The many talents of Michael O’Meara from Oscar’s Bistro

The launch of a great new recipe book, The Galway Ingredient, prompted me to arrange a date for a chat with Michael O’Meara of Oscar’s Bistro. The Galway Ingredient is a superb book of recipes from the Euro-toques chefs of Galway, and was launched recently to coincide with the Volvo Ocean Race visit to Galway. It costs €5 and is available in Eason’s, Dubray’s, and most local book shops. For his part O’Meara is both a contributor of recipes and the photographer of every picture in the book.

The book is a must buy for all Galway people with recipes by Gerry Galvin of Drimcong House fame, Louis Smith from GMIT, Stefan Matz from Ashford Castle and the g Hotel, Alan Williams of Abalone restaurant, Wade Murphy from Lisloghrey Lodge, Paddy McDooney from Cré Na Cille Tuam, Ulrich Hoeche from the Connemara Coast Hotel, Tim O’Sullivan from Renvyle House Hotel, Cliodhna Prendergast from Delphi Lodge, and of course Michael O’Meara from Oscars’.

The overall impression that one gets when talking to O’Meara is that he is a man with many missions and who tackles all these passionately and full-on. His love of cooking is evident in everything he does and it seems to have always been so. From an early age he knew he wanted to cook, and says that some of his earliest influences come from his grandmother who cooked in a Georgian stately home, and from his annual visits to France with the family every summer.

He started his training in the GMIT in Galway and worked in several Michelin starred restaurants in France. He also worked under Jean Bastiphe Moulinere in Dromoland Castle in the early 1990s where, along with a brigade of 22 chefs, they had a Michelin star (something I had forgotten ). He then moved to be part of the opening team of JJ O’Malley’s in Westport where he learned a lot of what it takes to open your own restaurant.

Oscar’s Bistro opened in 2000 and has always had a funky feel that reminds me of a jazz club in New York. The food is equally funky, and while the main emphasis is on quality O’Meara makes sure that it looks funky too. Oscar’s came to national fame in 2005 when his wife Sinead won the Rosemount Young Restaurant Manager of the Year. She faced stiff opposition from her opposite numbers in places like Kevin Thornton’s, Patrick Gilbaud, and every other top restaurant in the country. This brought a lot of national press coverage and has ensured that many visitors to Galway seek out Oscar’s.

As most people are aware, running a restaurant is a very busy existence yet O’Meara seems to have time for several other time consuming pursuits. His interest in photography can be seen if you visit his website www.foodandwinephotography.com where there are some absolutely stunning images, but some of my favourites are on the wall of his restaurant. He is also a contributor to the world’s biggest provider of commercial images on a web site called www.istock.com While he is not doing all of this, he is studying for his degree in culinary arts. His thesis (which was chosen before the recession ) is Failure Factors in the Restaurant Industry in Ireland. This should make very interesting reading when completed. If you are not out of breath just thinking about all that, he had just been out for a 50km cycle before we met. I enquired about his need for sleep and was told that a few hours will suffice. Holidays, I enquired? “No,” he said. “I have too much fun every day.”

His philosophy for the restaurant is to use the very best of local produce and make the most affordable dishes he can. His own choice from Oscar’s Bistro menu would be the gourmet burger, his choice of an eating place in Dublin would be Chapter One, and his ambition for the future (one of the them ) is to photograph all the foods of Galway.

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