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Keelan and Aaron Higgs offer Variety in the Liberties

With the pandemic hitting restaurants especially hard, Head chef and co-owner of Variety Jones restaurant spoke to reporter Nimra Ahmed about home-kit boxes, the restaurant business and plans for the future.  

“The name of the restaurant comes from the alias of a guy my brother and I once met,” says Keelan Higgs, head chef and co-owner of Variety Jones restaurant. 

Variety Jones was the alias of a man who helped run a famous online ‘dark net’ drugs operation called the Silk Road. Years ago Aaron worked in one of his bars in Thailand.  

These days Keelan and Aaron Higgs own Variety Jones restaurant, which is located on 78 Thomas Street, at the corner of Francis Street, in the Liberties. They fitted out and opened the restaurant in December 2018.  

Variety Jones may be a mysterious character, but the restaurant’s cool logo has more predictable origins. “My sister and sister-in-law’s digital design and strategy company Goodasgold designed it,” Keelan Higgs says. “I gave them a rough idea of what I wanted. They took it and ran with it. I think they totally nailed it.” 

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Logo designed by: Goodasgold 

As for the food: “I grew up around my dad cooking at home and in the restaurants he managed, so I have wanted to be a chef as long as I can remember. My dad was the inspiration!

“I have been a chef for about 20 years, the last twelve odd years of which we’ve spent working at some of the best Irish restaurants.”  

Variety Jones started off as a regular restaurant which was cool and chic. It was awarded a coveted Michelin star in October 2019.  

I have wanted to be a chef as long as I can remember. My dad was the inspiration!”

Head Chef Higgs

“Our business prior to the pandemic was booming. It has ground to a complete halt, apart from two to three-week spells last September and December. We have effectively been closed for a year due to the Covid-19 restrictions,” Higgs says.  

But then came the pandemic twist! Variety Jones delivers home-kits that can be cooked in the comfort of your own kitchen. Customers receive a box and an e-mail with a link to the how-to-cook video.  

 “A regular customer reached out to us, they wanted to do something nice for their employees. They asked if we could organise some cook-at-home-boxes.

“My brother-in-law is a videographer, so it made sense to put together an instructional video. It also allowed us to have some contact with our customers and give a bit of a restaurant feel to the experience,” Higgs says.  

The home-kit box is a six-course meal for two people. The menu consists of a light snack, followed by a hot starter, pasta course, main course, cheese and dessert with two bottles of wine. This whole kit costs €180.  

But can a non-chef really pull off a fancy-restaurant meal in a home kitchen?

“The instructional video shows you how to put each dish together. Despite the number of different elements involved, it is very easy to put together.”

“Believe in yourself and push yourself”

Head Chef Higgs

Higgs’s message for upcoming, young chefs is that “becoming a good chef requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

“So be very sure you really want it, believe in yourself and push yourself. Buy and read as many cookbooks as you can and eat out in different places – as much as you can afford. 

“Do not expect instant gratification or a pat on the back because you probably won’t get it. Try and be your own worst critic which should push you to be better.” 

What does the future hold? “I think the restaurant scene in Ireland will continue to grow as it did pre-pandemic. More food trucks will be popping up. I think a lot of chefs have gotten used to a more even work/life balance so potentially they may open for fewer days.” 

The Higgs have their own hopes for the future. “Firstly we are hoping to reopen Variety Jones soon. Following that I am interested in a new project with a slightly more casual style.

“The focus will be on good drinks and simple stripped back food. The team and I are just eager to get back to what we do best. I get bored quickly so to do the same thing doesn’t make sense.”

The Higgs Brothers- Owners of Variety Jones
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