Life

Top chef Danni Barry unwinds by walking on her parents' farm in Mayobridge

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Michelin star chef, Danni Barry, who has recently moved from Deane's Eipic restaurant in Belfast to take charge of the kitchen at Clenaghan's, Aghalee

Chef Danni Barry at work in the kitchen – lunch doesn't usually happen as I'm normally preparing other people's lunches and can't eat at the same time Picture: Hugh Russell

1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I'm up about 7am pretty much every day when I'm working and I'll fit in a shower, breakfast and leave time to check my messages before I leave my home in Belfast for the restaurant at 7.30. I always check messages early in the morning as I may have one from the man who buys our fish which will be served up to diners later that day. He has a much earlier start than me and will have half a day's work done by the time I find out what the the 'catch of the day' is.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? For breakfast I'll usually have porridge which is a great way to set me up for a long day in the restaurant kitchen.

Lunch? Lunch doesn't usually happen, but I'll bring fruit with me and snack on that. We are normally preparing other people's lunches so we can't eat at the same time.

Evening meal? This will be a delayed lunch and is prepared by and eaten with staff in the restaurant. We will usually cook up a casserole or salad or something that uses leftover ingredients so there is as little food wastage as possible.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, nutrition is becoming increasingly important to me and even though we are so busy that I can't stop for lunch most days until somewhere between 3 and 4 o'clock, I do make an effort to bring healthy snacks, such as different types of fruit.

4. Best meal ever?

A couple of years ago, when I was chef at Eipic restaurant in Belfast, we had a visit to a lamb farm along the north coast of Co Mayo and it was an unforgettable experience. We stayed in a cottage and the guys we were with lit a fire and barbecued lamb and lobsters straight from the sea. We ate it all with bread and it was quite simple really, but at the same time, amazing. I have never since tasted lobster quite like that.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I love Kinder Bueno bars – I snack on those a lot. I also love to stop at filling stations and have a sneaky sausage roll every now and then.

6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

Women are always on diets and I have suffered them on occasions too, usually before going on holiday or before a wedding. I did that cabbage soup diet once with my sister, with mixed results. I think we lied to each other about how well we were doing on it and how much we were enjoying it. I was a bit sick of cabbage for a while after that.

7. Do you take health supplements?

I take multivitamins and also Vitamin D.

8. How do you relax?

I love to be outdoors and, on days off, I'll head to my parents' farm at Mayobridge, Co Down, and just walk in the fresh air. I love to walk at Tollymore Forest Park outside Newcastle or stroll along the beach at Dundrum.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I do like a drink every now and then but I'm not a big drinker by any means. I'll take a glass of wine or a gin occasionally.

10. Stairs or lift?

Always the stairs; I hate lifts.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Not really; when you're on your feet from 7.30am until 11.30 at night, there's not much room to fit in anything else. I would like to have a set time to go to the gym like other people, but, at the moment, it's Clenaghan's morning, noon and night...

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Walk the stairs instead of taking the lift and walk into work if you live and work in the city.

13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

I think I'm fairly strong and I have a lot of stamina as I can work six or seven long days on the trot, but I guess I'm around a five. I would like to be an eight or nine.

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

I had a seaweed bath once which is supposed to improve circulation, but it's hard to tell if these things do any good or not. At the moment, if I have a Sunday off, I will join my friend at her yoga class which is a type of alternative therapy. I also have a mindfulness app called Head Space on my phone which requires you to breathe and count, but I'll just be 20 seconds in and I'll already be thinking of a hundred things I have to do that day.

15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I loved camogie when I was at school and still follow the Down girls, and I played in a netball team. I generally have good memories of school PE.

16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

When I was working in Cumbria in England, I wakened up one morning and couldn't feel my hands which was really scary. I thought, 'That's it; game over', but the doctor said I had shingles brought on by stress. It prompted my decision to move back home and look after myself a bit better.

17. Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Make time for yourself and make sure you get a couple of days off a week to put yourself first and allow your body and mind time to recover.

18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

My friend and fellow chef, James Devine, who is well ahead of me when it comes to the whole work/life balance thing.

19. What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

On a good night, I'll be in bed for around midnight and if I get six hours' sleep, I'm doing well.

20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

Yes, we're here for as long as we're going to be and we don't have any say in it, so people should quit moaning about getting old and think themselves lucky to be here – older and wiser and still alive.

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