Now with three cafés in Dublin’s city centre, we caught up with Cocu head chef and co-founder Emilia Rowan…
I was interested in food from a young age. I used to love watching my mum make ‘a kitchen sink’ supper with whatever was in the fridge and it was always great.
When I finished school, I went into Culinary Arts in DIT and had a fantastic four years, being exposed to every aspect of the food industry. Going on to travel and live abroad continued to open my eyes to the wonderful things people were doing with food.
Living in New York inspired me to specialise in healthy food. I got used to the huge variety of healthy food available on-the-go and found this lacking back home. With our busy lifestyles, I wanted to make it easy and accessible to eat good quality, healthy food when you’re in a hurry or don’t have time to cook yourself.
My favourite ingredient to cook with is lemons. You can zest them, juice them and cook them. Lemon juice acts as a natural flavour enhancer. I add some to almost everything I cook. Nature’s answer to MSG!
The best meal I’ve had recently was at Bunsen. A good burger is hard to beat and Bunsen gets it right every time.
The strangest thing I’ve ever eaten is percebes – a Spanish goose barnacle. It’s a delicacy in Spain; I think they look like gremlin fingers!
My top three places to eat in Dublin are… Pickle on Camden Street for the best Indian food in town. Etto for excellent food in a casual setting. The Ramen Bar on South William Street for really authentic ramen bowls, my favourite place for lunch when I’m in need of a pick-me-up.
As for my global gourmet hit list, I am dying to get to San Francisco; I would happily spend a week eating my way around that city. Japan is another place I’m fascinated by – with both the food and the culture.
My go-to midweek meal to cook at home is Spaghetti Aglio et Olio (garlic and olive oil pasta). This simple dish is made with ingredients I always have: garlic, spaghetti, olive oil (and a little chilli if you like). It is my go-to ‘there’s nothing in the fridge’ comfort food. After eating it in Bologna on holidays, I watched a YouTube video on how to make it properly and have become obsessed with it ever since.
My favourite cookbook is Honey & Co, a Middle Eastern cookbook with easy recipes that don’t require obscure ingredients, from a small restaurant in London, run by Sarit Packer and Ilamar Srulovich.
If you’re after a handy lazy chef shortcut, my favourite one was shown to me by a friend – Orla Walsh, the dietician who worked on the menu in Cocu with me. It is barbecued tuna. You get a can of tuna, with sunflower oil. Take the top off, don’t drain the oil. Fold kitchen paper in 4 and place on top of the open can, allowing it to catch the oil. Place the can in a heat-proof dish and light the four corners of the kitchen paper. The can will flame for 20 minutes, and after, you peel off the kitchen paper and you are left with barbecued tuna that tastes unbelievable.
Finally, for a last meal on earth, it’s not exactly healthy, but good fried chicken is hard to beat!