‘Thousands came to Lanesboro – it’s fantastic!’

My recent visit to ‘Taste of the Lakelands’ food festival in Lanesboro was certainly an eye-opener: there seems to be new talent emerging from kitchens every week in Ireland!

            Matthew Luca was one of the talented chefs providing demonstrations on the day and he recently highlighted the importance of food festivals in the region.

  “The Lakelands festival is an absolutely fantastic idea and I want to congratulate the organising committee on such a successful event. Food festivals are a big thing right now and it draws crowds to areas which otherwise maybe wouldn’t be as busy. People come to see the chefs and obviously to taste local produce and to get to know more about the local area,” he said, before paying tribute to the talented chefs, bakers and food producers present over the weekend with the likes of Kevin Dundon and Ian Daly being joined by locals such as Stephen Dowd and Paul Horohoe. Matthew was impressed with the calibre on display: “There were great chefs on display like Fiona Egan, Margaret Sexton and Kieran Glennon. These guys give up their time to put on a show. It means that thousands of people came to Lanesboro and that was fantastic!”

  Born in the UK but hailing from Italian stock, Luca followed his heart and moved to Co. Cavan almost a decade ago.

  “My partner is from Cavan and I moved here to be with her eight years ago. I settled down with a lovely Irish woman and we have our daughter, Arianna, now too,” he told me with more than a hint of contentment.

  Matthew’s love of food started at a young age. “I started out in a family-run Italian restaurant from the age of twelve, helping out, waiting tables and in the kitchen too. It just went from there and all of a sudden I was building quite a good career and becoming a head chef at venues in the UK.”

  A stint in a Gordon Ramsay restaurant was followed by more head chef appointments at venues such as Notting Hill, before Luca arrived in Ireland. It was a move that reignited his passion for food.

  “The food I’m doing now is primarily focused on my Italian heritage. There’s nothing as passionate as when you’re cooking for your family and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

  As for performing at festivals like ‘Taste of the Lakelands’, Matthew admits to some butterflies! “The demonstrations are nerve-wracking at first – the pressure’s on! Everyone’s watching you and you don’t want to make a mistake! I absolutely love them and I love answering questions.”

  So what would Matthew make in order to entertain guests this weekend?

  “Get a takeaway pizza and say you made it (laughs)!” It seems like Matthew’s onto me!

  “My advice is to keep it simple and have some simple canapés and tray foods like lasagne, people absolutely love that. This is humble food and this is what people like. Just keep it simple and fun – panna cottas are so easy too. Tray dishes like pasta bakes and lasagne are great for family and friends. It’s just about having fun, don’t pressurise yourself! If it’s not simple and it’s too much…don’t do it!”