Baltimore chef finds the essence of Ireland
Chef John Shields dishes about relaxing getaways to the Emerald Isle
During a recent trip to Ireland, John Shields stands near the sign for The Old Goat's Cottage, with a view of Bantry Bay in the background. (John Shields, Baltimore Sun / May 22, 2011)
The owner of Gertrude's Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art uses travel to foreign shores to nourish that quest. Often called "The Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay," Shields hosts the PBS television series "Coastal Cooking With John Shields" and has written three popular cookbooks on bay cuisine.
To say Shields is busy is an understatement, so when he has time to get away, simplicity is key. He finds that and more, in his ancestral home of Ireland. Shields has taken time to share with us his love of the Emerald Isle, a spot where he retreats to recapture his inspiration and rejuvenate his soul.
What is your favorite travel destination?
Ireland is the place I go to renew myself. My life in the restaurant business borders on hectic to insane on a regular basis, but as soon as my feet touch ground in Ireland all the stress leaves my body and life is good.
What drew you to Ireland?
I come from an Irish heritage and growing up in Baltimore that lineage was always regaled in tales and legends of our ancestors. As a child I would often dream of being in Ireland, not having a clue about any of the realities of the actual country. The longings were based on the fairy tale-like stories from my great-aunts, Josi and Annie.
What inspires you most about this destination?
I was just speaking with a friend who has relatives on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork and we talked about why we love being in the Irish countryside. There is an unspoiled beauty to the country. You won't find billboards along the roads (in fact you may be hard pressed to find road signs), or grotesque strip malls or major American-style sprawl. There is a national pride in the stunning beauty of this island that lies on the far western outskirts of Europe. It makes one understand how simple life should be.
Who do you bring with you?
My partner, John Gilligan, who happens to be even more Irish than me. His grandfather had a ticket on the Titanic, but missed the boat because of an abscessed tooth.