What is the name of the current restaurant you work at and how long have you worked there?
Escape to Freight Island and Ticket Hall since August 2020.
Give a brief overview of your career.
I fell into catering accidentally after taking an elective in culinary arts during a business management degree. After an internship working in a high end kitchen in Malaga, I finished university early to continue cheffing full time. Since then I have worked with some of the top chefs in Belfast and the North West of England. My first serious head chef job was given to me by chef patron and mentor Jeff Green who trained me to work to a 3 rosette standard. From there I moved onto Gorilla to diversify my portfolio and learn how to manage production of a different nature and on a much larger scale.
Where did you learn your skills/culinary education?
Following my elective in culinary arts and my decision to become a chef, I quickly realised two things. Firstly that many chefs begin their careers at a young age, and secondly that there is a vast amount of knowledge and technique required to really progress and cook at a high level. For this reason my real training began at home. I bought textbooks and cookbooks and began practising and researching at night after shifts and for quite a while was self taught. When I got my foot in the door at a serious restaurant, I found myself from that moment on surrounded by great chefs and mentors who have trained me and shared their knowledge with me since.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy everything about working in a kitchen. The stress, the sounds, the competitiveness, the comradery, the physical and mental challenge. I love working with young and enthusiastic chefs who want to learn and progress. But most of all I feel extremely privileged to work with food everyday as it is my biggest passion in life, for that reason I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found myself in a profession where I can say that.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My favourite dishes are ones that allow me to share with others an experience which I myself am in love with or have memories of. A good example of this would be a dish which served BBQ octopus with thinly sliced confit potato, smoked cauliflower, saffron and aubergine emulsion, pig head, ad a healthy dose of high quality paprika, salt and virgin olive oil. This dish for me was reminiscent of Pulpo a Gallega, my favourite dish when living in Spain, but also combined some of my other favourite ingredients from that time.
How do you come up with new dishes?
More often than not I begin with seasonality. I will write a list of ingredients that I know will be at their best. I then think about affordability of ingredients, which ones my customers will enjoy, and which ones myself and my chefs will enjoy working with. From there we begin to choose the standout ingredients which will form the backbone of the dish, and then select ingredients and preparations which will provide optimum flavour, balance and texture.
Who was your greatest influence?
Thomas Keller opened my eyes to the disciplines in cooking, Grant Achatz opened my eyes to the world of possibilities that could follow after learning these disciplines. However the greatest influences I have had as a chef are Keiron Donnelly and Jeff Green, head chefs and mentors from Belfast and Manchester respectively.
What is your favourite cookbook?
My favourite cookbook is On Cooking: A Textbook Of Culinary Fundamentals. A very boring choice, however it gave me the opportunity to play catch up and master all the basics that other chefs had learnt through college training and apprenticeships.