The Other Celebrity Chef Paula

March 9, 2015

Northern Ireland’s Paula McIntyre shares her insights on Americans, the UK and her love of cooking

Paula McIntyre was part comedian, part tourism advocate, part philosopher and all chef when she visited Johnson County Community College March 2.

McIntyre, a celebrity chef from Belfast, Northern Ireland, stopped by to give a cooking demonstration to students in the culinary program and share bits of wisdom about cooking the Irish way.

She creates a weekly podcast on cooking for BBC Radio and is the author of “A Kitchen Year,” a cookbook that matches the best recipes to each month of the year. Her television show, “Taste for Adventure,” preceded the Youtube clips that showcase her culinary skills.

On her way back from a three-day visit to Kansas State University, she wowed a JCCC audience with a simple but elegant Irish dish: Seafood Farl.

While talking the entire time, McIntyre made soda bread (the farl portion) and cooked salmon filets in a seaweed butter while chargrilling a cucumber and tossing together a savory relish.

On why you should visit Northern Ireland

For years, Northern Ireland had very little tourism because of The Troubles, a violent conflict that waged from 1968 to 1998 over the country’s turmoil over either uniting with Ireland or remaining a part of the United Kingdom.

“People of Northern Ireland are just so glad to have visitors,” McIntyre said. “For the longest time, no entertainers came. The only person who had the guts to visit was Elton John. He’s like the patron saint of Northern Ireland.”

She also pointed out that a beach near her home was used in the filming of “Game of Thrones.”

“They closed the beach for filming. The Germans couldn’t close the beach for the whole of the war, but the Americans can do it just to film a show,” she said.

On comedy and cooking

Most of McIntyre’s presentation was salted with wry humor. Here’s a few more examples:

When she showed a photo of a brown-and-white cow native to Ireland, the audience cooed over its cuteness: “Oh yes, face of angel – tastes nice, too.

When she explained how Northern Ireland has imported many American customs, including trick-or-treating: “I love America, but that’s one bloody thing you could have kept to yourselves.”

On the power of cooking

She may love America, but McIntyre’s first-and-always love is cooking.

“I love cooking because it transcends age, color, everything,” she said. “That’s the great thing about it. It transcends everything…What other job could you have where you can learn so much every day?”

She told the story of being scanned by fingerprinting machine in the Immigration Department in Belfast. The machine, the height of modern technology to aid in identifying terrorists, couldn’t find her fingerprints.

After three unsuccessful attempts, the technician said to her, “I take it either you’re a bricklayer or a cook. And since you don’t look like a bricklayer, you must be a cook.”

“I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ So my fingerprints change every year,” she explained, due to the burns, cuts and general punishment chefs’ hands endure. She suggested to the crowd of aspiring chefs, “So if the cooking thing doesn’t work out, you could always turn to crime.”

The reaction

Casey Corbett, student in the chef’s apprenticeship program at JCCC, said he enjoyed McIntyre’s presentation, especially since his grandparents were Irish.

“I liked the way she incorporated history and what’s going on in her country today, all while cooking,” he said.

Elle Justin, also in the chef’s apprenticeship program, said she thinks Irish food is the ultimate comfort food, and she found McIntyre’s demonstration insightful.

“I actually love Irish food. It speaks of ‘home’ to me – something about a warm stew and a big spoon that can just comfort you and bring you down from stressful day,” she said.