Getting to know the person who makes your food can only be seen as a good and important thing. Familiarity and trust are essential when putting your tastebuds in somebody else’s hands. And Harry Colley has very good hands. A chef at the Fumbally, and a cofounder of Dublin Pop Up, he bubbles with excitement as he shows me around the kitchen of the former’s latest endeavour, The Fumbally Stables, which serves, in part, as a laboratory to play with, and develop ideas around, food. Visiting Harry at the Stables to take his picture, he pulls lids off big plastic buckets and prods that which ferments beneath, and rifles through shelves cluttered with kilner jars of homemade oils, vinegars, honeys, and miso. Here, he talks about his eating out, his current cooking habits, and kitchen machismo.
Hi Harry! How are you? Hey! Great, thanks.
A lot of people groan at the term pop up – why should I trust you? I know what you mean. I often groan at them too to be honest, so don’t trust me, I’m just a stranger. I’ve gradually been doing less and less of them since joining the Fumbally at the end of last year. I started out in the Fumbally doing the Wednesday night dinners, which is a new menu every week and can be any food thing I’m interested in. This week I’m doing Injera, which are Ethiopian flatbreads, with a load of different stews and sauces so I’m pretty buzzed about that. In the last few weeks I’ve also done matzah ball soup, a smoked dinner, Thai laap and ramen so for the most part, the Wednesday nights looks after any burning desire I have to do many more pop ups but I am looking to do some more collaborative stuff later this year. Hoping to do something with food and music around Christmas time and it’ll be great. I’m being cagey here because nothing is confirmed.
Where did you last eat out? How was that for you? It was actually in the Fumbally last Wednesday on a night off but that’s only because of my discount and also because it’s a cult that consumes your life, but BEFORE that it was in a comically disappointing Vietnamese place on Capel Street that I hadn’t been to. Usually I go to Aobaba, which is so great, but they don’t do beer so we tried another one. After that we wandered over to a chipper called Sorrento in Stoneybatter right across from Walsh’s which does amazing ice cream. There’s a really interesting guy working there who trained in Italy with an expert gelato maker and he has this outrageous passion for his craft. You’d never know from looking at it from the outside as it’s a bog-standard local chipper but ask and he’ll have three or four different ice creams at any one time and they’re so so good.
Big spoon or little spoon? Wooden spoon.
Cooking for dates, for mates, or for one? Why? I mostly cook for just myself when I’m at home. I live with one of my brothers and a friend of ours but we’re rarely there at the same time. It’s normally bowls of broth, noodles and cabbage with whatever I find in the fridge but more often than not, I get the €4 breakfast bagel and coffee deal from across the road. I love it. It’s grim but I love it. I sometimes stress when I’m cooking for mates, so I almost never do. Mostly because I imagine they’re expecting something mind blowing and innovative when it’s probably going to be really simple. That’s in my head though, I should definitely cook for my friends more. If cooking for my friends gives me anxiety then I obviously never cook for dates, duh.
As a chef, have you ever used the aubergine emoji sincerely, unlike probably everyone else? I’m no better than you – I’m talking ‘bout the D.
Kitchens seem like such hyper macho places - have the ones you’ve worked in been like this? Why are they like this? Are you hyper macho? I’ve worked in a load of different places over the years and they all vary but yes, there is definitely and underlying culture of machoism throughout professional kitchens. It can be a total boy’s club and there’s absolutely no reason for it. I was probably more effected by it when I started out. I remember seeing someone accidentally slice open their hand and seal the cut closed again on a solid top and I was so impressed by that. Now I think that person is a dope. There’s a box of plasters in the store room. Get over yourself.
Anthony Bourdain took it to the forefront and made the chef’s life seem incredibly sexy and glam in Kitchen Confidential. He sold it as another kind of rock star and I think a lot of the current generation of cooks are still playing up to that image but there are small changes happening. Margot Henderson spoke so brilliantly and so earnestly at the MAD Symposium a few years ago about what it’s like to be a woman in the kitchen, married to a really famous and amazing chef and dealing with her own confidence crises during the beginnings of his success. People are definitely now talking, at least, about the inequalities that you find in the industry, and highest level restaurants in the world are moving away from the hyper macho brigade system and becoming a little bit more considered. I think they’re also seeing their food getting better by not overworking their staff as much and feeding into the macho nonsense. It’ll be a really long time before that trickles down and becomes the new industry norm though. Am I hyper macho? No, definitely not. Sometimes it feels weird to even address that and give it any air time because it’s so vacuous and seemingly unimportant and has helped no one but issues surrounding masculinity absolutely do affect people. It’d be lovely if we didn’t care but we do.
What Dublin food trends have you had it up to here with? LISTS. Listing food is dumb. 14 best brunch spots, etc. Get fucked.
And which ones do you want to see more of? I’d love to see more fermented stuff out there. There’s already pockets of people working with it and experimenting. Fia in Rathgar are doing really great stuff and they’re still pretty new so I’m looking forward to all their things in jars getting funky enough to be eaten.
Rump, tongue, cheek, or neck? All are beautiful in their own ways but I’ll tone down the heat of this question by answering honestly and saying that I’ve a great recipe for guanciale, Italian cured pork cheek, which is v good and v satisfying.
Who’s at your dream non-straight dinner party table? It might be lame to say it but the table would be full of the great queer people in Dublin I’m already pals with but I would also invite Stefano Pilati because he’s a babe and he wears nice clothes.
Thanks, Harry! Thank you!