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 Ciaran McGill. Ciaran started his career with a placement in One Pico where he eventually worked his way up to head chef. He is now Head Chef for Gather & Gather.
1.Why did you become a Chef?
I’ve always wanted to be a chef since I was a child. I remember playing restaurant with my Mam when I was little pretending to take orders and cook the food on my Fisher Price kitchen and its pretty much all I wanted to do from then on. I Loved watching Cooking shows and reading the cookbooks in the kitchen and trying to write out my own dishes to try out when I could. The creative element is also a big part of the attraction for me. I love dish development and testing. I carry a notebook with me so if I get an idea in my head I write it down and try to develop it into a dish.
2.What was your path to where you are today?
I had a work experience placement in transition year for two weeks to see what the industry was like and if it was still the career path I wanted to take. Eventually got into I.T Tallaght on a two-year course after my leaving cert. On our first year I got a placement in One Pico. I absolutely loved it and was asked if I’d like a job part time on the weekends after college, which eventually turned into a full-time job after college. I eventually left shortly after to be part of the Dylan Hotel. I did a year there and then left. I took a year off and went traveling across the states and then an opportunity to go back to One Pico came up. I went back and worked my way up eventually to head chef within 2 years. I spent 10 years as head chef before departing in December 2021. I’m now working for Gather & Gather as one of their head chefs.
3.What is the most important ingredient in your success to date?
There are a few. Hard work, Dedication, that drive to be the best you can be, listening to advice and a few sacrifices along the way pretty much brought me to where I am and the level I want to be at. I’m a bit of a bookworm, constantly reading recipes looking for inspiration and always trying to learn new techniques. The best thing is every day is a learning day in the chef world no matter what level you’re at.
4.Tell us about the team you work with
We have a very small team at the moment due to the events of the last two years and the fact that office numbers are not quite back to pre pandemic levels. Being from a fine dining background, we spend time teaching the guys new skills and how to use new ingredients to keep them interested. We also try to switch sections every few weeks so they don’t lose interest doing the same job all the time.
5.Have you seen a negative side to the industry?
I’ve seen a few examples and have experienced it myself recently. I’ve always tried to talk to chefs about their mistakes and show them how to fix the problem for the next time rather than berating them all day every day. You end up losing your staff that way. I always try and encourage rather than discourage. You get more productivity out of your staff if they are treated with respect.
6.The Chef Network Kitchen Charter aims to create a positive and nurturing work environment in kitchens, which point(s) on the charter do you feel are most important and how do you implement these in your own kitchen/business?
Having a positive kitchen culture in the workplace is a must. Everyone has an input into menu planning and development. Each person’s idea or feedback always counts and it’s what makes successful kitchen teams work so well. Its also good for their own personal development as chefs for the future.
7.What is the most important lesson you have learned about being a leader in the kitchen?
I’d say Communication and patience. Trying to use your experience and skills to develop the younger members of the team and show them where they have gone wrong so the next time will be perfect, which will give them a confidence boost. Efficient communication helps with the smooth operation of any kitchen.
QUICKFIRE Q & A
What I love most is… The Ingredients and Dish concepts/development
The biggest challenge is… The shortage of chefs and rising food costs
What makes me most proud is… the food I’ve produced over the years
The most difficult thing I have had to face is…. Missing out on family occasions
The most rewarding thing I’ve done is… swapped jobs for better work life balance
The key skills or traits to have in this job are… a thick skin, to be hard working and determined
We can create a better workplace by… paying and treating staff fairly
One small change I would make is… 4 day working week
We can make our businesses better by… including all staff front and back in the development of the restaurant
My advice to chefs starting out is… Try before you buy
My advice to chefs trying to progress their career is… Always ask questions gain as much knowledge and experience as possible
My advice to any chef opening their own place/setting up a business is… get as much advice as possible from other restaurateurs, do you research and have your figures
My greatest mentor has been… My first Head Chef Jack Duffy
My biggest inspiration is… Mikael Viljanen
My favourite job ever… Clean down and going home after a successful day
My favourite place to eat is… Patrick Guilbaud/Chapter One
My favourite thing to eat is… love Asian food
My favourite dish on our menu is… Menu changes Daily
My favourite piece of kit is… My Japanese chef Knife
Something I would like to learn is… More Pastry Techniques
How I keep or attract staff… keep them interested let them run the kitchen sometimes and have an input in dish development