This week the head chef in ‘The Restaurant’ is Waterford-born Magician, Keith Barry. Keith is a master of illusion and his talents have brought him international fame. But tonight he leaves the world of illusion behind and gets to grip with reality by creating a 3-course menu for a restaurant full of diners and critics. There will be no sleight of hand or trickery involved as Keith devises his menu and prepares it himself. Can Keith serve a magical meal tonight and win a 5-star rating from the critics? Or will his food fail to entrance the diners?
For Keith Barry, finding himself working in a restaurant was oddly nostalgic, as his career as a magician first started there ‘Restaurants are where it started believe it or not. When I was 15, walking from table to table while people were basically waiting on their main courses or waiting on their desserts, I’d go over and entertain them for 5 or 10 minutes with some close-up magic. And so here I come full circle, being the chef in a restaurant’.
Before he got into magic full time, Keith did work in the real world, in a laboratory where as a newly-qualified cosmetic scientist he invented make-up... But his childhood obsession soon won over and it was while Keith was working in ‘The Kitchen’ nightclub, owned by U2, in Dublin, that he was spotted and his magical career really took off. He toured his show with great success and was quickly picked up by the TV channels: ‘Brainwashed’ for MTV, ‘Close Encounters with Keith Barry’ for RTE and ‘Keith Barry Extraordinary’ for CBS in the US. A recent acting role in ‘CBS Miami’ has opened a door into acting as another possibility for the multi-talented Keith. Next year ITV will broadcast his latest TV offering.
When it comes to food, Keith has a hearty appetite and eats everything ‘I have a really open palate, a lot of people are really fussy about what they eat, actually I can’t think of anything I don’t like’ He is a big fan of shellfish and that just had to feature on his menu ‘I chose the starters because really I prefer shellfish as opposed to just fish, so I’m looking forward to cooking those’.
His love of shellfish comes from his childhood growing up in Waterford. Keith calls cockles the ‘Waterford version of oysters’ as he and his friends used to search for cockles by the sea and twist them open to eat them raw ‘Literally, when I was a kid, we used to go out picking cockles out in Woodstown, I’m from Waterford, just down the road and we used to go out in our bare feet, feel around for cockles and cook them there and then’
Keith’s main courses fuse his love of old fashioned food with the modern ‘I’m giving people a choice with traditional Irish food and I suppose, modern cuisine, and it’ll be really interesting to see which they go for and the end result, whether they like it or not’
His main course ‘Crubeen Casserole’ is a particularly adventurous choice for the restaurant menu, but Keith makes no apologies about it as he loves it ‘When we were young, about once a month, my mum used to give us something a little bit odd, we’ll say. Like tripe, pigs feet, sheeps heart’. Keith’s second main course reflects his interest in healthy food, it’s a ‘Turkey Stir Fry’ which is low in calories and he happily admits that he got the recipe from a booklet that came with a set of pots he bought!
Keith’s desserts also reflect his love of the tradition and the modern ‘I chose my all time favourite dessert which is apple tart and ice cream and then obviously, I’m a little bit health conscious and I just went for simply flambeed fruit for the other side’.
Keith loves apple pie and misses his mum’s, he is still waiting for his wife to cook it for him ‘My mum used to cook apple tart when I was a kid all the time, and the wife keeps telling me that she’s going to make an apple tart and she never has!’
Keith’s second dessert really confused the diners and critics, as it was named ‘Billy McComb Surprise’. Keith named this dish to give a clue as to his identity. The late Billy was a friend and hero of Keith’s, and was himself a Magician from Belfast. The dessert named after him was a colourful combination of caramelised pineapples and bananas with a pyramid-shaped Pina Colada Parfait, that had just a ‘little’ Jack Daniels added to it, to honour Billy.
KEITH BARRY STARTS A NATIONWIDE TOUR OF IRELAND IN DECEMBER ’07.