THE GREAT OUTDOORS Patricia O’Grady pictured on the Octagon last Thursday with her mobile ‘Trisha’s Kitchen’ unit. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
HER cakes and exotic savoury dishes have become part of Westport’s weekly menu with her multicoloured food trailer a regular feature on Thursdays at the Octagon. With delights like Moroccan lamb tagine, vegetarian puff pastry rolls, brownie truffles, and lemon and coconut cake all in demand, Patricia O’Grady appreciates how lucky she has been to be able to continue to trade throughout the pandemic.
Speaking to The Mayo News last week, she said: “Covid has been a very difficult time for everyone. It has been very sad to see so many businesses close their doors. I have been fortunate that I have been able to continue to work through the pandemic. It has been wonderful for me to be able to provide people with a variety of convenient wholesome meals weekly.”
The art and craft of cookery and catering was developed by Patricia O’Grady from an early age. As a young girl, there was nothing she loved more than helping her parents Chris and the late Kay O’Grady in their family hotel on Clare Island.
“My first love of cooking came from my parents Kay and Chris, from a young age I just loved to watch and assist them in the kitchen as they prepared food for our various guests. For many summers, as I got older, I managed the kitchen myself and loved every minute of it. Also, entwined in this love, was a strong work ethic,” she says.
After she qualified as a chef in Galway, she undertook further studies in Germany and worked in a restaurant in the Black Forest region before travelling extensively throughout the southern hemisphere.
“I worked as chef in Cairns and Sydney in Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, I was so eager to learn from my fellow chefs and was introduced to so many new flavours with a big emphasis at the time on Asian cooking which now influences my weekly menu,” O’Grady explains.
She adds that it was during this time that she knew she always wanted to work for herself
“Upon arriving home, I worked as a head chef in the Towers. Next, I opened the Kinara Café in Westport during the late nineties. Here, I began to realise the potential of an outside catering business. With an eye on the future, when we built our home, we added a separate two-storey unit. I installed a commercial kitchen to suit my needs and also to comply with HSE regulations. Having this facility enabled me to further develop my business. From here, I started to cater for people in their own homes, comprising of communions, confirmations, birthday parties and marquee weddings. For a period of time, I catered for many functions at Westport House and other alternative venues like the Mayo Sailing Club. I also provided lunches for the staff at Portwest at their Westport headquarters.”
With a characteristic positive attitude, she embraced every opportunity.
“I never said no, any time my phone rang I always saw it as an opportunity.”
It was during the time she had a stall at the Westport Country Market some years ago that ‘the seeds of a mobile business were sown’.
“With a fully registered catering kitchen, I approached the council about a trading licence at the Octagon. They granted me a three-day licence for which I am extremely grateful. Over the past few years, she has built up a good customer base of customers from the town and wider Clew Bay area,” she says.
As the people of the town and environs embraced all the resources of the outdoors during their locked-down lives, Patricia innovated with ‘lolly waffles’ on a number of Sundays in the lead-up to Christmas.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement that it brought to children and intend to continue with these in the coming weeks,” she continues.
In her masked interactions with her customers, she really believes that this enforced time to stop and appreciate the world around is really resonating amongst people.
“I love my work and it brings me great enjoyment to operate my food trailer from the Octagon in Westport and it’s very rewarding to meet my customers and listen to their stories from the course of their week. No one knows what the future has in store for anyone but with good support, the right attitude and a strong work ethic, nothing is impossible,” Patricia O’Grady adds.
Find Westport Cuisine on Facebook. Westport County Market is open on Thursday mornings in the old Railway Hotel, Westport.