Please Meet Mr. Stuart O’Keeffe of NBC’s “Food Fighters”!

Stuart O’Keeffe entered American households with NBC’s Food Fighters last summer. He’s not only handsome: he has lots of Irish cooking tips up his sleeve!

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Irish food is possibly my top choice ever; each of my parents is half Irish. What is the difference between Irish cuisine passed down in America and that of Ireland?

I think the perception of Ireland as the land of corned beef and cabbage is changing.  Irish cuisine is so much more than that.  In Ireland, we very much feel that every ingredient should be as local and as fresh as possible.  America has only recently started to embrace the farm-to-table approach to food.

What are Americans doing incorrectly when making traditional Irish fare?

Boiling corned beef ….lol.  In Ireland we actually boil ham and cabbage together! I also see a lot of unhealthy food trying to be passed off as Irish fare when I go to Irish bars here in the States.  In all actuality, Irish food is hearty but also typically quite healthy; it includes lots of root vegetables and great tasting roasts — and we are huge fans of hearty soups.

A secret you seem to already know is that everything tastes good with Guinness and potatoes, and yes, Guinness on potatoes. What is a surprising food though that we might not think is delicious with Guinness sprinkled in the recipe?

A quick and delicious favorite dessert of mine is a Guinness milkshake. Grab a good quality vanilla ice cream from the store, throw it in a blender, and add some Guinness to it.  This can be a great way to introduce Guinness to your palate. The sweetness in the ice cream cuts through the bitterness of the Guinness.

What, other than potatoes, is your pick for best ingredient? Why?

Brussels sprouts.  There is nothing better than charred sprouts tossed with some cider vinegar.

You’ve said women at functions don’t always eat the dinner. But I know from experience when you eat freshly made food, without dessert, you don’t gain weight. If you could convince any weight conscious female clients to eat dinner, what dishes would you prepare and how would you tell them how they are actually healthy?

I’ll try to stick to protein-rich dishes, without too many carbs, for these clients.  I’ll often prepare a seafood dish, such as a cioppino or seared scallops, with a corn chowder.

You love soup! Finally, someone else besides me obsessed with it. OK, in Chicago and that part of the USA, we know all the soups. The fish soup, the potato, the tomato, etc. What is a quintessential Irish soup as in directly from Ireland we would adore and don’t see frequently stateside…or in other parts of Europe?

Potato and Leek Soup is probably the most quintessential Irish soup. We use kale now in a lot of soups, as well as nettles.

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