Food writer and TV host Donal Skehan and wife Sofie moved to sunny California back in 2016. Taking his cooking nous and his warm personality stateside was a big change, but he adapted well to his new surroundings in America’s progressive, eco-conscious state. Five years and two children later, the couple decided to move back home.
That decision was made, in a way, by the pandemic. “We moved back at the very start of lockdown, the first one in March 2020, so we’ve had a very big transition. For us it was a real change, because we had two kids in the space of two years. Covid really pushed us to move closer to home and family, and in fairness I think that was our best decision,” he says.
As he re-establishes himself back in Ireland, Skehan is pleasantly surprised at how much has changed, particularly within the food industry.
“With Covid now you have a completely new perspective on how goods are being consumed and served, even with the whole outdoor eating, and food trucks, which I never thought would take off in Ireland,” he says.
“In California, from a food perspective, one of the big things we did was meal planning. Things like that reduce the amount we buy, and therefore reduce the waste that comes out of the kitchen,” he explains. “I’d always carry a water bottle too, and then shopping, you know, the amount of plastic you can generate from a supermarket shop is shameful.
“So I have these great little tote bags that we put veggies in. In Ireland you can get great vegetables. We go to McNally’s Family Farm up in north county Dublin – going to a small local producer is part of a bigger ethos on how we use our kitchens, and how we eat and cook. Keeping it local and seasonal as much as possible,” he says.
“We’re not totally plant based, but I would call it ‘veg forward’, meaning vegetables at the core of most meals, and if you’re going to eat meat, for it to be of the best quality. We have these incredible farming industries in Ireland and we have to support them in all aspects, and that goes for meat and dairy and the organic vegetables, so I think we have to be more mindful in seeking them out,” Skehan explains.
“I’m all about flavours, and if you’re going to go to the trouble of cooking you want the results. It is all about flavour, simple things to make vegetables come alive,” he adds.
Skehan understands people can feel talked down to about climate issues. “I think people kind of roll their eyes when they’re being professed to about sustainability,” he acknowledges.
“But for me it comes down to the small changes we make in our day-to-day life. I mean, you’re not going to become vegetarian overnight, so taking small steps in the right direction keeps the positive changes manageable.”
Another switch he has made, influenced by his time spent in California, is a move to the Land Rover Discovery Sport Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).
“It has been a real discovery in that I’ve never had a hybrid car before but it’s something that I’ve always been intrigued by, especially with looking towards making those little changes,” he says.
“I’ve been doing this TV show around Ireland and I’ve been doing quite a lot of travelling. So I leave the house here in Dublin and head to Dingle and I am in the car for several hours . . . Knowing that a portion of that has been powered electrically and not by fossil fuel is quite rewarding.
“As I travelled around Ireland it was amazing to see how many places have these charging points. I would’ve just passed by them before, but now I have the opportunity to use them. I’ve been loving that,” he says.
Skehan’s young family and active lifestyle means he can’t be too precious about the car, and it is often “bursting at the seams” with the bits and pieces needed to facilitate family life.
“There’ll be peanut butter fingers all over it [with the kids] and I’ll be like ‘don’t touch the car!’ The Discovery Sport is a great family car. It can take on a lot,” he says.
“I’ve really gotten into paddle boarding over the last couple of months, so the dog is jumping in the back and the paddle board is coming out full of sand . . . I’ve had to drop my preciousness about it,” he laughs.
“Electric is definitely going to be the future,” Skehan says. “It’s a cost thing as much as an environmental thing, I’m certainly not fuelling the car as often as I used to.
“I think there’s a good feeling about what you’re doing, and that it’s the start of the future. It’s where we’re going.”
Sparking Change with Land Rover
Sparking Change is a four-part series featuring Land Rover brand ambassadors as they talk about the small switches they’re making on their sustainability journeys – including the car they are driving.
This week, food writer and TV host Donal Skehan is behind the wheel of the Land Rover Discovery Sport Plug-in Hybrid, a perfect choice for his young family and busy work life.
Discovery Sport is now available with Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) technology, delivering performance, refinement and capability together with an all-electric, zero tailpipe emission range of up to 55km and CO2 emissions as low as 44g/km.
Charging is convenient and simple. It can be done overnight with a standard domestic electricity supply, or with a dedicated wallbox – this enables charging from 0–80 per cent in just under an hour and a half. The quickest charge times are achieved using the growing public network of DC charge points where a 0-80 per cent charge takes just 30 minutes.
Versatile by design, the Discovery Sport adapts to every family adventure to keep you safe and comfortable throughout – whether on the school run, a journey round town or a trip to the great outdoors. The New Discovery Sport PHEV has been transformed to make it more efficient, technologically advanced and practical, with new technologies including Land Rover’s state-of-the-art Pivi infotainment and a suite of advanced driver assistance features.
Designed to be enjoyed by the whole family, Discovery Sport PHEV enables you to go further, with confidence and conscience intact. There’s never been a better time to check out plugging in.