Earlier this year, Diana Dodog took the Masterchef Ireland crown, fighting off stiff competition and cementing her name as a foodie star in the making. From her West Cork home, Diana took a few minutes to chat with us about what it’s really like to be a Masterchef and her business, Food Depot – Gourmet Street Kitchen
The best of times and the worst of times – do you think this is a good way to sum up the Masterchef experience? Tell us what it’s REALLY like behind the scenes!
Masterchef is the way to find out how good you really are…The challenges in Masterchef HQ or in professional kitchens will test anyone’s skills and push you to you limit! I was ready for it! The best thing came out of if was the confidence boost and the friendships. I kept in contact with Hugh Mullan and i honestly can say our path would have never crossed otherwise. We share the same passion,we both cook everyday at home, I just love talking to him about food in general, he is always eager to try new things,or improve on something, just as me! I loved South Africa – what a great place to visit,and learn about fresh,new seasonal ingredients you never seen before,truly inspiring trip…Margot Janse is the ultimate chef,she has a close relationship with home grown ingredients, loves the seasonality and freshness.Who would thought she was a self-taught chef?
As someone who was a clear frontrunner from the beginning, can you tell us about what kind of preparation you did for Masterchef? Do you think it’s important to master knife skills before starting out, for example?
I don’t believe in practicing cooking. I think if you are good you should be able to come up with something decent on the spot with any ingredients. I presume i have practiced in my whole life, because i cook everyday at home. I don’t think i often cook things even twice,always something new,and additional goes into the pot,until it tastes right…a bit like Ratatouille in the movie! I love to chop things with care,so it looks great in the dish,i guess this side comes from my artistic background. I love drawing and painting,since i was a child and really love colour combinations in food too!
Tell us about your food inspiration
Growing up i spent most of my time with my grandmother! God, she was a great cook,and all those cakes on the Sunday afternoons, i think i can still taste them!! My mum was working in the kindergarten or in our own garden in the summer,so grandma was the person to hang out with! She gave me jobs in and around the kitchen, we always used the freshest ingredients straight from the garden: Paddock to Plate i suppose. I feel we travelled a full circle since and now i am doing exactly the same as back then when i was a child…Going out to producers and suppliers to get the freshest, seasonal and local ingredients for my business!
We came up with the Food Truck idea with my husband Michael years ago when we were travelling around the world. We didn’t think it was the right time then! It is certainly the perfect time now! The food scene and trends have changed rapidly in Ireland the last few years,customers are more educated about international ingredients,there is a need for it to be different today. Also there are hundreds of health Clubs rising, people are a lot more health conscious these days and every single person i talk to want to know where exactly their lunch is coming from! Traceability, locality and seasonality have become the focus when we are eating out!
I try to serve always the health option on the go and try to live by it too!
What is a typical day for you food-wise?
I love to start the day with porridge,honey and cinnamon! Oh and a coffee is a must in the morning! Love the aroma and the smell in the kitchen! Lunch is usually something at work,so really can’t go wrong,i have nothing in the truck by yummy goodness! Soup for example or a piece of Toonsbridge Haloumi with some cous-cous and my favourite greek yoghurt dressing! Love having a beautiful piece of grilled meat with some delicious,nutritious salad for dinner if possible! The obvious cake test has to be done i suppose, but everything is great if we eat it in moderation!
What’s next for you?
FOOD DEPOT- Gourmet Street Kitchen is just the beginning for us, it is like a market research! I am planning to write a book, organise Food Festivals and always on the lookout for a lovely spot for our Gourmet Country House with a Cafe, Accommodation, Food Experience Tours and activities…I would love to showcase the beautiful produce West Cork has to offer and bring more visitors to the area!The sky is the limit!