by Dave O'Connor
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A brilliant year ends with a fresh take on lifestyle

DONAL Skehan is, in many ways, not your stereotypical chef. He is, however, one who is ahead of the curve when it comes to bringing new ways of cooking to his fans.

He does this through his YouTube channel, which has amassed a quarter of a million subscribers in a few years.

He is also a TV chef, author and all-round hard worker who, in addition to travelling around Ireland and abroad for work, married his Swedish sweetheart Sofie Larsson in June.

Skehan took time out this week to talk to the Gazette about how he maintains work-life balance, and how the first year of married life is going. “Married life is great; it’s going really well. It’s our first Christmas

together as a married couple, which will be great. I don’t think much has changed but it’s been really lovely and it’s a lovely time to kind of step back and look at the year we’ve had. It’s been a really brilliant year.

“We will be doing a Swedish Christmas this year. We do it year-on year-off, and so this year is Sophie’s year. They do a different type of Christmas dinner in Sweden because they celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24. They have pickled fish, Christmas ham and a kind of fishy potato dish; we’re also going to do a traditional Irish Christmas dinner on Christmas Day so I’ll get my Irish Christmas dinner after all.”

Skehan admits that at times he has pushed himself to the limits, and says this time last year life was not quite as calm as it is now. “At the end of last year, I came to a point where I knew everything needed a bit of a shake-up. I knew I wasn’t eating the right foods and I wasn’t exercising properly, and I think that was the catalyst for me.”

This led him to take stock of his life and inspired his recently released book, Fresh.

“Fresh is a cookbook every weekend right from the summer up until Christmas. I was doing all sorts and not getting the time to eat right or exercise. I wasn’t getting the time to stop and breathe deeply. So the cookbook came out of that. “We looked at how we could translate the cookbook to TV, and that’s when we came up with idea of my TV programme, Cook Eat Burn. The interesting thing is how you match exercise with food.”

Cook Eat Burn, running as a six-part series on RTE, sees Skehan take on physical challenges such as mountain climbing, kayaking and coasteering, during which he got to see some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery.

“We forget as Irish people that we have such beautiful landscape on our door step so I really enjoyed that side of it…I’m not an extreme sports person but I do exercise on a regular basis now.”

Skehan has also become a global internet sensation on his YouTube channel, with over a quarter of a million subscribers. Jamie Oliver signed him up to his FoodTube channel, which is a first for any Irish chef. Oliver

has since praised Skehan’s strong work ethic and ambition.

“I’m separate to Jamie’s Food Tube now; because I’ve grown so many subscribers we moved on by ourselves. We were with him for the last two years though and he’s been fantastic to us. He’s been a really great support and continues to be. It’s such an amazing world though, and we’ve just shot a documentary about the Food Tube phenomenon for RTE 2 as part of their Reality Bites series.”

His fame on the internet has led him to think about capitalising on the online market. “In Ireland, there’s only about a handful of us creating content and making it a business online from a YouTube perspective.

I don’t think Ireland has even got into that routine of watching YouTube the way the Americans or the British would. It’s an interesting place to be, and we’re planning to move to LA to pursue a bit of the YouTube side of things in February for a few months. So watch this space!”

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