Fintan O'Toole is an award-winning journalist, a political columnist, theatre critic, author of many books and not least deputy editor of the Irish Times. But when Fintan does have some free time, he loves to cook and was delighted to take on The Restaurant challenge in last year's series.
"My experience of doing The Restaurant was just fantastic fun. When are you ever going to get the chance to go in and run a professional kitchen? I had very low expectations of myself. As it happens, I was rewarded for chancing my arm and things went well."
Fintan was thrilled to get 5 stars from critics Tom and Paolo and special guest critic Clodagh McKenna. "I started off thinking I was going to get one or two stars, and then because it was going so well I would have said I might get four. Since I've been a kid, I've never experienced that thing of walking into a room with three people who are going to tell you whether you're rubbish or great. I was chuffed, I was delighted."
Fintan is going head to head with fellow journalist Amanda Brunker for his return visit to the Restaurant and is feeling the pressure after seeing her show. "I know Amanda is a journalist with the Sunday World. I seem to remember from previous series, that she is a very good cook. So I'm pretty worried about the level of competition."
Fintan's biggest worry when it comes to his starter, are the game livers on toast to accompany his soup. "There's nothing worse than getting cold livers served up to your with your soup. So the timing is going to be really important."
Fintan is slightly nervous of his choice of main course for the cook off, but he wants to take a risk. "I was thinking about 'surf and turf', which is a kind of a cliché but I kind of love the idea of combining fish and meat, and if it works, it works very well. I like that combination, a lot of people might think it's ridiculous. But I think, if you don't take a risk, you don't get the rewards.
For his dessert, he chose something he likes, but is worried it might not be enough for the critics. "It's not the most difficult dessert. The thing I'm kind of worried about is that the judges might say that there is actually not that much cooking in it, could you not have done something a bit more complicated."