My Weekend: Living the chef’s dream at English Market

Pamela Kelly is head chef at the Farmgate Café in the English Market and is taking part in Waterford Harvest Festival this weekend
My Weekend: Living the chef’s dream at English Market
Pamela Kelly is head chef at the Farmgate Café in the English Market.

Pamela Kelly is head chef at the Farmgate Café in the English Market, is one of the chefs taking part in the Waterford Harvest Festival, which takes place this weekend.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work:

I am a mother to two amazing children, Evan 15 and Seren nine. I have been working in kitchens since the age of 13 with my dad, who is also a chef, while my mam worked front of house.

Growing up in Dublin, I moved to Ballinasloe in Galway when I was six. I trained in GMIT, doing a CERT course in 2002/3 and moved to Cork for my placement. I have been in Cork now almost 16 years and love the city to pieces.

I have worked in many places around the city, spending six years in Nash 19 followed by four and half years in Market Lane. Both have definitely shaped how I work today.

I am currently working in the Farmgate Café in the English Market and have been there almost a year. It is a chef’s dream having so many amazing butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers, bakeries, vegetable stalls and spices all downstairs. We do our shopping a few times a day and have a great relationship with the stallholders. Butchers will age meat, fishmongers keep you a special catch and there is endless valuable advice from all the experts who have worked the stalls for years. It really is a fantastic place to work.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

Friday night is usually movie night and chill with the kids. Sometimes Friday is my day not to cook and in that case a takeaway is usually on the cards. However, that is only if we can all agree on where to order from!

Lie ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

I am definitely a morning person. I can’t remember the last time I had a lie in. I like to get up before the kids and have a coffee to gather my thoughts.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

The restaurant is really busy on a Saturday, and it is one of my favourite days to work. We are pretty lucky as service ends at 4pm and we are usually out by 5pm. For me, the weekend starts then as the Market is closed on Sundays.

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

My ultimate city break would be to London. I would book in breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and everything in between as there is so much to eat, and of course, see there. In terms of who I would bring, there is so many people I’d love to come with me! They would mainly be chefs… and they all know who they are.

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

I absolutely love being by the water. Somewhere like Roberts Cove or the cliff walk in Ballycotton is where I can really recharge the batteries. If I want to have a nice stroll with the kids, somewhere like Farran Woods is a great place.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Who doesn’t love to catch up with family and friends? Sunday is a day for me and the kids and we tend to have a bit of a routine — going to the Blackrock Village Sunday Market and, of course, a walk down ‘the line’. I’d imagine we may be able to go blackberry picking there from this week. There are also always friends popping into the village, so meeting them for a coffee too is great.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

Unfortunately, my hobbies are pretty scarce. I do love reading and I’m trying to diversify… as in not just reading books that are culinary related. If drinking wine and craft beers was a hobby, then that could also be one! (This question has made me realise I really need to get a hobby!) 

Entertain or be entertained? If it's the latter do you have a signature dish?

I do enjoy both entertaining and being entertained. Having people over is always nice and I’m a really simple cook. I like to make food that can be shared like a good risotto, a huge stack of crispy squid, a really comforting beef cheek stew with creamy mash, or a nice big roast. Really it depends on the people and the time of year. I love the Christmas dinner feeling where everyone is there to feast. I couldn’t pick a signature dish as I like too many to have just one. It would be like choosing a favourite child.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork - where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

This is so hard! I am a creature of habit, so I go to the following places all the time and not just because the coffee, food and drinks are great but because the staff and owners are pretty class too!

For coffee and breakfast/ brunch it has to be Idaho, Ali’s Kitchen and Good Day Deli; for lunch it is ORSO, Nash 19 and Miyazaki; and for dinner, I would go to Elbow Lane and Greenes while Market Lane and KOTO are great with the kids. There are a ton more, but these are where we go most often.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

You will find me chilling at home with the kids, just like I did with my parents. I still get the heebie-jeebies when the RTÉ Nine O'Clock News comes on. That has replaced the Glenroe theme song of my youth.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

My alarm goes off at 5.27am and I usually wake up just before it. I’m definitely an early bird.

Pamela joins Jenny Flynn, Head Chef at Faithlegg and Paula Hannigan, pastry chef and chocolatier at the Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore in the kitchen for the Grand Finale Dinner of the Waterford Harvest Festival. This exclusive dining event at Faithlegg House Hotel takes place on Sunday, September 8 from 6.30pm and includes a drinks reception and a five-course tasting menu complemented by specially selected wines. Waterford Harvest Festival runs from 6 – 8 September across Waterford city and for full details and bookings, see

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