Acclaimed writers, country-western singers, the queen of England — an array of celebrities have made Sheridan a destination over the years. This month, the town is welcoming an international food sensation to the table.
Clodagh McKenna is best known as the Irish celebrity chef, but she dons many more hats. Based just outside of London, she is a restaurateur, a cookbook author, a column writer, a TV personality — a culinary brand unto herself.
And she is sharing her love of cooking and hospitality with Sheridan through a demonstration-style class at Verdello Aug. 15.
“I’m so thrilled to be giving a cookery demonstration in Verdello,” McKenna told The Sheridan Press. “I will be teaching everyone how to cook a delicious seasonal summer supper — three courses from my new book, ‘Clodagh’s Suppers.’”
McKenna is in Wyoming with her partner, Harry Herbert, to visit his family. For the next month, the couple is staying with Herbert’s cousins, Paul and Sandra Wallop, at Canyon Ranch near Big Horn. Herbert is the younger brother of the Earl of Carnarvon, who owns Highclere Castle, where the series “Downton Abbey” was filmed. McKenna and Herbert reside on the grounds.
When Verdello owner Kathy Bede learned of McKenna’s visit, her eyes lit up. The timing was perfect. She and her daughter, Lindsey Vredenberg, had recently expanded their state-of-the-art cooking school in the specialty food shop after its successful first year in action. Connecting their customers with a chef such as McKenna is the dream.
“One of our missions at Verdello is to bring the world to our small Wyoming town,” Bede said. “And we do this is by bringing new flavors and ideas to our customers. Clodagh, who is internationally renowned, is bringing her extensive cooking knowledge to our community, as well as her own story that began in Ireland.”
Through Sandra Wallop, Bede reached out to McKenna about teaching, and the chef accepted — free of charge. The class sold out almost immediately. Following McKenna’s generosity, Bede decided to donate 100% of the proceeds to The Food Group, a nonprofit that feeds hungry kids in Sheridan County.
“We wanted this event to be a community-centered occasion,” Bede explained. “Learning and experiencing as a community will only strengthen us as a whole. We immediately considered The Food Group because (of) their statement, ‘when it’s hard to succeed in school, it’s a challenge for (kids) to reach their potential as adults.’
“Having a diet with homemade clean meals allows us to reach our own personal potential — from having a sharp mind to a physically healthy body,” she continued. “The place that this understanding starts is with our kids. It is critical to ensure they have access to good food, but they also learn the importance of it, as well.”
While supporting this cause, McKenna’s students are certain to discover the joy of making good food — and sharing good food — in the upcoming class.
“I hope that everyone goes away feeling inspired to cook more and to have friends and family around for supper,” the chef said.
When she is not teaching Sheridanites, McKenna will be “exploring the Bighorn Mountains and seeing the wildlife.” But, even on vacation, she plans on “cooking outdoors.”
“I am so excited to go back and cook a delicious steak on the grill and serve it with chimichurri,” McKenna said.
To explore the chef’s renowned recipes, pick up a copy of “Clodagh’s Suppers,” available at Verdello at 23 Grinnell Plaza. But first, flip to the Taste page in Wednesday’s edition of The Sheridan Press, where McKenna has shared her recipe for preserved lemon, harissa and olive spatchcock chicken with dill and cucumber salad.