This week for Wonky Meets, we caught up with Finn Ni Fhaolain, a private chef, marine scientist and food writer. Finn released her bestselling cookbook Finn’s World in the summer of 2017 and since then has been taking the Irish food scene by a storm!
An avid surfer, Finn lives in her beloved adopted home Bundoran, Co. Donegal. She studied Earth and Ocean Science and Marine Biology and continues to work in marine science when she has the chance. Finn cooks for yoga and wellness retreats around the country and is a food judge in Ireland and the UK. Finn was recently selected as a finalist for a JCI Donegal Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award, was nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe and came runner-up in Donegal’s Best Young Entrepreneur!
This summer she’s already been demoing at lots of wonderful events like Wellfest and will be demoing at Electric Picnic in September as well as helping her boyfriend launch his first restaurant, Burro Burro in Bundoran.
So as you can tell already she is a pretty busy lady! We were delighted to be able to grab 5 and have a chat!
First up, how did you get in to cooking and healthy eating?
I think I’ve been pretty lucky in that respect, my mom though she pretends she doesn’t like cooking is really good, I remember making homemade veggie burgers as a kid and we often grew our own peas and things in the garden. For me personally, though it was college. I found out I was a coeliac in my first year and once I had to start reading ingredient lists to look for gluten it made me realise all the junk that is hidden in our “regular food”, that was definitely the turning point for me.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your cooking journey?
Oooh, that is a brilliant question! When I was little it was Darina Allen I loved watching her show and used to do little cookery demos for my family with play dough inspired by her. Since getting into healthy eating in college some of my biggest inspirations have been – Susan Jane White – her cookbooks are amazing resources not just for recipes but also great hacks on healthy living and really informative too, Karina & Katrina of Tone It Up, they have an amazing fitness & foodie program that kick-started my healthy eating when I started lifting. More recently I’ve been trying to include more plant-based foods in my diet so I’ve been obsessed with Elle Bullen’s cookbook Elsa’s Wholesome Life. It’s all plant-based and she is a nutritionist as well.
We absolutely love your book ‘Finn’s World’! Which of the recipes are you most proud of? Our bets are on the churros!!
Oh, thank you so much! Haha yes, I’m very pleased with the Churros! I was also particularly proud of the Soda Bread as it can be so hard to get that texture right with gluten-free baking. From the healthy eating point of view, I’m really happy with some of the simpler methods for super healthy foods like sauerkraut.
What is the strangest ingredient in your fridge/pantry?
Oh, another fab one! hmm at the moment in my fridge the oddest thing would be Beetroot leaves – often we chuck these out when we get a big bunch of fresh beats but they are actually delicious sautéed with a bit of butter and garlic and served with eggs. In my cupboard it’s a homemade dukkah – a topper of toasted hazelnuts, sesame seeds and spices – its great over just about anything. In my freezer its hemp juice ice cubes. I totally recommend these! Very like wheatgrass plus a host of other benefits. I blend them into my green smoothies.
What does an average day look like for you?
I’m pretty lucky each day is pretty different. When I’m working at sea its 12h split shifts & working on deck in heavy outdoor gear or in a lab, or working with binoculars looking for whales and seals. When I’m catering I’m up early to bake for breakfast then cooking all day, chatting with guests and if working somewhere coastal I’ll always make sure to have a break in the day to go for a surf or swim or even just do some yoga or running. Today I’m recipe testing & shooting so its emails in the morning, then cooking and shooting with the nice late morning/afternoon light. My boyfriend and friends are great taste testers!
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only live off one meal, what would it be and why?
Oh god, I think that would be my nightmare! I used to say tacos, but then I ate them too often… Seeing as its a desert Island, I’d say something with fresh coconut, I could drink the coconut water and use the shells for bowls after!
5 quick-fire questions at the end for a little bit of fun!
1. What is your coffee order?
Americano, 1 brown sugar – boring but brilliant if the coffee is good! In the summer an iced cold brew coffee with a splash of coconut milk.
2. If you were a fruit or vegetable what would you be?
A coconut for sure! I use coconut oil for moisturiser, and put coconut milk or toasted coconut in pretty much everything I eat!
3. What is the one thing you can’t live without?
The sea! I get claustrophobic inland when I don’t know how far away the sea is!
4. Who is your biggest inspiration?
Pffft hard one, at the moment its the surfer Sophie Hellyer she’s doing so much amazing advocacy for environmentalism, women rights and fair treatment of workers in the fashion industry that girl is a powerhouse!
5. Where is your favourite place on earth?
Normally I would say my home here in Bundoran, its such a beautiful spot of coastline with amazing waves (and people!), but this week while its a bit cold (and I just can back from Australia) I have to say Byron Bay. I was there last week with my friend Louise and it was just so fab for food, for surfing in warm water and the town just has a really chilled out and laid back vibe. Serious style envy for the all the fabulous boho looks.
Keep an eye out for the next instalment of Wonky Meets in 2 weeks time!