When opposites attract - the men behind the food brand Currabinny

The successful Currabinny foods company run by social influencer James Kavanagh and Cork cook William Murray continues to grow. Martha Brennan caught up with the formidable duo when William returned to his alma mater, Ballymaloe, recently.
When opposites attract - the men behind the food brand Currabinny
Special guest chef Melissa Hemsley with James Kavanagh and William Murray from Currabinny Foods at the third annual Ballymaloe Good Living Day Festival. Picture: Joleen Cronin

“THIS blender doesn’t look very William-friendly.”

That was the warning from William Murray of Currabinny foods at a demo in Ballymaloe house recently.

While he tried to figure out how to grind his homemade beetroot hummus, his boyfriend James Kavanagh happily moved around the room handing out samples of their fresh seaweed pesto.

An audience of around 50 people laughed with and learned from the young cooks, while Rachel Allen and various Ballymaloe chefs helped the couple at the top of the room.

With more than 200,000 Snapchat followers and various TV and radio appearances under his belt, James is one of the best-known social influencers in the country at the moment.

Yet when talking to him, the audience feel as comfortable as with their best friend. They rushed at the opportunity to win a loaf of bread by naming James’s cat and laughed when William shrugged off his boyfriend while cooking: “I just tune James out at this stage” he told the audience.

When the demo was over, whispers reverberated around the room, “Will you ask for the picture first?” said one girl to her friend. The young cooks stopped to take pictures and chat with everyone, James even did a few Snapchat shout-outs in the process.

The presenter of Ireland’s Got Mór Talent has become famous for his social media videos and has appeared on Xposé and The Late Late Show numerous times.

While walking around with James and William, you cannot help but be enthralled by the presence of the social influencer. From the floor-length fur jacket and welcoming hugs, to the silent giggle when the waitress of the café asked for his name for the waiting list — it’s no wonder he has captured the hearts of so many Irish fans.

When compared to his partner, William, a quieter and more restrained Cork artist, the couple seem like total opposites to someone that doesn’t know them. Yet they bounce off of each other and can’t help but share their common love — food.

The couple, who met online around five years ago, created Currabinny Foods nearly two and a half years ago and have grown the business massively since.

James, who worked in PR for years with brands such as Barry’s and Kerrygold, has always loved the marketing side of food.

William on the other hand is the trained chef of the pair, who studied in Ballymaloe Cookery School, in East Cork, after graduating from Limerick School of Art with a degree in sculpture.

Hailing from Currabinny in County Cork, William has always been interested in food, and his Cork roots have had a massive influence on his cooking career.

“Currabinny is a community where people grow their own food, share recipes and everyone always brings a dish to gatherings.” William explained, “It’s something I miss living in Dublin. I think it’s a piece of the country that the city is really missing.

“Studying here in Ballymaloe also had an influence on my cooking,” he added.

“I learned where food comes from and the ethos here always stuck with me.”

When William went on to work as a chef in a busy restaurant, he realised it wasn’t the career that he wanted.

“I wanted to cook food that I loved. I hated the busy pace and mechanics that those types of places need. What I’m doing now allows me to be a lot more creative,” he said. “I want to be a cook rather than a chef.”

William moved to work in front of house in restaurants, which he says is just as important to know about, especially since he and James are planning to open their own cafe in Dublin late this summer.

William Murray of Currabinny foods. Picture Joleen Cronin
William Murray of Currabinny foods. Picture Joleen Cronin

The idea behind Currabinny Foods is simple, wholesome, good ingredients that come from local sources, the pair explain.

“It’s kind of like the meals you had growing up, but with a modern twist” James said, “We’re not scared of real butter or sea salt — you need natural fat and variation in your diet. You’re so much better off to use real products that you know are natural.”

James noted that Irish people are taking a turn back to their roots and are straying away from fad diets.

“Irish people are clueing back in to the amazing stuff we have on this island” he explained, “our fresh fish, the amazing grass available for animals, unlimited seaweed, there’s so much here.”

Currabinny’s recipes, which are available online, are clearly influenced by both Williams’s rural Cork background as well as James’s city upbringing. Samples include ruby chard korma, rosemary and lemon biscuits and flourless dark chocolate and sea salt cake.

The company started out by doing catering events and appearing at food festivals around Ireland, but Currabinny has grown so much that the cooks have unplugged this side of the business to focus on the other, with the cafe opening in August and a book launch in October.

“It may seem like we’re quiet now,” William said, “but there’s so much going on in the background”.

The book will feature recipes from William’s Currabinny neighbours but the east Cork native said that while the hope is to some day open up another cafe in the Rebel County, he doesn’t think it will be in his hometown.

“If I brought all of this to Currabinny, I think my neighbours would kill me,” he laughed.

The following the pair has gathered seems daunting indeed but the couple said that they don’t know where they would be without social media.

“It’s so funny, like someone will come up to you in the street and remember some miniscule item of your life that even you forgot and you’re like, what?” James laughed, “But it just shows how interested people are in our life, which is lovely.”

“It’s amazing to know you have all of this support and belief in you. It means a lot and we want to give something back to people,” William added.

He said that the fame was a bit bewildering at first, but living with James, he’s gotten used to it.

“It’s like living in the Big Brother house, he Snapchats everything!” he joked.

When watching James’s videos of William, you can’t help but laugh with the couple and at the difference in their personalities.

“We’re complete opposites. It’s literally ying and yang. He’s the artist and I’m the organiser. I’m always on time and everything has to be perfect and he’s so different,” said James. “It drives me insane,” he loudly whispers.

“We work well together because you need the two,” William explained, “and we can live and work together because we’re not always in each other’s pockets.”

“The key is to keep busy so then there’s less time for fighting,” James kidded.

With their following, it’s clear that people love the duo and can see how well they work together.

William added: “We get to meet so many amazing people through James’s fame. There’s a reason we exist, without our fans we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing. We never could have imagined all of this three years ago.”

However, James said it’s important they use this bit of recognition while you can. “Instagram, Snapchat... it will all be replaced someday and I worry about those who are young and being recognised but are not doing anything with it. At least I know that this business will last beyond my fame — hopefully.”

William stressed this point further by agreeing; “He’s right. Some day everything is going to be new. New sites, a new James, we’ll be forgotten...” But he was quickly cut off from this idea by his very offended boyfriend; “Excuse you! Speak for yourself.”

It’s doubtful that anyone will be forgetting this pair any time soon.

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