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Me and my health: Top chef Noel McMeel on his lifestyle

By Helen Carson

The 48-year-old is head chef at the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh and lives just outside Fintona. He catered to the world's most important statesmen at the G8 summit back in 2013.

Q: Do you take regular exercise - and if so, what?

A: I swim once a week - sometimes at the resort if I have time and at a public pool, too. I keep my gym clothes in the car in the hope that I will have time to use them. I don't work more than 45 hours a week over a five-day period - in fact no one here is expected to work longer than that, we are like a family here. In that sense, working at the Lough Erne Resort is quite unique.

Q: What's been the worst illness you have ever had?

A: I have always had problems with my teeth over the years - suffering from infections and abscesses. I had the worst toothache once when I was in San Francisco and I was brought in to be examined by a team of medics who were all probing at my mouth to see what was causing the pain. It took them eight hours to decide I needed an antibiotic.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: Many chefs have bad diets and live on pizzas, McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken - but I don't think I'm too bad. I usually have a ham or tuna sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise - always on white bread - I'm not a brown bread person. When I get home in the evening my weakness is biscuits, which I love with a cup of tea. That is dinner for me. As a chef, I am a picker, spending most of my day tasting food to ensure that what we create in the kitchens is tasty for our guests.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: Definitely biscuits that are covered in milk chocolate - I don't go for dark chocolate - yet it is all I eat at work; the best quality, dark 70% cocoa. Even though I know exactly how food affects the body, I don't practice what I preach, so I love things like sugar and salt. I am off sugar for Lent and I cannot wait until it is over.

Q: Do you drink/smoke - and if so how much?

A: I have been off cigarettes now for one and a half years. When I was trying to quit I used a puffer for the first six weeks to help, but then I read somewhere that it was as bad as smoking. My motivation was to have enough money to buy a new car with the money saved from buying cigarettes.

I never smoked at the resort because I didn't want to smell like an ashtray and it sets a bad example to other members of staff. I would've smoked 10-15 cigarettes a day, lighting up first thing in the morning, mostly in the car or if I was out having a drink.

When it comes to alcohol I am not a big drinker at all, but I do enjoy a nice glass of red or white wine or Champagne. I didn't touch alcohol until I was 29 as I was a Pioneer (not drinking for religious reasons) all my life, so there had to be a good reason for me to break my pledge.

Being a chef, it was important for me to develop my palate and understand the different flavours of wine. I have friends with vineyards in the Napa Valley in America and the Bordeaux region of France, so I have tasted wines all over the world.

Q: Do you take supplements?

A: I take Wellness for Men, it is fuel for the body.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Like most people, I have had to learn to take time out and that it should always be with my loved ones. When I'm not working I take my mother out every week and I have two handicapped brothers who I also spend time with. I have two other brothers, as well as nieces and nephews - when I am with them I realise the most expensive thing in life is not money, it is time. Family is everything to me, the people who I love.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I am a wonderful sleeper. When I was at catering college I was in a dorm with other young guys and they decided to take all the furniture out of the room and put it into the corridor and put my bed on top of me as I slept - for a laugh. Since then I have slept really well.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: No, not at all. I am trying to appreciate that growing older is a privilege. The inevitable thing is that we are all going to die - whether we want to talk about it or not, but we do need to talk about it. I have urged all my young chefs to think about their pension now, because some day they will be old. As you get older you realise life is about giving, without wanting to get anything back.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Putting aloe vera on my skin after shaving in the morning. Also giving - I listened to Arlene Foster's speech when she was appointed First Minister and she said as a parent she wanted a better Northern Ireland for her children. For once we have a leader who is thinking about giving something, which will hopefully help create a more prosperous country for us all.


  • To mark Year of Food & Drink 2016, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland are celebrating breakfast during the month of January
  • Visit to find out more about the year of events
  • January Breakfast Month Special at the Lough Erne Resort: Fermanagh's 10 mile breakfast includes Pat O Doherty's potato boxty, Kettyle sausage and bacon, O'Doherty's black pudding, Cavanagh poached egg and warm chive Ballyrashane warm butter sauce

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