Celebrity chef Alastair McLeod has opened up about his famous mum’s wild past and how she’s coping since moving back to Australia to be closer to her family.
Australian-born entertainer Candy Devine, real name Fay McLeod, famously appeared in several television series including Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (1968), before travelling to Ireland on what was intended to be a short visit. There she fell in love and stayed in Northern Ireland for over 40 years, working as a radio broadcaster and singer.
Tragically her husband Donald died in 2012 and Candy made the difficult decision to return home to Australia to be close to family, including her son Alastair, who she now lives with in Brisbane.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, Alastair, who’s become a household name over the past decade thanks to his successful stint on Ready Steady Cook, said it’s been great having his mum home.
“Oh, it’s the best. My mother, she was born in Cairns [but] she went to Ireland, she never intended to stay, [but] she met my father,” he explained. Alastair said his father ran a cabaret club, adding: “He booked her to sing at his club and they fell in love.”
The pair married in Dublin in 1970, where they lived for five years, before moving to Belfast, where Candy began a long career with Downtown Radio. But tragedy struck in 2012, when her husband and Alastair’s father passed away.
“She moved back to Australia and it seemed logical, you know she is getting old, she should live close. I mean it’s bloody close you know,” he joked.
He said it’s great having her at home, adding she tells great stories and continues to offer support and love to her granddaughter.
While he’s undoubtedly skilled in the kitchen, slicing and dicing like the best of them, Alastair didn’t plan on a life behind the chopping board and only learned to cook because his father was in that industry.
He started his career working in his dad’s nightclub, before moving to Scotland to work front-of-house in a restaurant.
“[It] probably took a good couple of years to realise that the job had chose me and reeled me in. I would say many chefs would have tales of being by their mother’s side, and loved to bake when they were younger, but I don’t think that was really me, no,” he said.
The Ireland-born chef has made a name for himself as a talented cook, turning his Ready Steady Cook stint into a hugely successful career. He has launched Al’FreshCo, his own business that provides catering, markets and his own product line. The new venture is in keeping with Alastair’s passion for all things local.