Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Relatively Speaking: Noel McMeel

We ask personalities about the special family relationships in their lives

Noel McMeel

I think what you really want for any child growing up is confidence, so that if anything bad happens they can get up and get on with it and get things back to the way they were.

For me, that's one of the most important things my parents gave me.

They taught me, my four brothers and my sister to make the most of what we had and not focus on what we didn't have and we learned to appreciate what is good and what matters in life.

I remember having an old red bike and seeing a brand new racer bike which I wanted so badly that I cried.

It wasn't until later that I realised it wasn't meant to be for many reasons.

My mum was hard working like my dad, Owen. She was very house proud and still is.

She would have had you shining the door knobs until they gleamed. She always swept the front of the house, and the bathroom would have been shining and always smelt beautiful.

And mum kept the house nice and updated it.

When we had visitors the good silverware she got for a wedding present would have to be brought out of its box and polished and the good glasses taken out of the glass case.

I think that's one of the reasons why I got into hospitality. Although on a much larger scale, many of those things she did are what we do to welcome guests to the hotel.

There was lots of laughter in our house as well as lots of chores to be done. One of my happiest memories is when we all sat down at the table together at 5pm for dinner. Mum cooked everything herself and most of it was grown in the garden by my dad.

There was always homemade bread on the table, and we would always have moaned that someone else got a bigger piece than we did.

I just loved that food on the table and would have gobbled it up – we were so well fed.

My mother would have milked the cows in the morning when my father went to work as a stonemason and some of the milking would have been done before he came home at 6pm.

I remember every Saturday there was a wonderful smell when I woke up and then I'd go downstairs and see the kitchen table full of sponge cakes, fruit cakes and butterfly buns.

I'm still very close to my mum and always make a point of seeing her once a week.

I think the most precious thing in life is time, and for me the time I spend with my mother since my father passed away in September 2012 at the age of 93, is so important.

She doesn't cook as much now and I would cook for her sometimes or bring her out as a treat. Anything to make her happy."

NAME: MAUREEN MCMEEL

AGE: 80

OCCUPATION: HOUSEWIFE

RELATIONSHIP TO NOEL: MOTHER

Noel was an easy child to look after. He always had a placid nature and was hard-working. He did his fair share about the house and never complained. When he came in from school at 3pm the first thing he did was make a cup of coffee for me and his granny who lived here at the time.

It didn't surprise me when he became a chef. We always encouraged our children to do what they wanted in life and I feel very happy and proud at what Noel has achieved.

He has met some famous people and travelled a lot and, for us, it was always about keeping his feet on the ground and not getting cocky about his success, which he never did.

I am from Fermanagh and I couldn't believe so many world leaders were staying there during the G8 conference last year.

It was quite something that they were visiting my home county and also quite special that my son was cooking for them.

"When Noel told me he was writing a cookbook at first I didn't really understand what he was planning. It was only when I saw it that I realised what he had done. The stories he told, which were true, were a real surprise. I know his father would have been very proud of him and his book."

e Noel trained alongside the world famous chef, Jean-Louis Palladin, at the Watergate Hotel, Washington.

e He also worked in New York's distinguished Le Cirque Restaurant and the 'World Restaurant of the Year' Chez Panisse in San Francisco, where he met his idol, Chez Panisse founder, Alice Waters.

e He also famously cooked the wedding feast for Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills at Castle Leslie in Monaghan.

e Irish Pantry, Traditional Breads, Preserves and Goodies to Feed the Ones You Love (left) is priced £18.99. It is available in all good book shops and online at www.easons.com

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