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 Marguerite Keogh. Marguerite grew up around food and fresh produce. She is currently Head Chef in the Five Fields in London.
1. Why did you become a Chef?
I guess I always had a love for food, from baking and cooking to the growing of vegetables and herbs. My mother is a good cook, and my father has always grown pretty much every vegetable that will grow, which meant that food was always a big part of my childhood, fuelling my love and understanding of everything food related. My aunt was a chef, and I loved watching her prepare and cook food when I was younger, I found it fascinating
2. What was your path to where you are today?
I did a five-year apprenticeship at Dromoland Castle. This gave me a great foundation and understanding for classic French cuisine. As part of my training, I went to LIT in limerick to do culinary arts.
When I finished my training Dromoland organised for me to go to London to work at Drones, a Marco Pierre White restaurant, where I worked for one year before moving to Petrus. The Petrus I worked at was run by Marcus Wareing, I worked here for five and a half years, during which it changed name to Marcus.
At Petrus I met Taylor Bonnyman- who is the Chef Parton and owner of the Five Fields. When I was leaving, Taylor offered me the position at the Five Fields, where I got to help with the design and opening of the restaurant. I have been there ten years now.
3. What are some of the highlights of your career to date or some of the periods/aspects of your time as a chef that you have most enjoyed?
Achieving our Michelin Star at the Five Fields Restaurant was by far the biggest highlight of my career to date, I was so proud of the whole team and what we achieved.
The opening of The Five Fields Restaurant was another massive highlight for me, the nerves and excitement of what we were about to do and if we could do it. It was and still is an amazing learning experience.
Other highlights include when I moved to London to work at a Marco Pierre White Restaurant and when we got our second Michelin star at Petrus.
4. What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
Our industry and jobs will always have challenges but that’s just one of the reasons we love what we do.
I have been lucky enough to work with great people who have always been respectful but being a female in a predominantly male working environment can be challenging (even just the lack of female conversation at the workplace can be mentally hard). This is why I think it’s very important to enjoy and love where you work and your team. It gives me a better mindset to face challenges with. Our jobs are too full on and demanding not to love what we do.
There are enough restaurants out there to make sure you are in the right one for you.
5. What is the most important ingredient in your success to date?
The most important ingredient to success is having a great team. As a chef you are nothing without your team. Your team is your foundation to your restaurant.
6. Tell us about your work environment and the team you work with
At the Five Fields we have been very lucky to always have a great team, both in the kitchen and the restaurant, filled with fantastic people who all share a love and respect for each other and the restaurant. We are like a family, so it is very important that when we pick new team members the first thing we look for (even before their skill level) is that they fit in with the rest of the team.
At the moment we have a relatively new team as our previous team had been with us for 3-4 years and it was time for them to move on. We try to build a positive environment by involving the team in everything in the kitchen as much as possible and if they have ideas we listen and try them.
We are also lucky to have a very talented development chef who makes every miso, every garam and much more, which all of the team enjoy learning about, myself included.
We promote people when we feel they deserve it and not waiting for when a position becomes available.
7. The Chef Network Kitchen Charter aims to create a positive and nurturing work environment in kitchens, which point(s) of the charter do you feel are most important and can you share examples of practices from your own kitchen that help you to achieve these principles?
We try to build positivity at the Five Fields by including the team in as much of dish development as possible, encouraging creativity and idea sharing.
We are a small team, in a small kitchen, where we all work the same hours, making us a very close team, like a family.
As I mentioned before we strongly believe in the strength of a team and how the restaurant would not be possible without our team and their ideas. We learn from our team as much as they learn from us, they bring new ideas and techniques.
By giving the team an input in the restaurant we believe they feel a stronger connection and ownership to the restaurant.
This year we are making more of an effort to give the team a better work-life balance at the restaurant as possible, which is not easy. We have increased our team salaries. We do set closures ensuring the team get their holidays and their two days off together every week. These are small steps but in the right direction.
8. What is the most important lesson you have learned about being a leader in the kitchen?
I have learned patience and communication are important skills in running a kitchen team. Patience is a key to help train the younger team members, to help them grow in confidence.
Communication helps with team strength as it lets the team know how important they are for the restaurant and its success.
QUICKFIRE Q & A
What I love most is… the pleasure people get from eating food you cook for them.
The biggest challenge is…the long unsocial hours.
What makes me most proud is… seeing how well my team work together.
The most difficult thing I have had to face is… missing family/ friend occasions
The most rewarding thing I’ve done is…opening the Five Fields Restaurant
I have learned that…Teamwork is Dream work
The key skills or traits to have in this job are… a bit of common sense and respect
We can make our businesses better by…including the team more in key parts of the restaurant
We can create a better workplace by…creating a better work-life balance
My advice to chefs starting out is…have fun and only work in a place where you enjoy yourself
My advice to chefs trying to progress their career is…learn as much as you can from your peers, eat out as much as you can afford and do not try to rush up the career ladder, learn every step
My advice to any chef opening their own place/setting up a business is… learn from the mistakes, they will happen
My greatest mentor has been… David Mc Cann, Executive Chef and Nicky Flynn, Head Chef at Dromoland Castle
My biggest inspiration is… Anne Sophie Pic
My favourite job ever… The Five Fields Restaurant
My favourite place to eat is… Too many to pick – Harwood arms (Sunday roast), Core, RHR, Sketch and many more
My favourite thing to eat is… A big bowl of soup
My favourite dish on our menu is… anything with scallops
My favourite piece of kit/equipment is… chef’s knife
Something I would like to learn is… cake decoration
How I keep or attract staff… listening to what they want and trying my best to do it.