Kieran ‘Duey’ Doherty - the secret to any good dish is to “keep it simple; wholesome and tasty all the way”
It’s all thanks to Granny ‘Duey’! As a child, Kieran ‘Duey’ Doherty watched with fascination as his grandmother made what was known as the ‘poor fisherman’s lunch’.
Every kind of fish imaginable ended up in her pot, complemented with onions and milk, and her grandson knew what he wanted to do with his life.
Around the age of 13, Kieran started to skip school, and unbeknownst to his parents, was peeling spuds in ‘Big Paddy’s’, the Ballyliffin Hotel.
As well as earning a few hard earned pounds, he was getting even more entranced by the hurly burly, the smells and sounds of the kitchen. By 16, he had applied to CERT in Killybegs, and the first his parents knew about it was when his mother opened a letter inviting him to an interview!
When a dubious Anne Deery, the CERT boss, pointed out to him that the long term position he was interested in was not a ‘Shef’, Kieran responded: “Most talented Chefs can’t spell!” “We’ll see” was Anne’s response. He was in.
He stayed with the Anderson family in Fintra who treated him like a son for two and a half years and his first job was in the Markree in Sligo. After a year, he was delighted to return to the Ballyliffin Hotel where he spent 13 happy years.
As a youngster, Kieran and his family would often go for a Sunday drive. One particular large stone building on the edge of the village always caught his eye: “We would drive past Nancy’s Barn, formally known as the ‘Craft Shop’ in Ballyliffin. I would say to my parents ‘when I get older, I want to buy that old shed’.”
Who's that with Tubs? - Kieran pictured with Ryan Tubridy
Not unusually, in a peninsula dominated by Dohertys and McLaughlins, nicknames are the distinguishing feature, and just as his family are the ‘Dueys’, the McLaughlins were known as the ‘Nancy’s’...hence ‘Nancy’s Barn’.
He purchased it in 2008 and the rest is history. He opened Nancy’s Barn as a seasonal coffee shop / bistro and business quickly flourished. Word soon spread of the great coffee, fabulous home-style baking and delicious savoury foods served daily, and the business flourished.
With a dedicated following of customers, ever growing in number, Nancy’s Barn has proven to be a very popular venue on the “Wild Atlantic Way” with its laid-back beach vibe reflecting its proximity to nearby Pollan beach.
This coastal theme was further developed and fresh seafood available direct from Greencastle became a signature feature on the menu.
Significantly, he never forgot Granny Katie’s fish soup. He tried hundreds of chowder recipes and attempted many things to get it right. He finally came up with a delicious recipe that drove his patrons wild – ‘Nancy’s Seafood Chowder with a Spanish twist’. The beauty of it is that the chowder is gluten-free and filled with delicious ingredients. Kieran believes that the secret to any good dish is to “keep it simple; wholesome and tasty all the way”.
Following his success in the All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off in Kinsale, Co Cork in 2016, he represented Ireland in the World Chowder Championships in Rhode Island, USA in June 2017, and won. Nancy’s had now gone viral.
At the time, Kieran said that “it was an honour to be part of such a prestigious event and that events such as the Chowder festival provides a great platform to promote Donegal, not only as a food destination, but as a county to visit where there is something for everyone.”
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I recall his homecoming vividly...a memorable and emotional night for family, friends and well wishers.
Since then he has won four more awards including ‘Ulster Cafe of the Year’, and Trip Advisor’s Excellence Award.
Outside, he shows me his ‘Wandering Wagon’, an innovative feature which travels along the Inishowen stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way.
This ain’t no standard chipper, but bespoke food of the highest quality, featured on BBC’s Grandstand during the Irish Open.
As well as golf, it is now becoming a feature at weddings and can be seen currently in the local Christmas Lapland on the Isle of Doagh. Kieran’s enthusiasm is infectious...he works 24/7 but his daily gym sessions are a welcome respite.
“After my world title successes in the US, some 700 Americans came here...they were blown away by Inishowen.”
Indeed, the renowned ‘Bowkers’ in South Beach, New Jersey, have issued him an open invitation to use their famous deli if and when he chooses, so impressed were they by his cuisine.
He is currently working flat out on the logistics of exporting his chowder and as we sip early morning coffee, he receives an e-mail advising him that he is also nominated for Irish Cafe of the Year in 2018.
The world is most definitely Kieran Duey’s oyster...and a few other ingredients thrown in as well!