The Interview: Finn Ní Fhaoláin - Surfer and Cookbook Author

on Oct 27, 2017

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Finn Ní Fhaoláin

Each month on Girl Outdoor Magazine we'll be catching up with awesome people impacting our world. This month it's the turn of Finn Ní Fhaoláin - surfer, blogger and cookbook author. Finn's book, Finn's World, is available to buy here.

Tell us a little about yourself and your best selling cookbook Finn's World?

Hmm, where do you start? So I’m the daughter of a writer and a filmmaker. My Mom (Canadian) wrote young adult fiction mostly when I was growing up and my Dad (Irish) made documentaries. I was a really lucky child as this meant we always lived in and travelled to very interesting places. I guess I was also exposed to lots of different cultures (and food) from the get-go. I grew up all over Ireland but always felt the west coast was my home. My dad often lived abroad so also got to spend time in London and Paris. I’ve always had so much passion for food and a great love of the ocean. I used to do Darina Allen inspired cookery demos for family as a kid and would refuse to get out of the sea until I had basically turned blue. 

"I’ve always had so much passion for food and a great love of the ocean"

I fell in love with surfing when I was a teenager, but really have only really committed to improving in the last two years. I’m always in the water, however, even if it's just swimming or SUPing or running in for a dunk. I studied Marine Science in college (an Undergrad in Earth and Ocean Science and a Masters in Marine Biology) and my absolute favourite job before working for myself was being an aquarist in The National Aquarium in Galway. I love (and specialised) in deep-sea research, specifically corals, so I still try to do bits of work on research vessels when I can. I’m getting trained up as a Marine Mammal Observer next month! On the foodie side of things, I first managed to do a bit of baking for a wonderful vegetarian cafe when I was 19 and then always did foodie jobs on the side in college. I found out I was a coeliac when I was 18 or 19 and that’s how the book began as a little notebook called “Oh Bollox I’m a Coeliac” where I wrote in experimental recipes for the foods I missed so much, which is where the book began.

The journey of the book started in the year after I finished my masters, I was working on a research ship and used to spend a lot of time chatting with the lads from the crew about how stupidly expensive it was to eat healthy and how hard it was to travel gluten-free. I was also big into powerlifting at the time, so loved to chat about training! So that’s how the blog began, to merge the loves of ocean (fins), fit (training) and food! So in that year it just absolutely snowballed. Blog, starting to do food events and then getting an agent and subsequently the publisher for the book. Then I was a year or so in the making between finishing it off, doing the photos and deciding on design. There’s an absolutely amazing team at Gill Books, so I loved the process.

Photo credit:
Finn's World Cookbook

How did you get into cooking? 

When I was little we lived for a time in a place called the Tyrone Guthery Centre, which is a residency for artists. They had the most amazing ladies, all trained in Ballymaloe and I used to sit on a stool in the kitchen and watch them cook and bake, I loved the smells, the textures and all the hustle and bustle. When I was good they’d let me raid the chocolate drops in the baking cupboard. Then from my family, though my mother doesn’t give herself credit for it, she’s a great cook and taught me to bake at an early age. One of my Grannies was a keen baker, while the other taught me the wonders of the midnight snack (and also took me seriously when I told her age 19 that I’d own a vineyard by 60). Professionally I got into baking as I mentioned in my late teens and then food prepping a few years later, first just exploring gluten-free food for myself and then later for catering. Last year with the book on the horizon I felt it was important to be a bit more versed in the culinary arts, so I completed a culinary arts programme in St. Angela’s College. I can easily say they were some of the best 10 weeks of my life. I have no recollection of buying groceries!

What would be your advice to a newly diagnosed coeliac? 

Don’t overwhelm yourself with tons of info and pick simple things to make at the start. Nail the basics - a good breakfast, a simple bread recipe, a soup and some oven bakes for dinner. Don’t fear eating out - just choose more carefully – naturally, gluten-free cuisines include - Indian, Mexican and Japanese, so try these places out first for more choice and lower risk of cross-contamination.

Photo credit:
Adventuring in Ireland

Have you always been based in Bundoran?

Sadly not! I’d be a lot better at surfing by now. I lived here nearly 4 years ago for the summer that I was writing up my Masters thesis and then came back again last January for the culinary course (it was down the road in Sligo), but I feel I’m here to stay, it feels like home. I’ve also lived (as a grown up) in Dublin, Galway, Cork and some summer stints in the Canaries, Spain, and America.

What are your favourite local surf spots?

Ha ha, that’d be telling. There are a lot of great breaks really close to my house and main beach and Tullan are down the road.

Describe your perfect adventure?

Oooh, that’s a fabulous question. I think a perfect adventure for me would start in the mountains end in the sea and have a lot of food in between. Also, lots of dogs, cats, and horses to hang out with along the way. Two of my best friends live on the west coast of America now and we’ve talked about travelling up to Canada to go snowboarding in Whistler and then travel down to surf in BC. I’d also love to do the same idea somewhere in South America.

Anything else to add?

Yes! I just want to say I absolutely love what you ladies are doing, it's great to see a culture of fun outdoor women, not just some girls bum shot in a “boys” surf mag! I live in a community of girls who live for the outdoors, whether it’s surfing, hiking, horse riding, you name it, so it's awesome to see this reflected in what you do! Also, I may have something exciting coming up to do with adventuring and food in 2018, so watch this space! Also, you’ll find me over on Insta, Twitter, and Facebook, having the craic, going on adventures and making lots and lots of food.

Learn more about Finn and her world on her website.

on Oct 27, 2017

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