The story behind Hairi's brilliant Joe Dolan pumpkin

"We wanted to get people interested in Halloween and in their local history," said Lauren Gavigan, manager of Wholesome Kitchen in Mullingar, explaining the genesis of the pumpkin featuring Joe Dolan which has become a hit on social media in the last few days.

The pumpkin carving is the work of Zulkhairi Bin Zainac, better known as Hairi, the chef at Wholesome Kitchen.

Lauren said: "Just now everybody wants to support local, and Joe Dolan actually worked here, in this building, for his first job (Joe was a compositor for the Westmeath Examiner when it occupied the Dominick Street premises) - that was what inspired it.

"There have been a number of businesses here, so it's really nice to have that history in the place and to know that Joe Dolan was a part of here not so long ago.

"That was basically it. We wanted to get people to know more about this place, to recognise Wholesome Kitchen, that it has a longer history."

The Wholesome Kitchen part of that history began in August last year, and Lauren said that first 14 months in business have been tough, but great.

"Joe Dolan's family are regular customers here, and it's really nice to be able to bring everything full circle," she said.

Hairi told the Westmeath Examiner that he learned about carving vegetables from a chef he worked with earlier in his career, in Dublin.

As his talent in that particular form of art developed, he did his own designs for high end catering events, and he discovered that his love of drawing transferred well.

So when David Quirke, the owner of Wholesome Kitchen, asked him about doing a Joe Dolan pumpkin carving, he knew what he wanted to do.

Staring with a sketch, and developing it as he went along, Hairi also took inspiration from ideas he found online, in particular on the method of using the LED light inside the pumpkin.

It is that light that gives the Joe Dolan carving its magic, and it is testament to Hairi's skill and artistic vision that he was able to envisage the final piece, and that his carving is instantly recognisable as the late, great, legendary Joe.

Hairi is originally from Malaysia and is now an Irish citizen. He has lived here for 20 years, and says he still loves drawing, though his job as chef at Wholesome Kitchen doesn't leave him much time to indulge that interest.

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