An Interview with Jennie Moran – Luncheonette in NCAD

What is the story behind Luncheonette?

Luncheonette is long term art project of mine using food to reactivate/treat spaces.

I’ve been doing a lot of public art projects which looked into ways of making places or situations feel more hospitable; adding something that I felt was missing using light, shelter, warm concrete furniture. Then I got interested in food as a lovely delay tactic; a tool for assembling people and letting them loiter unselfconsciously, sharing ideas, hatching plans.

What did you do before the cafe?

I worked full time as an artist in a studio but I hated it. Even when I was busy with shows and projects I felt slightly irrelevant and isolated.

How did you manage to get the location?

I had studied sculpture in NCAD and had heard that they lost their canteen. The thought of a college with a deserted kitchen seemed sad, like a house where you could only eat take away food. I got my kitchen at home approved by the health inspector and started to bring soup to the college on Wednesdays. It made no real sense financially but I really enjoyed it and kept doing it until 7 months later I had the keys of the canteen in my hand.

Luncheonette Restaurant

Was it expensive to set up?

Nope. The furniture is made from illegal scaffolding planks and I made our lights. The kitchen was pretty much all there.

What would your average day look like now?

Well there is a gentle rush at nineish of cold sleepyheads presenting themselves for porridge. That’s such a lovely thing to be feeding people. We put cream and roasted hazelnuts on it to make it more glamorous. Then then they all come for elevenses; warm scones and complicated flapjacks. We have just gathered ourselves when the early lunch crowd starts to arrive. That intensifies quickly. We turn the music up and move very fast. It becomes a little like a rave. That’s pretty much a blur until threeish when they come for afternoon restoration; fresh mint tea, brownies, coffee. That’s a nice time in the kitchen too. Baking and ranting. Washing up. Busy smells.

Jennie Moran Luncheonette

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Oh god. You definitely have to love the thing. I couldn’t imagine doing this if I didn’t love eating and feeding people and being in nice places. The work is nuts so if you missing out on those huge rewards it would just be horrible load of hardship.

What part of the job do you enjoy the most?

The phenomenal humans I spend the day with; a group of people who omit joy and kindness which they pour into delicious consumable offerings. I am extremely lucky to have crossed paths with incredibly-talented-yet-such-a-total-gentleman chef, Wagner dos Santos. Then there are the visitors. We have the loveliest customers on the planet. They bear no relation to the general public. They are fun, generous and very trusting. I miss them quite a lot when we close for college holidays.

What part of the job do you loath the most?

Replying to emails, answering the phone, sending invoices, doing costings; really the business end of running a business

What would be your perfect food day in Dublin?

They make this mad black porridge in Bibi’s cafe in the cold months. It’s wonderful. I’d start with that. A cinnamon bun in Simon’s Place? French onion soup at l’Gueuleton to keep you going. If it happened to be Monday I would drag someone for two-for-one jalapeño margaritas upstairs in Fallon and Byrne but if it was 3 a.m. on a Saturday they’d have to come to diFontaine’s Pizza on Parliment St, more for the messy dancing than the pizza.

We’re a food app so I’ve got to ask… Do you ever get takeaways?

Most definitely.

What is your favourite?

There’s a dangerously close brilliant Indian called Konkan.

What life advice would you give yourself at 15?

You are not as stupid, dull or weird as you think you are.

Do you have plans to expand to another location?

Well there is the possibility of doing something similar in a hospital, which would be very radical but there are a lot of enormous obstacles to overcome so I’m trying not to get too excited (but i’m really excited).

What’s next for you?

Some research into the effects of certain nutrients on the human spirit; a series of shared meals, for instance a dinner for the despondent, the impetuous and so on. This might lead to in interesting cook book.

Awesome, where can we find you online?

Thanks Jennie!

Photography by Conor Horgan.


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