One of Ireland’s top chefs, Ed Cooney has been crafting culinary delicacies at The Merrion since 1997. The multi-award-winning chef has toured the US numerous times and become a familiar face on tv screens, as well as providing inspiration to chefs that have come after him.
For him, there was never any doubt about what he wanted to do: “I always wanted to be a chef. I went to Rockwell College back in the day and I did two years professional cookery and then went to work in London and the rest is history.”
Describing some of his earliest experiences in the industry, Ed remembers former workplaces, explaining: “I worked in Grosvenor House on Park Lane and in 90 Park Lane, the Michelin Star Restaurant. I also worked for the Regent Four Seasons which is The Landmark. I then moved on to Scotland working in Craigendarroch with Ralph Porchani, moving to The Merrion in 1997 and have been ever since.”
Ed has been with The Merrion since 1997. When thinking about the changes over the years, he describes the availability of local food produce as the biggest difference:
“The biggest difference is the range of food produce available in this country and the growth in indigenous artisanal producers. When we opened, we imported a lot of our food in order to ensure the quality of the produce as some weren’t available locally.”
Perfect for the summer months, The Garden Room at The Merrion is a relaxed and less formal experience in the luxurious surrounds of the 5-star hotel.
Described on site as “a restaurant with character, comfortable, with a menu designed for sharing tastes and flavours and whimsical combinations”.
According to Ed, he and his team use “the best of Irish produce in an uncomplicated style” in The Garden Room, with the summer menu consisting of a number of tempting dishes utilising the very best of seasonal produce:
“We have a myriad of relationships with local producers, whom we enjoy working with, growing together as the evolution of Food in Ireland continues.”
He added: “We’ve created a menu that we believe has something for everyone, whether you’re looking to enjoy a leisurely lunch, lunch on the go, or al fresco dining with The Garden Picnic. On our summer menu, for me, I love the poke bowl, the Kilkenny Rose veal and for dessert, it would have to be the salted caramel tart with the popcorn ice cream.”
Working as a chef has its ups and downs, especially when you’ve been in the industry for many years: “Working with amazing Irish food products is the highlight, in terms of the least, it would be the time commitment, but it is so rewarding and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
While Ed has dealt with a number of challenges throughout his career, he’s had numerous highlights, though admits that he likes to think that “the best is yet to come”:
“Opening The Merrion and instilling a world class five star hotel food product was challenging and creating the food concepts for the various food outlets. One of the greatest challenges was managing through the 2008 global financial crisis and maintaining standards through what was a very difficult period. Then more recently, creating the food concept for The Garden Room, designing new kitchens and opening a restaurant in its own right is a huge challenge.”
One of the challenges has been coping with the notoriously demanding lifestyle of a chef, and constantly trying to find a work/life balance:
“I try to look after myself physically as this job is hugely demanding in every way, I run marathons which keeps me sharp and allows me to function at the highest possible level I can.”
Offering inspiration for young and aspiring chefs looking to get their start in the food industry, Ed maintains that a career in the food industry takes a lot of hard work and determination:
“Choose the kitchens you work in very carefully and research your mentors. it is not a job, it’s a career and you have to walk before you can run.”
Looking at the Irish food industry as a whole, Ed firmly believes that it’s “probably at its most exciting ever and there’s a whole host of young chefs I would admire greatly”.
The future is also looking bright for Ed and The Merrion and it’s clear we can expect great things: “Our goal in The Merrion is to constantly strive to be our best and for me to continue to work with the best food producers, be creative, push the boundaries and to continue to work with and develop our fantastic team of chefs.”
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.