In our latest Chef's Blog, Luke Ahearne, Chef de Partie at the Clove Club, London, talks about why he made the move to work away from Ireland, building his knowledge by eating out, and the importance of setting goals and knowing where you want to go.
A while back, during a holiday in London, I stopped for a meal at one of London’s world-renowned restaurants: The Clove Club. This was long before beginning work there, but since then things have come full circle – I started by having lunch, and it was during that meal I decided I wanted to work there. Now it is approaching the one-year mark since I moved and took a position as Chef de Partie at the Clove Club, the same restaurant where I had that remarkable meal.
Kitchen Culture Clash
Working in a London kitchen is different than chefing in Ireland. It’s a lot more intense over here. Of course it’s intense in Ireland, too, and the pace is fast, but everything is even faster here – especially in the kitchen; but that’s just the nature of the restaurant. There are some very long days. It’s crucial that one takes time to recover and relax once you’re out of the kitchen.
One of the things I love to do – and that I have ample opportunity to do in London – is going out to eat. There are so many places to go, hundreds of excellent restaurants to choose from at any given moment. Going out to eat is a great way to see what other restaurants are exploring; I can pick up ideas and learn from other chef’s styles through their dishes. That’s another advantage of being abroad – not just getting to eat great food, but gaining knowledge through it. I’ve learned so many new things abroad that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
I would encourage people considering chefing abroad to take that plunge, and trust it will benefit you a lot. You might not see it straight away and the work is undoubtedly hard, but it will be a huge advantage for your career. Chefing is hard work, so you need to be focused on the bigger picture and know what your goals are to get where you want to be as a chef, regardless of the location.
Where I work now is fantastic and I enjoy it, but it’s very hard work for everyone involved. I am fortunate to get some time to relax - at The Clove Club; I work four days then have three days off. I want to sleep for one entire day after the workweek; the chefs are always tired from working so hard, and we need time to recover. It’s important to just relax and do nothing sometimes when you’re out of the kitchen.
It is necessary to be focused on the bigger picture – look beyond how tired you feel and towards where you want to get to – put in that hard work in your earlier years when you still have the absolute drive and energy. Especially when you’re young and starting a career, you need ambition, energy, and passion to fully commit to the work, the stress, and the hours. You need support, especially if traveling abroad. Things are different beyond Ireland and not just in terms of work. It’s crucial to find somewhere you can be happy not only working, but also living. You want to be happy and successful both in the kitchen and beyond it. So research in advance – know what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you can accomplish your goals, then push to make those dreams a reality.
The Clove Club Restaurant in London
Observing Ireland’s Culinary Influence Abroad
Of course, moving back to Ireland is often on my mind. There’s always that option to go back, but at the moment I’m focused on my job over here. A few years down the line, as my career evolves and I make progress, I know I can decide where I want to be. At the moment, London holds more opportunities for my career, and though Ireland’s food community is not quite at the level London is, I can see Ireland attracting a lot of attention in the food world. Food on the Edge is especially influential, and a lot of people ask me about it. FOTE is definitely being talked about and will continue to be noteworthy for years. Social media is also spreading chef’s works to people throughout the world, and through social media, people can see how far we’ve come as Irish chefs and cooks. There are so many high-caliber restaurants in London, and I took advantage of the opportunity to work in one of these acclaimed places – but soon, I think, Ireland will boast similar accomplishments.
There are chefs in my kitchen who have traveled to Ireland, eaten there, and returned to tell me about it. They say they experienced fantastic meals here, some of the best they have tasted. Irish food is evolving a lot, in part due to chefs garnering attention on social media and through events like Food on the Edge. Irish food and Irish chefs are gaining a reputation abroad – people talk about Irish food, ask questions, and are interested in the work they’re doing. It is clear that Ireland is quickly becoming a destination for great food.
A Chef’s Purpose