Stuart Heeney is the Executive Head Chef at the Clontarf Castle Hotel. After coming on board in 2012 as Executive Sous Chef, Stuart quickly took over the reins and has since been developing the dining experience at Clontarf Castle. He now presides over the double rosette Fahrenheit Restaurant, casual dining in Knight’s Bar and the hotel’s extensive conference and banqueting facilities.
Stuart’s food philosophy is simple, local produce and sourcing lie at the heart of the menus and he uses simple ingredients cooked with flair and imagination and presented with finesse. We caught up with Stuart to talk about his passion for food and what is in store for the future in Clontarf Castle.
What inspired you to cook at the beginning of your career?
It was always a dream of mine to become a chef from a very young age. From early on in my training, I was working with some of Dublin’s best chefs and using high quality ingredients, this gave me the inspiration to be push myself and strive to the best.
What keeps you motivated now?
I love the thrill of creating new dishes with my team. Every day we strive to improve, discover and chase the ever evolving dining standards.
What is your favourite ingredient to use?
A simple ingredient, shallots. They are fantastic and bring great flavour to dishes.
And your least?
Kiwis or green peppers, hate them!
What has been your most memorable meal?
Michael Deane’s restaurant in Belfast, it was memorable for all of the right reasons.
What is the most important thing you teach in your kitchen?
Respect! You need respect for your workmates and the ingredients you are working with. I think this leads to greater consistency for your customers.
What is the secret to the success of Clontarf Castle Hotel?
Creativity, organization, constantly trying to improve and successful teamwork! I have a fantastic team of chefs working with me, all who are truly talented in their own unique way.
What has been your proudest moment?
My proudest moment would be winning the first AA rosette in Fahrenheit Restaurant. It was the first culinary award we received since I started at Clontarf Castle Hotel and it took hard work, dedication and vision.
Fahrenheit Restaurant has now been awarded their second AA Rosette, how important are awards and accolades to you?
It’s very rewarding to be recognised for culinary excellence, but I feel that you should never cook for awards. They will come if you are consistently producing high quality dishes and if you have a passion for what you do. However, I still love to win them!
How has food in Ireland changed in the last few years? Do you think we are getting more recognition now as a food destination?
I think Irish people are being more adventurous in their dining, they are more knowledgeable about food which is leading to more restaurants opening and more competition which brings out the best in any sector, in particular the food sector.
How important is provenance and seasonality to you?
Seasonality is extremely important. When produce is in season, it is at its absolute best but when it isn’t I find it hard to work with. Regarding provenance, I think it’s important to source produce locally when you can but in some circumstances this is not always possible.
What is your favourite time of year for food?
I love autumn and winter time. Specifically for the reason that you can use game and slow cook meats. There is nothing more satisfying than the aromas of vegetables and herbs being cooked slowly with short ribs or beef cheeks for up to ten hours.
What three things in the kitchen could you not live without?
My second in command, our Sous Chef Lukasz Lisowski, my VAC machine and my knives!
What are your hopes for the future? What would you like to achieve in Clontarf Castle Hotel?
In an ideal world, I want myself and my team to keep chasing standards, improving and learning. I want to continually surprise and delight our guests by coming up with more creative, elegant and beautiful dishes in both the Fahrenheit Restaurant and Knights Bar. We have big plans too for our banqueting dining offering… 2016 is going to be a great year!
Stuart started his career in the Michelin Star restaurant Chapter One where he trained under renowned chef Ross Lewis. Over the past number of years Stuart has worked in The Old Dublin under Head Chef Eamonn Walsh, Sale Pepe in Malahide and The Grand Hotel in Malahide. He has also worked in Germany for An Bord Bia promoting Irish Food abroad.
His time in Clontarf Castle has consisted of quick promotion, menu development and winning awards. Since Stuart took over as head chef, their Fahrenheit Restaurant has been awarded two AA Rosettes and he is already focusing on future accolades.
The four star Clontarf Castle Hotel is one of Dublin’s most unique and beautiful buildings. The 12th Century Castle perfectly joins its historical setting with modern luxury and is home to a range of dining experiences to suit every need. From the award winning Fahrenheit restaurant to casual bar options and bespoke wedding packages, Clontarf Castle is the ideal venue for any occasion.
Alison has been writing since she could hold a pen, which came in handy for her degree in English, Media and Cultural Studies. She has been working in media since graduating and is the latest features writer for TheTaste.
Writing for TheTaste allows her to combine her passion for the written word with her love of food and drink. Find her on Twitter @AliDalyo