From Dublin to Sydney and back again, I recently had a chat with Mark Proudfoot, head chef at the beautifully located Grand Hotel in Malahide.
Speaking about his early experiences in the food industry, Mark said: “My involvement in the food industry started off in Cathal Brugha Street, I trained there.”
“After that, I headed abroad and ended up in Australia. I was there for 15 years, travelling around, mainly in Sydney. I worked in the Opera House and I was head chef at the most instagrammed building in Sydney called The Grounds of Alexandria.”
Returning to Dublin last year, Mark found a new home at The Grand Hotel in Malahide: “I decided to come back to Dublin last year and I came across The Grand and was offered the position of head chef.”
“I’ve been at The Grand for just over a year now and we’ve changed how we do food and how we think about food. We’ve also just launched the new Matt Ryan bar. It’s a brand new refurb and it’s all about the service and all about the food.”
“We’ve just launched our new Coast menu as well in the Grand Hotel, opening up more lines of communication for food. It’s all about the food really.”
Speaking about the food on offer in the Grand Hotel, Mark explained: “So we’ve got the Early Bird, which starts from 5 O’Clock and the evening dining, which is the A La Carte and the dinner menu.”
“Some of my favourites would be the Caprese Salad, the Watermelon, Prosciutto and Candied Cashews starter, the Encrusted Garlic & Green Tea Irish Rack of Lamb main and the Pan Fried Seabass with warm quinoa, baby potato, green beans and a white truffle balsamic dressing.”
Admitting to a bit of a sweet tooth, Mark added that his favourite at the moment would be the Chocolate Layered Lava Cake or the Deconstructed Grand Marshmallow Pavlova, which is served with passion fruit and elderflower syrup and white chocolate ice cream.
On the topic of food and produce, Mark says that “all of our produce at the Grand is locally sourced” and “all our products come fresh every morning”.
Our lamb is coming from Lambay Island across the way. Our fruit and veg is from the Boyne Valley. It’s all Bord Bia approved and we’re always sourcing and looking for local people who make local ingredients to bring it to the Grand.
Mark also does some work with Pallas Foods, explaining: “My relationship with Pallas is built on service and delivery and also the product. They’re very keen to find the product that you need and to give it to us at the right price.”
He adds: “In terms of service, our relationship with Pallas here at the Grand has been great, it’s all open and transparent. They know why we use the product from them and we know why too so it’s all quite organic. It’s really good.”
Always curious, I asked Mark what part of his job he loved most. He said that he loves the fact that “I’m only there a year and the project is all about the service and the people.”
“For the first time ever, The Grand has really opened up the doors and has kind of said, look this is what we do and we’re going to do it really well.”
I love the interaction and the training and just introducing new concepts from Australia. I was there for 15 years and brining the knowledge back and being able to illustrate it in the Grand is really great.
Of course, there are always aspects of a job that people love less than others, with Mark stating:
“It should be a compliment, but I suppose the hardest part for me is training people up and getting them to a level and then they move on. But it’s great to see people having success as well.”
Referencing how he keeps a good work/life balance, Mark revealed that time management is key: “The job is quite demanding at times but the key to getting a balance is time management. At the Grand we have the Coast restaurant, the Matt Ryan bar and weddings, functions and conferences, so it’s balancing work and life.”
You gotta be by the clock all the time, always watching and making sure that everything is right.
With his experience gained through an exciting career in Australia and now in Dublin, Mark has some advice he would offer to young aspiring chefs, with the number one tip being that you need to have passion.
It’s all about the produce, it’s all about connecting with the dish. Keep it simple using fresh and locally sourced ingredients, using less on the plate and concentrating on the main ingredient, that’s really my advice.
“But you have to enjoy it as well. I mean, I’m 41 now and I still love it as much as I did when I was 21.”
With no doubts about his passion for his career as a chef, I pressed Mark for the highlight of his career so far. For him, the undisputed highlight was having a cookbook in Australia:
“I was very lucky to be part of an editorial for a cookbook in Australia and we featured in the Good Living Magazine and Flavours of Sydney. So that was probably the highlight of my career.”
“It’s nice to see a book, pick it up and actually see yourself in it. It’s actually at home on my hall table now. It’s a bit odd but every now and again, I’ll flick to a page or one of my favourite recipes and it’ll give me some motivation to get up and go.”
So, what’s next for Mark and the Grand Hotel? He says that “2019 is all about food and service”:
“It’s all about retaining staff, coaching and mentoring and brining people in and giving them what they want and staff giving us what we need. A happy good environment, you know, it’s the year of the people. We’ve a brand new team on board so it’s exciting.”
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.