Every once in a while when I have a great meal in a restaurant or discover my new favourite place for “coffee o’clock” I remember why I love the industry the way that I do. I have been lucky enough to dine and cook in some of the country’s best restaurants so I did not expect to be so blown away by my experience in Neven Maguire’s McNean House and Restaurant.
What started out as a simple request for a few minutes of Neven’s time to do an Off Duty interview turned into a culinary experience that I will never forget. It quickly became a whirlwind of food demos, kitchen tours, wine and cheese tasting, herb picking and cooking that completely captivated me from the first cup of coffee with warm Madeleines to shoe-horning the bags of goodies and treats into my car almost 10 hours later.
Throughout the day I scribbled furiously taking note of every tip and trick of the trade, but what struck me most was not the relaxed nature and quiet confidence that we all know of Neven but how well he treats those around him; everyone he deals with whether they be his guests, his team of over 50 staff or his local suppliers. The family business that introduced Neven to cooking at only 12 years of age has flourished under his watch and developed an unmistakable ethos of pride, passion and provenance.
While this is undoubtedly a vital part of his success and it cannot be denied that Neven is a champion of local produce and a tireless ambassador for Irish food, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something more to his recipe for success. He possesses a natural ability and connection with the craft that is undeniable and has a passion for great produce. He also has this ability for teaching that makes even the most technical recipes attainable to the novice cook.
So what is it? Where does this Midas Touch come from? How does he produce food of this calibre, décor of such subtle luxury and build a talented and faultless team around him? This is just not possible without an incredible work ethic, steely determination and eagle eye for detail. This is evident at every turn in his restaurant, cookery school, accommodation and even the herb garden. Each step that the customer takes has been thought through taking nothing for granted; from tableware to rows of perfectly formed microherbs, the most amazing smelling beef stock to dark luxurious chocolate truffles served with your coffee.
MacNean House is a place to take someone you love to make them feel loved and Neven Maguire is hugely deserving of the respect and admiration he enjoys from his fans and industry peers. As he gets ready to release his 12th cookbook I for one, will be first in line.
Masterchef Ireland 2014 finalist Edel Byrne is a coffee lover and foodie with 15 years’ industry experience who brings her passion for food to her current role as head of corporate catering at wholefood specialist KC Peaches.
Edel’s Masterchef highlights include cooking in two of the world’s top 100 restaurants and winning high praise from the judges (and from fans of the show who still stop her on the street) for her uovo in raviolo pasta dish.