The People, Produce and Passion – The Positives of Being a Chef in Ireland

“There has been a lot of press about the negative aspects of our industry and to be honest, I agree these aspects do need to be addressed and acted on but on the other hand there are many, many positives also about being a chef” insists Wade Murphy, Chef Proprietor of 1826 Adare and Former Euro-toques Commissioner-General.

“I’m sure there are negatives to every job, like being a mechanic for example, but you don’t see that in the national press” he says,We, where recent coverage has focused solely on the darker side of the kitchen.

With this aim in mind, we chatted to Wade and a number of chefs in Ireland to capture the essence of what makes the career so rewarding and fulfilling for them, and find out why they think others should join them in the industry which has gained such a bad reputation.

We’ve heard time and time again about the negatives of kitchen culture, and while each agreed these issues need tackling, they had no shortage of things to say in response to the simple question; what do you love most about being a chef in Ireland?

Wade Murphy

Chef Proprietor at 1826 Adare

Getting to do something I love doing every day of the week is number one for me. You get to be creative and learn so much as things come in and out of season. Another big thing for me is I get a huge kick seeing someone who started their career in the kitchen with you going on to head up their own kitchen and achieving even more than you did. Nothing makes me prouder than that to be honest.

The support of your peers is right up there, too. There are a few organisations such as Euro-toques and Chef Network, for example, where you get to meet fellow chefs and even chefs who have inspired you with their careers. You get the chance to ask questions, see what others are doing and, for me anyway, get a huge amount of inspiration.

Ireland has a lot of amazing chefs here and not just Irish chefs, we already know how great our produce is and has been for many years but now we have a wealth of talent treating and using those ingredients with the respect they deserve. Yes we need more chefs and everyone knows about the shortage, but some of the chefs we have in this country are world class and very passionate about the Irish food scene and our industry.

To put it simply I would say the 3 P’s of the Irish chef scene are the people, the passion and the produce.

Both personally and professionally, I feel totally grateful to our industry and all the people who have helped me along the way – too many to name. I work for myself, and even if I didn’t I know I would never be out of a job (well hopefully at my age!), I met my wife because I was working as a chef in the US and I have friends for life because of our industry.

Seaneen Sullivan

Chef and Publican at L.Mulligan Grocer

Firstly, the opportunity to build relationships within our Irish food community. We are committed to using small local suppliers, and cooking seasonally. There are so many brave people ploughing their own furrow and doing really remarkable things: from farmers and growers, to brewers, and people in other kitchens. I think being able to celebrate what makes Irish produce special is a uniquely privileged position, and we are lucky to be a part of it.

Also, the camaraderie of being part of a team pushing in the same direction, and for the same goal service after service.

Contrary to the popular image of diva chefs barking orders with fragile egos, I think cheffing is a great leveller.

Being subject to the vagaries of the seasons, the weather, the land and the produce is humbling, and has taught me gratitude, how to adapt quickly and above all patience. Sometimes it is your day, sometimes it isn’t. You have to get up tomorrow and do it all again either way.

Finally, it fosters a connection and awareness of the fragile eco-system we all inhabit: socially, environmentally, politically.

Gareth ‘Gaz’ Smith

 

Chef Proprietor at Michael’s Mount Merrion

Well the main reason is the sense of camaraderie, nobody denies that it’s a tough industry and things can go wrong so quickly, which is why there’s a huge undercurrent of looking out for eachother.

A recent example of this would be when I first started trading for myself in Michael’s, Ross Lewis, very quietly reached out to me and offered his time and guidance, I mean this guy who I haven’t worked with for 12 years took time out of his very busy life to try to help and guide a young guy up onto his own journey. Also, in Kinara Sean takes my calls weekly asking his sage advice on issues as they arise, it means an awful lot to me. It’s such an Irish way of operating – Irish people are second to none, it’s what brought me home. I know that when I’m a bit further down the road I will absolutely pay it forward.

Theres a sense of “we’re all in this together”, there’s very few trades like that, you’re competing for the same customer base but there’s a huge amount of respect between peers.

In the same vein, it is the friendships formed. Contrary to popular belief – there’s very little belittling that goes on. There’s simply no time or energy for any of that nonsense.

When you spend so much time in each other’s pockets in work, then go for pints afterwards, every emotion is shared between you, every good side, every bad side, it leads to the most wonderful friendships. I always say it is like a marriage – it’s never going to be plain sailing all of the time, but working with the right crew is amazing.

Your career can take you to whichever part of the world you wish, and before you know it, you’ve got lifelong friends in every corner of the world, you might not see each other for years – but after working in the kitchen together for a while, you always pick right up like you saw each other yesterday. Kitchen friendships are special.

The third reason is what it’s all about – feeding people. The feeling of seeing a room full of happy punters and staff, all smiling, laughing, holding hands, roaring with laughter, the clinking of glasses – it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t mean that in an egotistical kind of way, chefs just enjoy seeing people happily eat their food – it makes all of the hard work worthwhile.

Also, chatting to small producers and suppliers who are beaming with pride about their produce gets me right in the feels every time. Taking something and turning it into something that gives joy to others is wonderful – it is humanity at it’s finest. Food has been bringing joy to people for centuries – let’s continue it.

It’s a wonderful trade, the people, the produce, the network, the scene itself, the Sunday night pints, Ireland is the best place in the world to experience being a chef.

Margaret ‘Mags’ Roche

Chef at The Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna

For me, it has a lot to do with the amazing produce we have on our shores. It is about being able to support the small producers and the fantastic work they put in, and the accessibility we have to the produce, plus having the opportunity to meet these people and get to know them.

The support on social media from chefs, restaurateurs, suppliers and colleges, just liking or sharing tweet, is an amazing feeling. People we highly respect in the industry showing everyday support and encouragement to fellow chefs is very very refreshing.

To make people happy with the food we as a team produce is single-handedly the most amazing feeling. There is fantastic camaraderie in kitchens, and a great family feel to working together. Also, a great relationship with the suppliers is of upmost importance, trust and respect of each other and what we all do. Without good suppliers, we are on our own. And without a team we are nothing.

Its not just down to the restaurant team, it is everyone! Everyone is working toward one goal, everyone has each other’s backs, and that’s a really lovely feeling. You become very close and respectful of the people you spend this amount of time with.

It’s not boring, or mundane, there is never a dull moment, it is exciting, for sure a little stressful, busy, crazy – but it is without a shadow the best industry in the world!

Andy McFadden

Executive Chef at Glover’s Alley

I love my job very much and I’m so passionate about being a part of the hospitality industry. I’m like a sponge and I love to learn new things…I’m always learning new, exciting things that I bring back to the fold. I love eating out on a night off and there’s so many great places in Ireland right now.

I love meeting new people and there is definitely a real sense of community here especially since I’ve been back home, everyone’s been so supportive to us and really positive which is amazing.

I think the ability to travel with my work is a major positive, I love to experience new things and taste new cooking styles. It is so exciting, with so many opportunities and the world is your oyster! As long as you have vision and open-mindedness, you can go on an amazing, exciting journey. You can travel, get paid and experience phenomenal food anywhere in the world.

Grainne O’Keeffe

Head Chef at Clanbrassil House

I always wanted to be a chef when I was younger, so much so that I didn’t even fill out a CAO form for any colleges before my leaving cert because you get to work doing something you love.

I know this sounds a bit cliched but it’s true. I’d rather work 80 hours a week doing something that I love than 40 hours doing something that I hated.

Seeing as you spend the majority of your life working, it seems smart to make it something that you enjoy. Being a chef is more of a career than just a job… and to an extent, a lifestyle.

You can take your job with you to any country in the world. Even language barriers don’t matter too much in the kitchen as learning a restaurant’s style can be done visually. I’ve worked with a lot of chefs who have come from different countries with not much English and learned to work in the kitchen with little difficulty and also picked up the language quickly along the way.

We have some incredible produce here in Ireland, some of the best beef and dairy in the world, not to mention some incredible restaurants and chefs. Being able to work in a country where you can use amazing produce, learn from talented chefs and eat in incredible restaurants are reasons on their own to love the chef culture here in Ireland.

It never gets boring. There are countless possibilities and opportunities for chefs who are willing to work hard and push to be successful. Being a chef is rewarding in itself.

FEATURE BY DARINA COFFEY

Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake Off and am passionate about discovering and creating delicious things – I can sometimes be caught in the act on TV3’s Six O’Clock Show or RTE Today. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me on my pursuit of deliciousness.

Darina Coffey Darina Coffey

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