'We have to really mind ourselves at the minute, look after our mental health and our diets.'

Killybegs restaurant duo Garry and Mairead Anderson are going to be helping the nation eat well with feel-good food as they feature on RTE’s Operation Transformation.

The health programme returns for a new series on RTE One this Wednesday, and the owners of Boathouse and Killybegs Seafood Shack are adding a taste of Donegal to the mix.

Garry and Mairead Anderson – owners of Boathouse Killybegs

Chef Garry and Mairead were delighted to contribute recipes for two of their favourite dishes, which will be demonstrated on this week’s programme. Viewers will get a guide to hake/cod with a herb crust and Pollo Parmesano with a healthy baked twist. The show’s dietitian Aoife Hearne will give each recipe the OT treatment to make it healthier and more calorie-conscious for inclusion in the meal plan. 

Speaking of her delight to feature on the show, Mairead said she has seen the impact of emotional eating during the pandemic, and a solution can be healthy home cooking.

“We do need to be careful now because everyone is talking about ‘Covid stones’. It’s no joke, we all need to be really careful I think. We’re all mourning the loss of our lives. At the end of the day the whole world is suffering, it’s just one of those things. 

“We need to get out more, we need to move more, be healthier, cooking is not hard, it’s so simple. We can follow the recipes all the chefs are submitting to Operation Transformation, with Aoife making them even healthier. 

“We have to really mind ourselves at the minute, look after our mental health and our diets.”

As cameras visit Boathouse in Killybegs, the feature will put a spotlight on the lockdown rollercoaster they faced in 2020.

Boathouse Restaurant in Killybegs

The success of the Killybegs Seafood Shack takeaway led Garry and Mairead to open a new restaurant in the town in December 2019. Due to restrictions, Boathouse is currently operating a takeaway only menu but have been buoyed by local support and a busy summer. 

Mairead said she hopes the segment will be a boost for the entire local food scene.

“Believe it or not, I’m one of those people who struggle with what to do with fish sometimes,” Mairead said.

“We’re so used to cooking with chicken and pork, people think fish is harder than it is, when it is so simple and is cooked so quickly.

“We wanted to show that recipes can be adapted to make them as healthy as you want and when you go to a restaurant, you can ask for a dish to be prepared in a certain way if you don’t want butter, milk, etc.. Very often, If you put in a request in advance, a restaurant is more than happy to oblige.”

In 2019 the Killybegs Seafood Shack featured on Neven’s Irish Seafood Trails on RTE: Pictured: Neven Maguire with Mairead Anderson

Mairead is hopeful that Boathouse and the Seafood Shack will bounce back this summer, when it’s safe to do so. 

She said: “We’re happy that the Boathouse takeaway can keep people employed. The Shack has allowed us to open the restaurant and we’re not done yet. We have more little ideas we’re working on. We had 25 people employed between the two businesses and there is such potential in the area. When we are open we are lucky that business is going well and we have been well-supported by the council and by locals. 

“It was a tricky summer, but at the end of the day if we are all kind and little bit more understanding of what everybody is going through I think we will be fine. We just have to keep our heads down now and stick ourselves and it will be okay.”

Operation Transformation begins Wednesday 6th January on RTE One at 9.35pm.