"Taste of Ireland: St. Patrick's Day a chance to explore cuisine's rich heritage" - The Commercial Appeal

Melissa Peterson, editor of Edible Memphis, interviewed Connor for an article about St. Patrick's Day cuisine for The Commercial Appeal. You can read the entire article on The Commercial Appeal's website by clicking here. Below is an excerpt from the article about Chef Connor and eighty3.

March 14, 2012

"In the restaurant, St. Patrick's Day is good to me," says eighty3 food & drink chef Connor O'Neill, who counts Irish ancestry on both sides of his family. His favorite things about Irish food? "Butter and cheese," he says.

Chef Connor O'Neill prepares a traditional Irish dish called Champ at eighty3 restaurant in Downtown Memphis. In its most simple version, the dish is made from chopped potatoes, butter, milk, spring onions and seasoning.

Chef Connor O'Neill at eighty3 food & drink gets some of his traditional Irish recipes from an old decorated burlap sack from the 1920s.

Chef Connor O'Neill of eighty3 food & drink gets his Irish heritage from both sides of his family. Born in the U.S., O'Neill's mother made sure her son was exposed to the food and culture that her parents brought to America from their Irish homeland.

A simple celery and potato soup served with brown soda bread marked St. Patrick's Day (along with grandpa slipping the kids a sip of whiskey when no one was looking). The recipe came from a fabric food sack (that most likely held flour or potatoes) dating to the early 1920s. The sack hangs on the wall in the Memphis chef's office -- a reminder that good food can be very simple.

What's best about Irish food? "Butter and cheese," O'Neill states. No need to wait for a holiday to enjoy the higher butterfat and slight tang of Irish butter.

Cashel Blue, Dubliner and Cahill's Farm Cheddar are some Irish cheeses that can be found locally.

"In the restaurant, St. Patrick's Day is good to me," O'Neill says. Folks come out in droves to raise

a glass of beer and generally have a good time. On the rare occasions he's not at the restaurant for the holiday, O'Neill experiments making traditional sausages with celery seed and potatoes ... and Irish hamburgers.

"OK, it's not really Irish at all, but they're good," he admits. The concoction consists of corned beef and root vegetables served on soda bread with potato gravy.

Melissa Petersen is the editor of Edible Memphis, a magazine that celebrates the abundance of local food, season by season. It is available at various locations around town. Contact her at Melissa@ediblememphis.com.