Dylan McGrath: All about innovation

Dylan McGrath: All about innovation

Dylan McGrath is definitively Ireland’s most well-known chef. We’re fascinated with him: with watching him change from the panic-inducing owner of Mint to the more loveable, if still somewhat intimidating judge on MasterChef.

Today he runs two of Dublin’s most popular eateries, Rustic Stone and Fade Street Social, both whose distinct styles stand out in the Dublin dining scene.

We caught up with him to find out a bit more about his favourite places, his opinion on dining out in Dublin, and see what he’s going to come up with next.

Naturally, we’re curious about where a celebrity chef likes to eat in a town like Dublin. When asked about his favourite spots, it’s quickly apparent that he still has a taste for fine food.

I like the Greenhouse a lot. I’d go there fairly regularly, especially if I want treat myself or go for a more formal business dinner. I really like what Graham is doing in Residence, I think he’s a fantastic chef. I think very highly of Dax overall, but especially for the service. I love the way Olivia makes people feel. And then I think Forest Avenue is a real up and coming restaurant in Dublin, it’s right on the tipping point of being the place to eat. They’re all great places that I’d enjoy often.

 

Ireland has seen its fair share of changes in recent years, with many of its most popular restaurants closing and more opening in their stead. For Dylan, in order to make it now you’ve got to focus on innovation.

People are building lots of unique concepts that are very different from everything else. Innovation has gone to the middle market. Restaurants are trying things that they might not have tried before and they’re open to doing things that are a bit more quirky.

More than ever, restaurants are relying on the loyalty of their customers, and Dylan agrees.

You’ve got to remember just how small Ireland is. A lot of restaurants in other countries don’t rely on repeat business quite like we do. If we fail to be consistent and fail to make people feel like we’ve given them value, they won’t come back.

It appears that some restaurants around town are better at executing excitement and value than others. “I think a lot of places overprice what they’re presenting.

People are trying to produce something really good, but they’re getting a little confused along the way. We need to be very good in Dublin, because it’s a very unforgiving town. We have to be more consistent, the standard of the food has to be so high here to bring people back.

Dylan has travelled the world and draws inspiration from international cuisine. But for him, it’s all about bringing the best of abroad home and making it better.

A lot of people go off, see a model in somewhere like America and then come back and do a weak version of it. Blind copying just doesn’t work. It’s important that you improve on the model, and that you make it relevant to the city you’re using it in.

The customers are coming back for seconds, night after night in his bustling restaurants. It’s clear that he’s found a winning formula, but when asked how he’s helped influence the dining scene in Dublin, he’s nothing but humble.

That’s hard to say, I think the diners would be better at explaining that one. I think I’ve pushed the boundaries further than I thought possible… from having one restaurant that was of a specific type and being focused solely on fine dining, to moving forward and doing some things that people said couldn’t be done. I’ve been really innovative in Rustic Stone, and I’m looking at developing further there…There are people that come from all over the country to eat in Fade Street and see what we do there, and I’m very blessed to have that. I’ve been hugely successful in getting people excited about new things, and hopefully the next year and a half will be as productive as the last few years.

With innovation dominating the conversation, we wonder what he’s got up his sleeve and where he’ll take us next.

At the moment I’m working on a development kitchen that will allow me to work with my staff on a purely training basis so that the group we’ve established can move forward. I’m also looking at a derivative of a steakhouse, but without using steak, and I’m looking at a fresh fish concept. I want to try new things, bringing the already successful restaurants further.

It’s clear that Dylan’s focus, drive and creativity brought him to this position of success, and no doubt we’ll be looking forward to experiencing his latest vision.

 

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