The Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast is located right in the heart of the city centre, close to many of the city’s major attractions, including being next door to the Grand Opera House on Great Victoria Street.
Offering 5-star luxury as well as fine dining and a classy atmosphere, this hotel should definitely be on your radar when you’re visiting Belfast on a city break or indeed, as part of a greater tour of Northern Ireland.
Speaking to the hotel’s Executive Head Chef Dean Butler, I got a glimpse into his life in the hotel. Dean, who took up his current role at The Fitzwilliam Hotel in May 2018, revealed where his passion for cooking began:
“When I was 14, I helped my uncle with private catering events, which is where my passion for cooking really started.”
Describing how his journey progressed from there, he explained: “I was very interested in cooking from a young age and first studied catering at Ballymena tech for two years before going to Portrush Catering College.”
“After I finished college, I got my first full time job in a London hotel where I trained for a further year. At the age of 24 I got my first head chef position and have been a head chef ever since, for over 25 years.”
No stranger to the food industry, Dean has gained experience working in a number of well-known kitchens, from cities to more rural areas:
“I’ve worked in a range of kitchens from the Country House Hotel in Kells to the Countryman Inn in Ballymena. I’ve also worked at Terrace restaurant, Fitzys restaurant, Belfast and the Malone Lodge Hotel.”
“In recent years I’ve worked in the Causeway Hotel in Bushmills, Made in Belfast, and now I am the Executive Head Chef at The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast.”
Describing his work at the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast, Dean says: “The kitchen at The Fitzwilliam is a busy place known for its quality food and fresh produce. We provide Rosette award winning cuisine from busy breakfasts to afternoon tea, pre theatre menus and an A La Carte evening menu.”
Speaking about the food on offer in the FitzWilliam Hotel, Dean says: “The Fitzwilliam is a five star, AA Rosette restaurant, so you can expect a quality, fine dining experience with modern classical cuisine.”
Going on to describe some of his favourite dishes on the menu, he explains: “I am an advocate for sourcing local, quality produce from the top suppliers in Northern Ireland. Our innovative dishes are representative of the quality local food that is available.”
He adds: “Some of my favourite dishes are the pan roast duck breast with beetroot puree, saffron potato, elderberry and seasonal greens or the braised pork cheek with ponzu seared scallops, cauliflower puree and cauliflower cous-cous.”
As an advocate for local produce, Dean lists some of the producers that diners can expect to find on the menu at The Fitzwilliam Hotel, musing:
“It’s very important to myself and the Fitzwilliam to support local producers of game, beef, pork, fish and cheese, so we can ensure that they continue to produce the best quality items. On our menu we champion lots of local producers such as Hannans Meats beef, Gracehill black pudding, Young buck blue cheese, Portavogie scampi, Lough Neagh mussels, Killkeel crab, Fivemiletown goats cheese and Thornhill duck.”
Like many chefs, Dean dislikes the paperwork aspect of his job, but states that “cooking and creating new and innovative dishes” is his favourite part of his work.
Explaining how he manages to balance work and life, he says: “I have a great team around me which allows me to get my days off. I work long hours but it’s essential to get a balance of time off to help unwind every week.”
With his years in the food industry, Dean has some sound advice for aspiring chefs hoping to don the chef whites as a career: “The best advice I can give is pick a place to work where they are willing to put the time into training and making you a better chef. If you choose a place that has extremely long days, then only work a 4 day week otherwise you’ll burn out.”
Belfast’s food scene has grown tremendously in the past number of years and Dean praises “places like Eipic and Ox” who have “pushed the standard of food in Northern Ireland and chefs like Danni Barry continue to innovate and have a desire to bring more Michelin stars to Northern Ireland”.
Looking to the future and Dean has “plans to push the food offering at the Fitzwilliam Hotel to the next level and continue to deliver 5 star standards to all of our customers”.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Dean and the food offering at the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast in the near future.
For more information about the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast, visit www.fitzwilliamhotelbelfast.com.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Named Best Break Out Travel Writer at the 2018 Travel Media Awards, Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.