Chef Stuart O’Keeffe, Heating Things up in the Kitchen
By Chris Astrala
Chef Stuart O’Keeffe is heating things up in the kitchen with his new cookbook that shows you how to make some great meals using the number 6 as his inspiration.
The handsome Irish import; set to appear at the Food & Wine event in Palm Desert CA in March, Chef O’Keeffe was a weekly food contributor for Dublin’s Evening Herald newspaper and has been recognized internationally since the 2011 debut of Stuart’s Kitchen (aired in Ireland and New Zealand).
Making the decision to come to America was easy . He first settled in Napa Valley, the heart of the west coast’s wine country, the culinary philosophy immediately rubbed off on Stuart, reinforcing the fine dining principles of simplicity, respecting good ingredients and delicately enhancing their natural flavors and textures. Chef Stuart then, appeared as co-star on two seasons of Food Network’s Private Chefs of Beverly Hills. Additionally, Chef Stuart was a featured chef on Oprah Winfrey Network’s Home Made Simple. He was the North American chef for Tupperware brands, and is currently a global spokesman for Asiana Airlines’ “Fly with Color” campaign. O’Keeffe has done private and promotional events with celebrity clients such as Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone, Owen Wilson, Hilary Swank, the Kardashians, Jessica Lange, Joan Collins, Ryan Murphy and Kelly Clinton to name a few. Plus he has made countless TV cooking segment appearances.
Recently, Chef Stuart has published, The Quick Six Fix, where as the title implies, you can prepare a delicious and easy meal by using only 6 ingredients with 6 minutes prep time and 6 minutes clean up. Making the Amazon best sellers list even before it hit the shelves, the book became an overnight hit.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Stuart and discuss what started his culinary adventure and what was the impetus for The Quick Six Fix. Here’s what he had to say.
The Standard Magazine:
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Chef Stuart: My mom and my aunt inspired me to be a chef. When I grew up in Ireland at eight years of age, I would always bake with my aunt in the kitchen, and just kind of from that I always had a liking for it. I did Darina Allen on Irish TV. I really liked her as a chef, too. She was kind of like the Martha Stewart of Ireland . So I kind of took it upon myself to go to college then from that. I went for four years, and got a culinary arts degree at the Dublin Institute of Technology.
What differences stand out the most between working in Ireland and here in the US?
Chef Stuart: I did work in an Irish restaurant but nothing long term. After I was done with college, I kind of just moved straight away to the Napa Valley. So I couldn’t actually see a massive difference. I just always wanted to move to America to pursue what I am doing right now.
What is the motivation behind your book The Quick Six Fix?
Chef Stuart: The motivation behind it was that I always wanted to write a book that was actually true to what it said. I always saw so many books out there with just tons of ingredients and complicated recipes. And a lot of them lie. Like they would say, “oh, you can do it in 15 minutes.” When you really couldn’t, you know? And so I really wanted to bring out a book that was kind of true to what I’m writing. So that’s kind of where the idea for The Quick Six Fix came from. I wanted something with a hook that people could understand when they saw the cover straight away, and just pick it up and start cooking. I wanted it to include simple, fast, easy recipes that you could buy any ingredient in any store across the country.
Are there any standout recipes that come to mind that are some of your favorites in the book?
Chef Stuart: I love the shrimp angel hair pasta recipe in there, just as a really nice, elegant, fast and easy pasta recipe to make any night of the week. Just so many staples that you already have in your kitchen so you don’t really need to pick up much from the grocery store. That’s one of my favorites But I also love the ribs. I’m a rib guy, so I also love those with the Asian dressing . What else do I love? I love the avocado toast in the mornings. I have that every morning with some egg whites. That’s kind of my go to for breakfast each morning. Oh I almost forgot I love the Irish stew, because it’s a quicker version that uses a better cut of meat as opposed to a cheaper cut of meat. So it doesn’t take you three hours to cook it.
How was your experience on Private Chefs of Beverly Hills and would you do it again?
Chef Stuart: My experience was really good on that show. I really enjoyed cooking with the rest of the characters on there … with the rest of the chefs I mean, not characters. I had a really good time. Pretty much we’re all characters out there, but we … I had a really good time with it. It was stressful at times with the clients. You know it was a reality show at the end of the day, so they would set us up with these challenges. We’d have to get through, so it was stressful in that way. But it was super fun doing it.
Other than a sharp knife, in your opinion what is the definite must have in any kitchen?
A cast iron skillet.
Really? Why is that?
Chef Stuart: Because it has so many uses. You can go from stove -op to oven. You can make a perfect steak on a cast iron skillet. You can use a cast iron skillet as a grill if you don’t have space in your apartment. If you’re a resident in the city, you don’t have any space for a barbecue. It can do the exact same flavor and make taste as it would by cooking a steak on a grill. But it’s actually nonstick as well. Season up with some canola oil and bake it in an oven at 250 degrees for about an hour and a half. So you do that a few times, once or twice a month, your pan becomes nonstick. Another misconception is that people think that they’re cheap and they’re like, “why would I get one of those?” But they’re only cheap because they’re cheap to make, but they’re actually one of the best kitchen tools. I have about 14 of them in my apartment.
And if taken care of properly, it is so durable it probably will outlive you . (Laugh) You know what I mean?
Other than your food, what is your favorite food to eat when you go to a restaurant?
Chef Stuart: I love to eat ribs. I’m just awful. I’m just like a beast. Yeah, any time I go to any kind of emerging restaurant, if they have ribs on the menu, I’ll pretty much get it. I just like eating anything off the bone. It’s so good, like chicken wings, all that kind of stuff. I love burgers. I love all that bad stuff for you, but I eat it in moderation, only once or twice a month, of course. It’s just one of my favorite things to eat and it’s so good here in America.
Which famous chef would you like to prepare a meal with and why?
Chef Stuart: Tyler Florence. I just feel like that I resonate with him, mostly as a chef. I feel like his style of cooking is very similar to mine. I’m just a good fan of his. I would love to and think it would be fun to cook a meal together. I would love to do something like that.
Is this your first visit to the desert and what are you looking forward to the most about the Food & Wine event?
Chef Stuart: It’s my first visit to Palm Desert for the wine festival. I go to Palm Springs all the time. I know that’s not the same thing, but I do go to the desert quite a bit. I love it out there. I’m just excited. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what to be excited about. I guess I hope the crowds are fun when I’m doing my demo. I love when the crowds ask loads of questions and are joking around and stuff. That’s a really big thing with me. I look forward to seeing Gail Simmons there. I’m at her wine show. It’s kind of cool to meet her again. Yeah, I guess the parties and the food. I mean, I just love the atmosphere of these events. I love when I get to do them. And those are some of the things I look forward to. Also I love Palm Springs so it’s kind of cool that it’s out there.