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Chef Network

KITCHEN CULTURE Meet the chefs & teams of Ireland’s professional kitchens, with Chef Network The Chef Network community brings together chefs at all levels from all sectors across Ireland. In a Hotel & Restaurant Times regular column we meet some members and hear from them what inspires and motivates them, their career challenges and opportunities, and how they believe we can improve the industry.

In this edition, we meet

Barry Ralph, Chef-Proprietor at House of Plates

Why did you become a Chef? I’ve always been interested in food from a young age. I’ve always dabbled in the kitchen and in the garden. When I was 14, I went down to the market and bought a packet of seeds. I began to grow my own little garden of vegetables and each week I would bring the fruit and veg I’d collected and sell them in the local market. I’d make jams and chutneys with some of the wild berries I’d found and sell these alongside my own garden produce as well. Setting up my very first business. I remember recording Darina Allen’s cooking show each week on my VHS and watching them back to recreate the recipes. Another big inspiration for me growing up was Gerry Daly and his gardening show. I wasn’t very academic, and I didn’t have much interest in school, but cooking and growing food was something I was passionate about. I have always felt as though cheffing was for me. What was your path to where you are today? After school I made the decision to try and get my CERT to become a chef. At this point I’d had zero experience in a commercial kitchen. The first day of college we were all asked to say a bit about ourselves, including which kitchens we had worked in. There was only two of us in the whole class that had no practical experience in a professional kitchen, that was quite intimidating for me at the time. Still, I knew that this is what I wanted to do and during my time on the course I was placed in some of the local hotels to gain my work experience. I graduated from GMIT in 2000 and later went on to work in various restaurant and hotels in Mayo. I moved up pretty quickly and got my first head chef job at the age of 24 in a local restaurant in Castlebar. I realised that I had quite limited skills at this point and that I wanted to gain more experience. That’s when I made the decision to move back to one of the local restaurants that I had previously worked in and I eventually grew tired of working for other people, I knew that I wanted to venture out on my own. I was driving home after attending my very first Food on the Edge conference and started thinking to myself. I knew I had settled for

the job I was in; I wasn’t enjoying it and something in me knew that I need more. I decided to follow my dream, take the leap and open the restaurant I always wanted. When I got home that night I sat down with my wife and together we set our minds to creating ‘House of Plates’. A small plates restaurant which would take sustainability seriously and work with local suppliers to support the community.

I decided to follow my dream, take the leap and open the restaurant I always wanted

Tell us about the team you work with. We have a small kitchen team in House of Plates. Stephanie my sous chef has been working with me for 15 years and I consider her my right arm. We’ve worked together so long that we don’t even need to speak in the kitchen, we both know what the other is thinking. She is one of the hardest working people I know and always goes above and beyond for the restaurant. Owen and Marty run our front of house and have been with us since day one. Having interviewed them both in a shell of a restaurant and then seeing them take the leap with me makes them very special. They had the same belief in the concept, the theme and the food as I did and that is what makes the whole thing work. Jemma has recently joined the kitchen team as a chef de partie and brings a vast amount of knowledge with her. She has good experience in some of the top kitchens.

Supported by Ready Chef 34

H&RT OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019

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What is the most important ingredient in your success to date? Hard work, honesty, dedication and a passion for what you do. I genuinely believe that anyone can be successful if they work hard.

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