Green Michelin-starred Kai restaurant’s chef brings sustainable dining to Bengaluru

From working with refugees and immigrants to preserving traditions, and reducing food waste, Jess’ commitment towards a sustainable world is reflected in the food she serves at Kai, in Ireland

November 03, 2023 10:46 am | Updated November 08, 2023 12:37 pm IST

Chef Jess Murphy, co-owner of Michelin green-starred Kai restaurant with a farmer friend

Chef Jess Murphy, co-owner of Michelin green-starred Kai restaurant with a farmer friend | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In the face of global climate change, what can chefs do to contribute? “I believe it starts with our purchasing choices, especially for head chefs of large hotels or for chefs like me who operate very small neighbourhood restaurants. We all can make a difference,” says chef Jess Murphy, co-owner of Michelin green-starred Kai restaurant, in Ireland.

The chef is in Bengaluru for a two-day pop-up event, curated by Dean With Us, showcasing her inventive and sustainable cooking, as part of the JW Garden Soiree series at JW Marriott Bengaluru Prestige Golfshire Resort & Spa. In keeping with her culinary philosophy, the chef’s menu will inspired by the farmers of Bengaluru and its surroundings, featuring fresh local produce.

Guests can expect a menu that’s a blend of New Zealand and Irish influences, featuring fish cooked over coals, brushed with butter, and accompanied by coconut sugar pastry. “I’ll be working with beautiful ingredients like hazelnuts and wild cod nuts that are found in Ireland. Hazelnuts grow wild in Ireland, and there’s a delightful overlap between local Bengaluru ingredients and Irish flavours. So, without giving too much away, expect some exciting combinations,” she says.

During the pop-up, Jess plans to incorporate local Indian ingredients like red banana and coconut sugar. She explains, “I am combining the two with burnt brown butter, which will create a unique flavour. I’m also working with Assam tea, considering how significant tea is to India.”

Chef Jess Murphy at JW Marriott Bengaluru Prestige Golfshire Resort & Spa

Chef Jess Murphy at JW Marriott Bengaluru Prestige Golfshire Resort & Spa | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A renowned chef with two All-Ireland National Awards for Best Chef in Ireland and a green Michelin-starred restaurant, Jess has made a name for herself with her inventive approach to sustainable dining at Kai in Galway.

In 2020, the Michelin guide, famed for its three-tiered system for recognising top-tier restaurants, introduced a new award: the Green Star. Kai, in Galway’s Westend, secured the Green Michelin star the same year, making history. Their achievement hinged on utilising local, organic ingredients to craft an ever-evolving, hyper-seasonal menu. Notably, three-quarters of their waste undergoes recycling, while the remaining quarter contributes to energy production.

Earning the Green Michelin star, which remains unique in Ireland, holds significant importance to Jess. “Many years ago, we made the switch to all eco-friendly products across the board, which, as you know, itself cost a lot of money. So we made an investment in the future,” she emphasises. Her team worked on ways to minimise food waste, for instance, by collaborating with farmers who could use surplus food for animal feed. “We also explored the regeneration of food waste back into the soil by partnering with the rubbish company and incorporating seaweed from Ireland, which was fantastic,” she adds.

Food at Kai restaurant, Ireland

Food at Kai restaurant, Ireland | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Sustainability also extends to her staff at Kai, where they have a 40-hour working week. “Sustainability is not just about the environment but also about the well-being of our employees,” says Jess.

Her commitment to working with refugees and immigrants in Galway and beyond has been long-standing. She has collaborated with refugees in Beirut, Syria, and Jordan. Last year, she co-authored a book with a local baker titled ‘The United Nations of Cookies.’ The book features 28 recipes for cookies, biscuits, and crackers from around the world, all sourced from refugees and immigrants, reflecting her dedication to preserving their culinary heritage.

Her role at UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, involves recording people’s food histories. “I believe that offering someone a glass of water and sitting them down to discuss their food history is one of the most dignifying things we can do for someone,” she says. The experience has taught her the significance of recording people’s food histories, especially in refugee camps. “I document everything from the smell of a tomato leaf to the act of planting a pumpkin seed. I wanted to ensure that refugees’ food histories are preserved when they move to Ireland so that they never forget where they came from and where they’re headed.”

Cake at Kai restaurant, Ireland

Cake at Kai restaurant, Ireland | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Chef Jess’s culinary signature is a reflection of her diverse experiences, and her commitment to sustainability goes hand in hand with creating extraordinary dishes. Born in New Zealand, she grew up in a matriarchal family with a strong connection to the land, and this upbringing laid the foundation for her dedication to sustainability. Her journey took her from New Zealand to Australia and eventually to Wales in the UK. There, she met her husband, who hails from Carlow, Ireland. Their shared love for culinary exploration led them to Ireland, where they embarked on a journey that has become a hallmark of sustainable dining at Kai Restaurant.

The essence of her menus is deeply inspired by the countries she’s visited, the traditions she’s embraced, and the people she’s met along the way.

Chef Jess Murphy brings a five-course wine-paired meal to JW Marriott Bengaluru Prestige Golfshire Resort & Spa on November 3-4 at 7 pm, priced at ₹6500 + taxes. per person.

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