounding: simplicity is key, and if you respect your ingredients and allow them to maintain their natural flavors and textures, you can literally be the conduit through which people experience the land itself. There is a respect and understanding of terroir there that I hadn’t experienced previously and I was charmed to find out that it not only influenced the winemaking there but also the culinary culture.
Leaving Napa was difficult, but I had begun to shape a picture of what I wanted my future to look like, and that included sharing the love I had for cooking. My mom passed it to me, my education enhanced it, and I was ready to lavish it on others. However, the thought of being a formal educator didn’t feel right- I wanted to reach lots of people in an approachable way. So, this scruffy Irish boy decided to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in television.
In the beginning, living in LA wasn’t easy. I knew no one, but eventually made my way into a restaurant kitchen and began cooking. I had to work more than one job to get by but was eventually given opportunities to work large Hollywood parties such as Oscar events for InStyle, Vanity Fair and Elton John. I made as many connections as I could and picked up as many jobs as I could handle. Eventually, I met a manager who was willing to take me on and help me figure out the whole process of going on auditions, making a name for myself and building a career.
After lots of auditions, I was able to connect with Tupperware. Knowing what an American icon this brand is, I was pretty floored when they asked me to be their spokesperson in the US and Canada. My two years with the company were incredible. I was privileged to travel around the country offering advice on healthful cooking as well as ideas for getting the most out of Tupperware products. I also became part of a real family: the Tupperware sales force is made up of some astounding people who are committed to taking care of each other. The support I received-as well as the experience of speaking in front of groups of thousands- gave me a new type of confidence in my abilities and a renewed enthusiasm for sharing my passion.
During my time with Tupperware, I was chosen to star alongside other talented chefs is a new reality show for Food Network. The show, PRIVATE CHEFS OF BEVERLY HILLS, was designed to give a glimpse into our experiences with some of the most demanding clients in LA. What I loved most about doing the show was that it actually was real; I had been cooking for this clientele for a couple of years by then and was well aware that some of the things I had gone through would hold some entertainment value. I was able to be myself, present my food to some very discerning palates, and share it with the rest of the world. I also made some pretty great friends and pushed myself to cook elegantly and act gracefully under some heavy pressure. No one wants to lose it when the camera is on!
So after gaining success in the US, I finally have the chance to come home and show the Irish audience how and what I like to cook. I’m so excited for STUART’S KITCHEN; it really is a full circle moment for me. Although I’ve gotten to travel extensively and meet amazing people, Ireland is my heart’s home and I can’t wait to connect with people here through this show.
Home Made Simple
Shortly after shooting his own show in Ireland, Stuart returned to shoot Home Made Simple on OWN along with host Paige Davis. Stuart got in the kitchen to show families how to make cooking and eating simple, hearty but healthy.