Over the past 18 months, we have seen Ireland's food industry turn itself inside out in order to survive. From high-end food trucks and takeaway dinner kits to outdoor dining and tackling staff shortages, the chefs of Ireland have been working flat out to keep the country fed and watered.

But how much do we really know about these culinary rock stars? The ones who embed themselves within communities, forage from nature, fight for their staff's wellbeing, and work tirelessly to perfect their menus.

In the past two seasons of Beyond the Menu, chef Mark Moriarty has highlighted both the incredible food that Ireland has on offer and the incredible ways in which chefs are serving it up.

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In the latest series, though, viewers will get a glimpse even further behind the scenes, and discover the stories of grit and determination that lie behind the talent.

"It's about showcasing the chefs as people," Moriarty told RTÉ LifeStyle. "It doesn't matter who you're talking to, people who are at the top of their game have a certain mentality, and that's what we're trying to get across."

"And the human side as well; chefs are always seen in their whites in their kitchen and it's very professional and robotic, but they are people at the end of the day. And they're very creative people, in that sense."

"The best people have the best stories, so it's made for TV. We started with 30 on the short list - which tells you where Irish food is - and then it's about meeting everyone, and showcasing not only what they do but them as people. We have the six most interesting people, and it's a real reflection of Ireland at the moment."

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As well as introducing audiences to some of the country's most exceptional kitchens and sharing insights on how they're run, Moriarty hopes to inspire the next generation of chefs in Ireland.

"There's a crippling staff shortage," he explains. "Part of the reason is the pandemic and part of it is how the industry has been for the last 20 years but, at the end of the day, I got into cooking from watching Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on TV."

"If people can't see it, they're never going to be it - that's why we're showcasing the best."

Although the food and the atmosphere of the kitchen is present in filming, the focus of the show truly does lie with the chefs themselves.

This was helped, in part, by the fact that director Mark Boland has never eaten in a Michelin restaurant, has no interest in the chef's wares and thinks of himself as a "burger and chips kind of guy".

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"I fell into this type of TV making," Boland explains. "The subject matter doesn't matter, it can be anything. If I didn't know too much about the food, I didn't get too caught up in it. I can appreciate how beautiful it is and the amazingness that they do, but I concentrated on them."

"Somebody who is that dedicated to what they do... they're fascinating people," he continued. "It's not about playing to what they make but more how they do it. I find that fascinating so if I'm going to spend time with them, I want to know about them. When you actually listen to somebody, and go with them and what they want to talk about, you end up with them giving, as they said, their soul away."

"We wanted to show people the realness of them," he adds. "I want audiences to meet the people that I met while filming and when the cameras were off. They're cool, down to earth people. People can be afraid of high-end dining but there's nothing to be afraid of."

"It's not an elitist world, and if people realise that, they might try it."

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Meet the chefs

Ian Doyle
A native of Myshall, Co. Carlow, Ian Doyle loves nothing more than cooking great food, playing sport, and sipping a few cans with the lads; a true country gent.

Having left Ireland over 10 years ago before returning in 2018, Ian left Ireland a young man, and he's taking all his experience in the worlds top restaurants home.

Taking the reigns of the House restaurant at the Cliff House hotel in Ardmore, retaining its Michelin star in 2019, he is determined to create a new kitchen environment.

No longer the angry 20 year old that left Carlow, he’s had to learn the hard way, training in overheated, testosterone fuelled kitchens before finding another way to work, finding a new vision abroad.

Mark and Ian

Jess Murphy
As Ireland's leading female chef, Jess is a figurehead of Irish cooking. As well as running her multi-award-winning restaurant, Kai, the New Zealand has worked hard to make Galway her home, totally embedding herself within her community.

Having grown up in a gang town in rural New Zealand, she has spent much of her life grafting and working hard to get where she is today. Moving to Australia at 18 years of age in search of Michelin starred standards, she remembers having only $1,500 in her pocket, promising herself that she would not use the Aussie red phone boxes to call home looking for money. She didn't.

Through graft, determination and hard work in numerous jobs across all styles of restaurants, she eventually landed in Ireland, securing a job at Dublin's 2 Michelin starred Thorntons. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Jess Murphy

Mike Tweedie
Growing up in Devon in the UK, Mike worked his way up at numerous Michelin starred restaurants before arriving in Ireland. He now runs the exclusive Oak Room in the 5 star Adare Manor in Limerick, even winning a Michelin star in 2019.

But how has this young man from the UK ended up one of the most luxurious hotels in Ireland?. It hasn't been an easy journey, Mike has dealt with sacrifice, loss and pain before maturing and finding happiness and stability in Limerick.

He’s here to stay and drive his career to new heights, Adare’s 'Lord of the Manor’, and is determined to help his staff find the right work-life balance in the process.

Ahmet Dede
In 2009, at the age of 24, Ahmet Dede moved to Ireland and got himself a job in a kitchen but not kind you might expect. Picking up some shifts in Extreme Pizza in Rathmines, Dede decided to sign up to an eight-week course with Fáilte Ireland, and pursue a career in cooking. It was a good call.

Working his way through some of Ireland's finest kitchens, including Chapter One and Patrick Guilbaud's, he eventually found a home in Baltimore, Co. Cork.

Recently, he left his job at the renowned Mews restaurant before changing his style, buying his own restaurant, adapting the business model, and winning a Michelin star for his new restaurant Dede - all during a global pandemic.

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Gráinne Mullins
At the end of 2019, Gráinne Mullins was crowned Irelands Young Chef of the Year. Fast forward six months, a global pandemic had changed turned the industry upside down and she lost her job. But that didn't slow her down.

Determined to keep busy, she retrained and turned the family shed into a 3×3 metre chocolate factory. Grá Chocolates was born, with growth so rapid her hand-painted chocolates are now flying out the door and are being sold across the EU.

As part of the show, a special edition Beyond the Menu box of Grá Chocolates will be available to buy online, filled with flavours inspired by each of the chefs in this year's series. Not only that, but a percentage of the profits from every box sold will go to the Simon Community in Galway.

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Mickael Viljanen
Growing up in Finland, Mickael was exposed to an old and traditional food culture, a youth spent hunting and living off the land. This, he explains, was not like the new age hipster foragers, but a place where he learned and appreciated food as a necessity, he knew cooking was his future.

Often described as "obsessed", he has spent his life in kitchens. This dedication to his craft has earned him two Michelin stars after 9 years at The Greenhouse Restaurant in Dublin.

Now, he’s opening his own restaurant and invited us to witness the beginning of "Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen". How far can he go? And at what cost?

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Beyond the Menu airs Wednesdays on RTÉ One at 8.30pm. The series is sponsored by Kerrygold and produced by Appetite Media for RTÉ One.