Women We Love: Clodagh McKenna – Chef, Author & TV Personality

Clodagh McKenna is an award-winning chef, a firm fixture on television, radio, and in publishing and a household name both at home and abroad in the food industry. She is also a highly successful entrepreneur who has come a very long way from her humble beginnings at the Farmer’s market in her home town in West Cork. Here Clodagh shares with us her tips for success and where she first developed her passion for cooking.

Clodagh McKenna at the launch of Unislim’s new ‘Delicious’ cookbook. Unislim, photo Kieran Harnett

You are now 20 years working in food (Congratulations!) and you have amalgamated a myriad of achievements which continue to see you flourish. How would you describe the journey from the genesis to now and just how did you get your start working with food to being broadcast to millions of viewers all over the world sharing your recipes?

I do believe that it’s all about being authentic. I truly love food and entertaining and I love learning new skills, I am doing a bee keeping course in a few weeks!

What challenges did you face getting your career off the ground?
Similar challenges that most people face when they are going out on their own – trying to manage all the caps from managing my career to book keeping (I hated this!). But I always believed in sharing my love for cooking and that got me through any difficult patches.

You have had to make some difficult decisions over the course of your career to date, and you often speak of integrity being at the forefront of your decision making, what advice would you offer fellow female business/entrepreneurs when they embark on similar paths?
To follow your gut instinct and to keep authentic. If you don’t believe in something then don’t do it as it will never be a success if you’re not passionate about it in some way.

You have a vast array of best-selling cook books, can you tell us how you got your first book deal and the process of going from chef to author and what that meant for your career and life?
I got it by knocking on many publishing houses doors, and then proving to them that I know my subject and that I would work very hard in making it a best selling book.

What do you make of the changes that have occurred from when you set off on your career path and now for women working in high profile media roles, or did you ever experience any difference in how you were treated in comparison to that of your male counterparts?
I personally never felt treated any different but I always made sure my voice was heard.

Of all the shows & events you’ve worked at over the last 2 decades, what have been the most memorable experiences and why?
I think it’s the Today Show that I do in NYC every month. It never ceases to give me a massive thrill every time I walk into the iconic Rockefeller centre. I have to pinch myself that I get to cook on the biggest morning show in the world!

What advice would you offer young women aspiring to fulfil a career as a chef?
Make sure you spend a few years in a professional kitchen training. You can never learn enough.

If you hadn’t pursued working as a chef and cookbook author in your career what do you think you would have done?
I would have been a dancer. I love dancing so much… I dance every day at home.

It is so important that women inspire and allow each other to grow together through mutual support. What women in Ireland, as well as Irish women abroad, do you most admire whom you feel inspire you today?

Darina Allen for her commitment to sustainability, Fiona Leahy for her creativity and, Nikki Tibbles founder of Wild at Heart for her charity work.

You are known for your effortless style and bubbly personality, what mantras/mindfulness do you use to cleanse the mind of negative thoughts and keep positive?

Oh that’s so sweet of you, thank you! I try to remember to be happy every day, it’s something that I am aware of. Life goes by so fast that I want to enjoy it and not be afraid of too much.

Speaking of mindfulness, how do you split your time between work and your downtime?

I don’t work at weekends, and I work hard during the week but try and keep it to 8-5pm as much as I can.
What has been your proudest career moment to date?

Publishing my first cookery book, I know have six. Clodagh’s Suppers is my latest and definitely my best.

What is your morning routine to get you through the working day?

Walk with the dogs first thing, lemon and ginger in hot water, yogurt and fruit, and a strong coffee.

What are your favourite ways to keep fit?

Spinning, walking and tennis.

What are your top three beauty essentials?

Rose Oil, Cryo bowl (Teresa Tarmay) and Bayeco organic creams.

Favourite gadget and why?

My microplane, amazing for zesting citrus fruits and grating parmesan.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Early bird, I go to bed at 9pm and wake at 7am.

Your greatest food pleasure?

Carlingford Oysters.

If you could tell your 16 year-old self anything, what would it be?

Love yourself!!


Interview by Linda Coogan Byrne.

Rob Kenny and Clodagh McKenna at the launch of Unislim’s new ‘Delicious’ cookbook.

Clodagh’s latest collaboration is with Unislim, Ireland’s only Irish owned slimming company, which last week saw them launch their new “Delicious” cookbook. Filled with over 50 carefully crafted dinner recipes included, all made up of wholesome and nutritious ingredients, ensuring there is something for everyone. ‘Delicious’ allows readers to enjoy their favourite meals and flavours, while continuing to achieve their ideal weight goals. 

The new ‘Delicious’ cookbook is available now online at Unislim.com and at Unislim classes nationwide. RRP €12.99.