WOMEN OF THE IRISH FOOD INDUSTRY – FIONA STAUNTON, CULINARY TEACHER
Fiona Staunton is a Chef and Home Economics teacher and owner of Fiona’s Food For Life. She presents live cookery classes in the workplace, as well as online classes. Her philosophy is Cook, Eat, Nourish – she will teach you to cook from scratch, nourish yourself and those around you while reducing time spent in the kitchen.
Her recipes are simple, nutritious, easy to follow and suit a variety of food preferences and focus on reducing food waste. All recipes have to pass the tough food critics of her family members on a daily basis!
She has a special interest in menopause health, having experienced a medically induced menopause last year due to breast cancer so she is fully aware of how challenging it can be to deal with these symptoms while juggling a busy life and how nutrition can help. Fiona’s 6 week menopause cooking programme starts on Feb 2nd. There will be 6 live virtual cooking demos, 6 weekly meal plans and lots of recipes and tips to nourish women through perimenopause, menopause and beyond.
As a woman of a certain age as they say, or 43 as I say. talks and learning about menopause and premenopause is something I’m interested in and I feel this is something we need to talk a lot more about. So if you’re of a similar age, you might want to consider the class!
How did your career path bring you here?
On leaving school I studied Home Economics. Once I qualified I headed straight to Ballymaloe Cookery School where I did their internationally recognised cookery course. I was lucky as they kept me on after I completed my course to work in Ballymaloe House under the watchful eye of Rory O’Connell. This experience was invaluable and led me to set up my own catering business in Dublin. During this time I worked for companies such as Bank of Ireland and Price Waterhouse Coopers as well as doing private events. I remember it as being a very busy and hectic time!
In 2001 I moved to Australia where I initially worked with catering agencies and then later worked in event management. I returned to Ireland in 2008 after having my first child, Conor, and a few years later my daughter Fia arrived on the scene!
Looking after two young kids and cooking all our meals from scratch was manageable for me but I began to realise that cooking was a real struggle for many people and cooking healthy food seemed to only further complicate things. I saw an opportunity to help others in the kitchen. I love solving a problem; particularly around food. Often people are told by health professionals that they should avoid certain foods and eat plenty of particular foods but I find people often lack the culinary skills to create recipes and meal plans around those foods that fit in with their lifestyle – that’s what I love doing!
How does your career fulfil you?
I love helping people, making a difference in their lives, whether it is how to incorporate gut friendly foods, or foods for menopause, or foods for brain health, or heart health or anti-inflammatory foods into a workable meal plan the whole family will enjoy, while also minimising your time in the kitchen.
Seeing the look on people’s faces when they see tasty, nutritious, simple dishes cooked in minutes from scratch is my reward! I believe, if you taste, smell and see things being made you are much more likely to make it yourself.
What are your professional ambitions, what’s next for Fiona Staunton?
I want to help as many people as I can and have a positive impact on their nutrition, cooking experience and health. Ideally I would like to do this through live in person cookery demonstrations but also through virtual classes, blogs and my YouTube Channel.
I am always looking to collaborate with other food and nutrition businesses on new and exciting projects, so watch this space!
Having recently had breast cancer and experienced a medically induced menopause I can personally relate to how challenging it can be to manage the symptoms naturally. I hope to run a series of menopause cookery demos in workplaces and for private groups.
Tell us of one woman in the food industry that constantly inspires you and why?
I think Darina Allen is incredibly inspiring! Having studied at Ballymaloe Cookery school and seen first hand her passion and determination, is a privilege. There is no doubt she has inspired me and so many others too. Her influence within the sphere of Irish food cannot be overstated. Her campaigning for basic cookery education for all and her support of local producers is admirable. Her current campaign to get cooking on the school curriculum is a very worthy endeavour and one that can impact the health and well-being of so many people for generations to come. She is also incredibly generous when it comes to sharing her knowledge and supportive of those in the industry. As I said, truly inspiring! I was delighted to interview her for my podcast in 2020, just before the pandemic.
What do you think can be done to raise the profile and visibility of women in the industry?
Katia, you are doing an amazing job with pieces like this. I would love to see an in person networking event with women in the industry.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
A big achievement, when living in Australia, was when I was Head Chef for the Citibank Christmas party for 2k people, I slept for 3 days after! More recently with Fiona’s Food For Life I am proud that I have appeared on the morning TV cooking slot and also on Newstalk radio with my Quarantine Cuisine tips. But I am most excited about what comes next particularly around helping women going through menopause as well as growing my business so I can share my love and knowledge of food and healthy eating.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
This is your one life – make the most of it, look after your health and manage stress– set boundaries early, tap into how you feel and share with those around you.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
Organisation, nutrition, culinary, efficiency and creativity are all needed. I need to develop recipes, photograph the food and then present the cookery demo live in a very tight time slot, while also giving culinary and nutrition tips.
Are you a savoury or sweet kinda person? Please tell us about a real treat?
I used to really enjoy desserts or sweet treats like perfect French macarons or Tara Gartlan’s chocolate dessert but now I would prefer to be served a savoury meal that I wouldn’t cook myself at home. On weekends a selection of street food from Santosh and Millie at 3 leaves is just my favourite treat or for a very special occasion I would have gone to The Greenhouse or Michaels in Mount Merrion or how about a weekend in San Sebastian for Pinxtos!