The best way to describe a complex character like Jp McMahon of Galway is to ask what drives him. We did just that, and here is what he said:
“Integrity. Integrity to menu, integrity to idea. Once you begin you need to keep going, even in the face of public misunderstanding. Not everyone will get what you are about, but you need to educate your customers (even the ones that have not come in yet). I want to raise the level of food in Galway, from the simplest to most complex and I want others to follow and to join in. I'm not saying we are leading the way (there are others) but that is my philosophy. Keep pushing things forward, keep changing them. Explain yourself. Food is not only about eating. It is a cultural phenomenon and it plays a central part in our community. We need to get this across in our menus and through any other means.”
Maybe we need to parse that a little, as Mr McMahon works at break-neck speed, and it can be hard to keep up. You start with the integrity of the concept when you open a restaurant, and then the restaurant has to be a part of your overall philosophy, which you need to explain to your community, who will be your customers, and all of these things work together in the context of our shared cultural memes.
Jp McMahon is actually from Dublin, but moved to Galway back in 1999, though it wasn't until 2008 that he got the doors open in Cava, his first venture. Eat @ Massimo, his gastro-pub, came next, and then he teamed with Enda McEvoy to open the trail-blazing Aniar. He manages all three restaurants as well as continuing with his Ph.D on art history, and somehow he finds the time to offer scintillating cookery classes and organise the annual Galway food festival. He has, single-handedly, had a greater impact on the culinary culture of his adopted city than any other person.