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 Andrew Walsh. Andrew has gone from watching his brother in the kitchen in Co. Mayo to running the Michelin starred Cure Restaurant in Singapore.
1.Why did you become a Chef?
I became a chef as my older brother, Lyndon, is a chef. He got me cooking at a very young age. I left school early, after the Junior Cert. Seeing my brother in the kitchen gave me confidence and he gave me guidance to follow his path.
2.What was your path to where you are today?
I grew up in Breaffy in County Mayo. I Started washing pots and pans in the Travellers Friend Hotel in Castlebar. This led to my brother getting me into a culinary course GMIT. After my first year, I got my first placement in Darcy’s Restaurant in Kenmare, County Kerry. I then went on to the Michelin Star Sheen Falls, where my love for fine dining began. From Kerry, I went to Dublin to Kevin Thornton’s 2 Michelin star.
After that, I decided to leave the beloved homeland and have worked in London, Australia, New York. In 2012, I came to Singapore, where I now run four restaurants, including Cure, where under our NUA menu, I showcase exceptional Irish produce and culinary influences.
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?
One that sticks out is the day I received my professional chef qualification from GMIT. My parents came along to the ceremony for the day out and it was a very proud day both for them and for me.
I am also very proud to have survived the pandemic. Not only surviving it but being awarded a Michelin star during it is very gratifying. After a lifetime of making sacrifices, poor pay, long hours and unpleasant kitchen culture, earning the Star for our team, during the pandemic was amazing.
4.What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
The work life balance has been the biggest challenge for me. This life is not 9 to 5 and is not Monday to Friday. I have missed out on family time, social occasions and relationships have suffered.
There have been challenges and no doubt more to come, but what you put in you get out.
5.What is the most important ingredient in your success to date?
There are a few things..
Having a Sense of ownership, along with drive, determination and a backbone. Trusting in my chefs, my managers and my sommeliers is key, combined with a strong team. Having a can-do attitude and being solutions driven.
Also, Irish ingredients… Kerrygold butter! Irish Cream!
6.Tell us about your work environment and the team you work with
During the pandemic, we had to pivot our business, like many others. We went from customer facing to deliveries and takeaways, hustling to make revenue. This was essentially moving from a restaurant to an online business.
That period really brought the team together and made us tighter.
Pre-Covid, we used to have team outings and gatherings. Time together outside the kitchen and that was good for boosting morale.
For the team, it is essential we keep communication lines open. Kitchen workplaces used to be regimented, so I respect my teams work life balance. If we are very quiet, we will close for lunch service or close the kitchen early in the evening, so staff can go home.
I believe motivation comes from within and it is important to invest in yourself. I buy my own tools and iron my own jackets. I try to read more and constantly improve.
7.What is the most important lesson you have learned about being a leader in the kitchen?
The biggest lesson is not just to be a leader in the kitchen, but in the business. It is not to just worry about food. What about your toilets, cutlery, music, room temperature, uniforms etc.? It is all part of the experience. Knowing the business side is essential for success. Learn outside the kitchen as well as inside.
It is important to lead by example.
QUICKFIRE Q & A
What I love most is: cooking for my family when I get home
The biggest challenge is: current life in general! The pandemic
What makes me most proud is: my independence since leaving school, I have never had to borrow money. I have made it on my own.
The most difficult thing I have had to face is: an Irish customer in the bar after 10.30 in Singapore and not being able to get a drink…thanks to COVID
The most rewarding thing I’ve done is: opening my first restaurant in Singapore
I have learned that: talk is cheap
The key skill or trait to have in this job is: a sense of ownership
We can make our businesses better by: making more money
We can create a better workplace by: not taking ourselves too seriously. Getting over it and moving on.
One small change I would make is: more sleep
My advice to chefs starting out is: learn to be a chef. Don’t just say you are a chef, learn how to be a good one
My advice to chefs trying to progress their career is: do the basics right. Learn your apprenticeship
My advice to any chef opening their own place/setting up a business is: Don’t rush. Wait for the right time
My greatest mentor has been: My brother Lyndon
My biggest inspiration is: my team. They are the guys who push me daily
My favourite job ever: my current one
My favourite place to eat is: at home In Ireland
My favourite thing to eat is: Japanese
My favourite dish on our menu is: Potato Seaweed Caviar Black 1847. It is a tribute to those who have lost their lives in the Great Famine
My favourite piece of kit/equipment is: my tweezers with my name on it
Something I would like to learn is: patience
How I keep or attract staff: my good looks and my humour!