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John Relihan

John Relihan

Relentless food explorer | Cork

John Relihan describes himself as a ‘food geek’, but most would consider it pretty cool to count Jamie Oliver amongst your friends, make Drisheen with Harold McGee, work with Fergus Henderson at St. John, and head up one of the most ‘on-trend’ restaurants to recently open in Ireland. He has an insatiable appetite for food exploration and an unquenchable enthusiasm for what he does.

John has literally been cooking since he was a child, the only child of a single working mother who he would prepare meals for after school. John applied for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, was accepted, and at age 17 moved to London on his own. It was the start of a journey of not only fascination and love for food, but of building a community of food friends all over the world.

His experience after Fifteen includes periods between the US and London; various projects with Jamie Oliver (including cooking at the Oscars), two years at St. John, and reaching the position of Sous Chef at Incanto in San Francisco. Then he got the call to return to London and work on Jamie Oliver’s latest opening, Barbecoa. During his time there he trained with Pitmaster Adam Perry Lang, and as a butcher and fishmonger, and became Head Chef for three years.

In 2013, for The Gathering, he was invited back to his native North Kerry village of Duagh to do a demo. The following year he arranged a whole BBQ, the Duagh Summer Festival, which attracted 6000 people and 15 different nationalities to the village. Having never worked in Ireland, coming back was ‘emotional’, but he did have a desire to come home.

Then the opportunity arose to work on something new in Cork, where he would be able to indulge his passion for quality Irish meat and locally sourced ingredients and his love of cooking with fire. Holy Smoke – an Irish BBQ restaurant - opened in Spring 2016 with John at the helm. In case that does not keep John busy, he is also working on a book, “a fun outdoor-indoor food book, stories, seasons, hunting, foraging, shopping, cooking”.