An Irish Soul’s Culinary Passion
Native Dubliner Cathal Armstrong was born into a family with a passion for food.
That passion, unusual for families in Dublin at the time, was fuelled not only by his family’s fruit and vegetable garden, but also by his father’s appreciation of other cultures and cuisines.
Cathal’s father owned a travel business and would regularly take his family on holidays to neighboring European countries and around the world. Cathal was exposed to the markets, seafood and products indigenous to that nation. Ultimately, he would be introduced to the wealth of the food world, develop an appreciation for gastronomy and become educated in the languages he speaks today: English, French, Spanish, and his native Irish.
As a youth, Armstrong attended Coláiste na Rinne, the well regarded all-Irish boarding school, for one year and Coláiste Eoin (meanscoil lán ghaelige) in Stillorgan, Co Dublin. He was selected to the Dublin minor hurling squad in 1985.
He often jokes that had he not become a chef he would have tried his hand at professional hurling, the fastest sport in the world.
This Irish chef still cherishes the memories of working alongside his father in the family garden, bonding time that strengthened not only his family ties, but also his affinity for the land.
It was in France, at the age of seven, that Armstrong began his annual student exchange and his food curriculum for life. Each summer he lived with the same family, the Boudains’, returning to the truffle farms, peasant food and local vineyards. These influences instilled in Armstrong the importance of organic growing and sustainability, before they were buzzwords.
Today he honors that tradition by demanding the highest-quality ingredients from a handpicked network of suppliers revered for their wholesome products. His guiding principal: “Nature is perfect. Extract the flavor. Enhance it. Don’t take away from it.”
Cathal Armstrong is considered by both Ireland and America’s epicurean fraternity, to be one of our finest chefs, a chef whose ability and creativity is boundless.
The Now Story
This impassioned toque’s significant contributions to the local food movement garnered him accolades that extend beyond his cooking, including The National Restaurant Association “Neighborhood Community Award,” Edible Chesapeake Magazine “Local Hero Award” and The Washingtonian Magazine’s “Green Giant Award” for those who work to protect and preserve our environment and teach the virtues of green living.
The White House has taken notice of his four star intentions as well and has honored him as a “Champion of Change.” Under President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative (whitehouse.gov/champions), the White House features a group of Americans who continue to ‘Innovate, Educate, and Build’ throughout their respective communities. In honor of this recognition, the Office of Public Engagement hosted an event at the White House to commend Armstrong and like minded individuals who promote empowerment and inspiration.
Armstrong is a board member of Fresh Farm Markets, which operates eight farmers’ markets in the Chesapeake Bay region. His devotion to the ideals of environmentalism, health and conservation has led him to lecture abroad at the request of the US State Department. He was invited by the ambassador to the Bloom festival in Ireland to “recreate” First Lady Michelle Obama’s Garden and demonstrated to school children and attendees the joys and benefits of “growing your own.”
His own love of horticulture drove him to create an organic, worm composted garden, with a natural rain water irrigation system, behind the restaurant. Fruits from his trees, seasonal vegetables and herbs from his organic garden are harvested and incorporated into mouthwatering dishes that nourish the palate and the soul.
As a father of two young children he has dedicated himself to educating children and families about healthy eating. Unsatisfied by the nutritional quality, in schools Armstrong founded Chefs as Parents™ (www.chefsasparents.com) a non for profit company that will partner with The Alexandria public school system to improving the school lunch system.
Chef Armstrong is a Best Mid-Atlantic Chef nominee by the James Beard Foundation in 2011, 2012, 2013; selected as both Food & Wine magazine’s “10 Best New Chefs 2006” and honored in Food & Wine magazine’s “50 Hall of Fame Best New Chefs” and Best Chef Award Winner by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington DC.
Four years after the opening of Restaurant Eve, Armstrong’s Tasting Room received a four-out of four star rating by Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema.
National Magazines have featured Armstrong’s commitment to culinary excellence and Irish “farm to table” style in prominent stories in Oprah, Food and Wine, Cookie, Parents, Southern Living & Martha Stewart. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC World News, NY Times, and The Irish Times have taken note of his culinary prowess and his dedication to ending childhood obesity.
Rave reviews continue as Armstrong stretches out with complex, thoughtful cooking that knits together his Irish upbringing, his French training, and his grasp of the American culinary moment.