This week we got the chance to ask Michelin Star Chef Derry Clarke a few questions to give you an insight into the chef behind the highly success restaurant l’Ecrivain on Baggot Street.
You have just launched a new dining concept – The Samsung Kitchen. What inspired you to start this new venture?
I am a proud Ambassador for Samsung’s Home Appliance range – especially the Chef’s Collection. This is a live demonstration kitchen, all of their appliances are in use and on display
What inspired you to cook at the beginning of your career?
A Summer Job in Kinsale and Peter Barry, my boss at the time told me I had a natural ability in the kitchen
What keeps you motivated now?
My Young Team and the challenges of the restaurant with everything happening keeps me going. It is a very exciting business to be in right now. Food is the new fashion!
What other chefs and restaurants do you admire?
I admire Chefs and Restaurants along with our young up and coming chefs. Especially those that use local and artisan producers in season. Like myself.
You recently retained your Michelin star, how important are awards and accolades to you?
A busy happy restaurant is my priority and keeping the Michelin Star and other awards help to achieve this. We have a great team here at l’Ecrivain and any award given is for all of us.
How has food in Ireland changed in the last few years?
Food has changed worldwide, not just at home in Ireland. The world has become a smaller place and ingredients that were not available before are now on our doorstep. At the moment, Ireland is in the centre of a “food revolution”, with all our tourists being blown away by the quality and value on offer here.
What is your favourite ingredient to use?
It varies from year to year. At the moment I am having fun with spices and making up my own spice mix. It is very easy to do and it adds and individual touch to my food.
What is your favourite cooking technique?
Slow Braising overnight – You get a great result of cheaper cuts of meat with intense rich flavours. Again it is an easy stress free way of cooking
What has been your most memorable meal?
With my son in Scotland. We were in Tobermoney on the Western Scottish Isles on my little boat when we stopped at this shack like café. We got a large bowl of langoustine with some lovely salad and we munched away looking over the bay on a beautiful summer’s evening.
What is your food guilty pleasure/off duty comfort food?
Fish & Chips – with plenty of sea salt and malt vinegar!!
What was your favourite meal as a child?
My Father was a food importer and there were always lots of samples in our house. My mum’s family were fruit importer and mum was a great lady for making stews using everything in the fridge They were delicious and the reason I am so adventurous with food.
You have been responsible for launching the careers of some of Ireland’s most prominent chefs, what is the most important thing you teach your team?
“Fail to prepare and prepare to fail”. Prep is so important in a restaurant. I also tell the chefs to stay calm and meet each situation head on. Nothing is impossible.
Any other advice for young chefs staring out?
Learn as much as you can. Don’ try to rush things. You must walk before you can run. Choose good places to work where you will be taught the trade in the right way. Look and listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions
How about words of wisdom for a keen home cook?
“Keep it Simple” Less is more
Your wife Sallyanne runs the restaurant with you, how would you describe your working relationship and would you recommend working with your partner?
It has it’s pro’s and con’s. It works for us because we try to keep work discussions at work and don’t bring it home. Ultimately we have the same goal and visions for l’Ecrivain. It may not be for everyone and is not always easy.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I would have chosen a life at sea. I love the time I spend on my boat and the pleasure and relaxation it gives me and my family.
How do you think food bloggers are influencing the industry?
Food Bloggers an the Restaurant Industry have become the norm. Anyone discussing the food industry in a positive way on social media is a great advantage to our industry.
What is the secret to your success?
Not taking myself too seriously
What has been your proudest moment?
Opening our first restaurant in 1989 with very little money
What are your hopes for the future?
For the new Samsung Kitchen to be the success l’Ecrivain has been.
Derry and Sallyanne Clarke married in 1987 and opened l’Ecrivain Restaurant in July 1989. They have had several transformations and now l’Ecrivain stands on the site of two old Georgian Coach Houses/Mews in its own charming courtyard. Over 26 years on, l’Ecrivain is going from strength to strength.