Botanico interview with Head Chef, Josh Plunkett

What were your first memories in the kitchen?

Probably cooking with my mother or baking at an early age. My mother is a great cook and I got a love of food from her. I also went to Ballymaloe in 4th year for a week which helped push me into food. In a professional sense my first proper kitchen experience with Ross Lewis in Chapter One was important and I was lucky to be able to start at such a high level. Even though I worked in Chapter One when I was just getting started Ross has been a mentor and ever present for me throughout my career. Being able to start in a place like Chapter One really helped to give me a good base and the skills and mindset needed to move on to other high-end kitchens.

Do you and your partner cook at home and how does that fair?

We like to cook at home but not usually together, we take turns! Krissia used to be a bit nervous cooking for me but now she doesn’t mind which is good!! But we like to make food and sit down and eat together. We try to cook things from different places or recreate things we’ve eaten somewhere on our travels. Krissia is Peruvian but grew up in New York so she’s been exposed to a lot of different kinds of food and likes to cook a lot of Asian food. We make a lot of coffee at home and I also have a monthly wine subscription from Comida Independente in Lisbon so we try to tie all that in too.

What’s the three most important things in your kitchen?

In a professional setting, my knives, a good quality chopping board to work on are really important, either a high quality wooden board or a no-trax rubber cutting board from the US and my spoon-bain with my tools I’ve collected over my years cooking and living abroad. At home, a friend recently bought us a present of a Sage coffee machine and it’s been pretty life changing. We can make proper barista style coffee at home which is a real luxury!

The dish that represents you?

I don’t have one…I don’t really like to make associations like that. I think you connect with food more through the seasons and what products are available to cook with at a certain time or what is in peak condition rather than a specific dish.

What dish excites you from around the world?

Again, I wouldn’t limit myself to a single dish. There’s too many amazing food cultures and cuisines in the world to pick just one. I think there’s food that is and can be comforting and that is important. In terms of exciting food I like to eat things that are vibrant, maybe new to me or challenging in some respect and full of flavour. In recent memory highlights would probably be The Smoking Goat in London as well as my friend Nick Fitzgerald’s Taco Padre in Borough Market. I enjoy spicy food a lot and something I do miss is the Mapo Tofu from Taihou where I worked in Kyoto.

Who has been the most celeb of celebs that you’ve cooked for?

Hmm…I don’t really know. I get more excited about famous chefs coming to eat at places I’ve worked. In San Francisco we used to have some cool food personalities or chefs come in that would have restaurants on the 50 Best list etc and that was cool too see them come in and have a good time.

What’s your favorite style of food and why?

If I really had to pick I’d probably say Japanese even though that is a pretty broad answer. I lived in Japan for a year. I have a strong love for Japanese culture and food. I would happily pick fish over meat if I had to for the rest of my life. Sushi is something I am very fond of, the level of care, discipline and attention required to produce high quality sushi is incredible. At its highest level it expresses such purity of product and incredible technique.

Do you allow music in your kitchen within service?

Yes, most of the restaurants I worked in were open kitchens facing the dining room and so played music. Botanico is the same as the grill area is open and we can see the guests and be part of their experience at the restaurant.

Now Botanico, where did you come from, work places?

I studied philosophy in UCD and used to spend the summers staging in restaurants to get experience. I started out in Dublin in Chapter One and then moved to New York City. There I worked in a couple places including Momofuku, Blanca, Luksus and Atera. I spent a year in Japan working in a Szechuan restaurant called Taihou in Kyoto. After that I spent 3 years in California at Saison.

What style of food and ambiance do you wish or are bringing to Botanico?

At Botanico we are aiming to deliver a relaxed dining experience. We want to provide an experience that is based on quality, in terms of service, food, plate ware, décor and ambiance. I’m really proud of the work we did on the restaurant, we spent a lot of time considering all the details. The furniture is amazing, it is made from beautiful natural Portuguese materials and has an elegant simplicity to it. I think we try to do the same with the food. It’s not overcomplicated but we try to use the best ingredients we can and treat them in the best possible way and deliver that to the guest in a way that is simple and elegant. The environment in Botanico is quite natural as it is surrounded by a lot of mature plants and trees which is the inspiration for the name and I hope helps us create a unique experience in the area.

How’s the journey at Botanico been so far?

It’s been good! We’ve learnt and adapted from some things since we’ve opened and are always trying to evolve and improve. I want to keep pushing the food and kitchen forward so that we can be better at what we do. I think the project has a lot of momentum and we’ll definitely add a couple more elements to it as the things move forward. The space has a lot of potential and we really want to maximize on that. We have a really talented team, our head of beverage Nelson is a fantastic talent and our management team are great too and all have great skill sets that complement each other.