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Showjumper Jessica Kürten has represented Ireland twice at the Olympic Games and is currently ranked number 6 in the world. When she made the trip from Germany to take the reins as Head Chef in ‘The Restaurant’, Jessica looked to her idyllic childhood in the village of Cullybacke, Co Antrim for inspiration. It was here that young Jessica Chesney discovered her passion for horses...
‘I started riding on a donkey and it kind of expanded from there. I remember when I told my parents that I wanted to make it my job and they did tell me that it was much too tough a job for a girl’
But she persevered and it was during her internship at pony competitions that she first discovered one of her starters tonight, Egg Cocotte...
‘My menu refects a lot of influences from my mum.... Often when we were away with the ponies and came home late at night, the egg cocotte was something that mum would make very quickly and it was very, very tasty’
Jessica’s mum also inspired her second starter, Coquille St Jacques..
‘My mum was a super cook and she just loved having guests and she was always cooking, cooking, cooking.... When I thought about the starters, I thought I would go very flashy and then I wanted to put food that would be tasty’
Fourteen years ago, Jessica met Eckhard Kürten while competing in at an event in Dublin. She later moved to Germany where they married and settled in the German Rhineland.
‘Its always a problem when a family has girls you know? The boys tend to stay at home and do their thing and the girls, it depends what happens with the heart where you end up’
Jessica attributes much of her success to her husband who is her manager. Jessica decided to add a recipe from her new homeland to her menu at ‘The Restaurant’, as a sort of culinary clue. So along with her Beef Roladen, Jessica opts for Red Cabbage to accompany it rather than the usual German staple
‘I’m actually not a huge sauerkraut fan but I do love the red cabbage. It is a dish my husband loves and his mother taught me how to make it’
But this dish brings its own problems and pressures and not just from the Critics Tom Doorley and Paolo Tullio...and the special guest critic, Italian TV chef, restaurateur and writer – Gino d’Acampo..
‘This I want to be good, because my mother-in-law is going to watch and if I make a mistake on this one I don’t know how I’m going to be able to stay at home....’
Jessica also brings influences from her globetrotting to ‘The Restaurant’, she is a big fan of Meditteranean cooking, particularly Spanish food and she will cook Salt Crusted Dorade (Sea Bream) to try to win over the critics and win those coveted 5 stars
‘I just think this is a wonderful fish because its different to what we would normally cook and its so so simple’
When it came to desserts, Jessica has no difficulty choosing two, to win over the diners...
‘I have a very sweet tooth and I just went for two whoppers’
For her Strawberry Dreaming dessert, Jessica uses fresh strawberries, sherry cream and pink candy sugar, she loves it and doesn’t apologise for it..
‘I mean some might say that’s a bit corny but I think its romantic. I like the whole thing, its just a light frivolous presentation of a light frivolous dessert’
Jessica has come a long way to take part in ‘The Restaurant’ and was feeling good about it until she arrived, but then she started to feel the a little like a fish out of water
‘I am unbelievably nervous. When I am with the horses I know my job, I know how the horses react to me. I don’t know how the guests are going to react to me, and my cooking’