Chef Mark Moriarty is back with a third season of Beyond the Menu, once again travelling the country to meet the best of the best in Irish cooking. Janice Butler talks to him about the food scene post pandemic and his plans to open his own restaurant

Mark Moriarty has yet to turn 30, but he's already amassed a seriously impressive CV, from being named the San Pellegrino UK & Ireland Young chef of the Year in 2015, to working, until recently in the two Michelin starred Greenhouse restaurant and hosting Beyond the Menu. During the pandemic, he inspired people at home with The Cook In.

His TV work kept him busy when the hospitality industry was closed and his corporate work completely stopped. "I was extremely fortunate with timing and a lot of things came about during lockdown that I never would have done otherwise. I count myself as one of the lucky ones," he says.

Beyond the Menu was filmed across six months earlier this year, with Mark spending time with six chefs, offering real behind-the-scenes access to some of Ireland’s biggest culinary talents.

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In this season, we’ll meet Mike Tweedie from Devon, who runs one of the country’s most exclusive restaurants, the Michelin starred 'Oak Room at Adare Manor.

Turkish chef Ahmet Dede left his job at the renowned Mews restaurant in Baltimore, Co Cork, before changing his style, buying a restaurant, adapting the business model and winning a Michelin star for his new venture Dede (also in Baltimore), all achieved during a global pandemic.

Carlow native Ian Doyle left home as an 18-year-old to work at some of the greatest restaurants in the world. He returned home at 30 to be closer to his family, taking over at the Cliff House in Ardmore, Co Waterford.

Gráinne Mullins lost her job during the pandemic, retrained and turned the family shed into a chocolate factory.
New Zealand native, Jess Murphy, pivoted Kai Café in Galway during the lockdown to ensure the business survived.

Lastly, we get a fly-on-the-wall look at the most talked-about restaurant opening of the year. Two Michelin starred chef Mickael Viljanen departed The Greenhouse to take the helm at Chapter One.

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Here, Mark talks about the work involved in being a top chef and his own big plans for 2022.

This is the third season of Beyond the Menu; were you excited to work on it again?
Definitely. We started back in January with the shortlist of chefs and we think we’ve upped it from the first two seasons. It's very much a passion project from my point of view. We’ve six really unique chefs and timing-wise, it’s sitting nicely with restaurants back open.

It will be nice to showcase a very real and positive image of the industry. You’re looking for different angles and the whole premise of the show is that it’s not a cooking show; these are just exceptional people who happen to cook. Their stories are more important.

Has the pandemic changed the chefs’ approach to how they work?
For some of them, their businesses have totally changed, like Gráinne Mullins, who was Young Chef of the Year but started making chocolates during the pandemic because she was bored and now it’s grown into a huge business for her.

For others, I found the pandemic only made them more impatient for success and more driven. What we really want to find out with this show is how the people ended up where they are and what they’re doing. From that, you get a human story. For a lot of chefs, I think the two years of reflection has given them a clearer view of who they are and where they’re going.

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It can take a lot of personal sacrifice to reach the top of the cooking profession – have you made sacrifices for your career?
A lot of these chefs don’t shy away from the fact that they’ve pretty much given up everything in life to pursue their goals. I have definitely sacrificed things at times, but I’ve been fortunate that from a young enough age, a couple of incidents led me to reflect earlier than most on the sustainability of doing this job and if I wanted to do it and be successful long term, then I had to take steps to manage my time more efficiently. That can be a very structured and boring way of looking at life in your 20s but it’s stood me pretty well. But anyone who is at the top of their game in any profession has had to sacrifice things.

You worked with Mickael Viljanen at The Greenhouse for many years – were you tempted to move with him to Chapter One?
A lot of the team from the Greenhouse moved with Mickael to Chapter One, but I’m looking to open my own place next year so I’m in the middle of planning that. Timing wise, it’s all worked well; I was in the Greenhouse when it opened and I was very fortunate to fall into the hands of a really good mentor early in my career, which has been key to my supposed success so far, but I’m coming up to 30 next year and opening my own place is definitely the next step in the plan. I can’t give away details yet but it will hopefully be next spring/early summer and it will be in Dublin.

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Has building your profile on TV helped your decision to open your own place?
I love the TV work because I love talking about food and cooking, so I hope that comes across. But it definitely does help from a business point of view; you have to be thinking sustainably long-term that having an audience like that can help when it comes to opening your own place.

Congratulations on getting engaged this year –have you made wedding plans?
We have the wedding booked for late next year, so we’re looking forward to that and hopefully getting away on a break for a week or two after it. Something to look forward to outside of work in 2022!

Watch Beyond the Menu on RTÉ One, Wednesdays at 8:30pm and catch up on RTÉ Player now.