Kildare-based Chef Caomhán de Bri is taking a fresh new approach to street food with the launch of his nomadic food trailer, The Salt Project. Travelling from coast to coast, he’ll be popping up in scenic locations all over the country offering an Irish-inspired plant-focused street food dining experience that hasn’t been seen on these shores before — and it looks UNBELIEVABLE.
Caomhán has worked in professional kitchens for over a decade, including a year in London in Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Maze, and five years as Head Development Chef for catering firm, ISS, in Dublin. He’s also a recent graduate of TU Dublin’s new ‘Botanical Cuisine’ course — the first ‘farm to plate’ culinary degree programme of its kind in Europe. This new-found knowledge is reflected in Caomhán’s menus, which will see the humble vegetable heroed in a series of innovative plant-based dishes. Vegetables harvested that morning will be cooked over hot coals on a Hibachi grill and others will be finished in an Ooni pizza oven.
The food trailer is the first element of The Salt Project to launch, with an exclusive Co. Sligo-based wellness retreat with Wild Atlantic Way views and luxurious boutique accommodation to follow in spring/summer 2022. Keen to perfect his craft and ensure that his offering is the best it can be, Caomhán spent a number of months last year working alongside TV Chef Kwanghi Chan, helping him successfully launch and operate his popular street food truck, Bites By Kwanghi.
Caomhán’s opening Blaisíní (small bites) menu will include a couple of vegan friendly options; a market garden bowl consisting of today’s barbecued veggies, Japanese dressing, crunchy leaves, toasted seeds and dehydrated onion, which will be on offer alongside Hibachi-grilled carrot – zero waste carrot four ways with bee pollen and coriander.
Diners can also expect to choose from fried potato slices with garlic and herb Atlantic sea salt and a Burren Gold cheese dip, The Little Mill Company buttermilk potato bread, with preserved summer salsa, melted Burren Gold cheese and rocket, Gubbeen chorizo croquettes with truffle mayonnaise, free range Irish roast chicken and spud steamed dumplings with gravy, and wild Irish pollock, hand-churned dillisk butter, and saltwater seaweed potatoes.
Commenting on the launch, Caomhán said, “The Salt Project is as much about the small producers scattered throughout our wonderful island, naturally sourced ingredients and beautiful locations, as it is about the cooking methods and techniques I’ll be utilising. The dishes I’ll be serving are a celebration of the many great Irish chefs and producers that have guided, influenced and inspired me throughout my career to date: people like JP McMahon, Kwanghi Chan, and Conor Spacey. Sourcing fantastic local produce and cooking with ingredients that have been harvested from the ground as late as the morning of service, means less interference and big bold flavours.”
Having grown up with a huge appreciation and respect for food passed down to him by his parents, Caomhán’s menus have always had a strong focus on food provenance. This will act as a real point of difference in his ever-evolving offering. His long-term goal is for The Salt Project to be as self-sufficient as possible, negating the need for over reliance on large suppliers. The groundwork was laid last winter that will enable Caomhán to utilise two-acre plots in Co. Sligo and Co. Roscommon to establish his own organically focused food growing system. Working in tandem with nature, long-term this will provide the food trailer with a variety of homegrown seasonal ingredients throughout the year.
The flexibility that operating from a mobile food trailer gives Caomhán means that not only can he cook with the seasons, but he can also create Irish-inspired street food dishes that have a real sense of place to the locations that he’ll be pitching up in. Visitors to The Salt Project can expect an offering that consists of a series of Blaisíní (small bites) dishes that have been specially designed to showcase locally grown and artisan ingredients from small scale producers specific to each region.
In Munster, Caomhán will be cooking with the likes of Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen chorizo (produced in Schull, Co. Cork), oyster mushrooms grown in Herbertstown, Co. Limerick by Colm Smyth (Irish Gourmet Mushrooms), and Burren Gold cheese from Ailwee, Co. Clare.
When out west, he’ll be choosing fish and shellfish fresh off the boats in Galway and featuring Achill Island Sea Salt and black-faced lamb from Co. Mayo, along with Keith Clarke’s Knocknarea Honey from Co. Sligo.
Caomhán will be using his own organically grown vegetables supplemented by other ingredients from Conor McHugh of Coolree Cottage Farm in Naas, Co. Kildare. The traditionally milled flour for his flatbreads is sourced from The Little Mill Company in Co. Kilkenny, cheeses will come from almost every county in Ireland depending on the location, and seasonal fruits from Co. Wexford. A keen forager, Caomhán will also be heading out into the wilds of Co. Wicklow and Co. Kildare to collect his favourite wild herbs, nuts and hedgerow berries.
The Salt Project’s first two confirmed locations are the recently opened Wickham Way Market in Limerick city, where it will operate on Fridays (12 to 9.30pm) and Saturdays (9am to 4pm), and Rosses Point, Co. Sligo, where the food trailer will pitch up midweek (trading days/hours will be confirmed shortly). News on The Salt Project’s upcoming locations and opening hours will be announced in advance on their website and Instagram account.
Come spring 2022, Caomhán also plans to host a series of intimate monthly Supper Clubs, offering one-off dining experiences in stunning surroundings for small groups of 15 to 20 diners. Tickets for these will be available via www.thesaltproject.ie in the New Year.