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 Wade Murphy, Chef Owner of 1826 Adare in Co. Limerick
Why did you become a chef?
It’s all I ever wanted to be, even from a very young age. My Granny Cullen was a cook in Gorey, where I grew up, and I loved spending time with her around food, watching her cook good wholesome food. She would cook for Gorey Rugby Club and the local Christian Brothers. She was a very proud ICA member and I suppose she gave me a grá for good ingredients and cooking. Even before I did my Leaving Cert, I knew I wanted to work in this industry. I had spent summers working in some really good hotels in Gorey and Courtown, like The Courtown Hotel and Marlfield House, as a kitchen porter and then commis chef. I just loved the whole buzz of a kitchen and the hospitality industry. I loved handling fresh ingredients, going into the herb garden and picking herbs for service, getting whole wild fish and prepping them, getting joints of meat and butchering them down, not wasting a scrap. So, in answer to that question I never wanted to do anything other than be a chef.
What was your path to where you are today?
The earlier part I already touched on in the first question. So after I did my Leaving Cert, which I did quite well in, I was one of those annoying feckers who liked to mess in school but put the head in the books when I was home, I went to Cathal Brugha St. but left after 2nd year as I missed the actual buzz of working. I wanted to work high-end and with that in mind I moved to London. I spent 9 tough but educational years working in various well-known fine dining restaurants up to 2- and 3-star Michelin. After that I came back to Ireland to be part of the opening team of the Four Seasons hotel in Dublin. It was, in my opinion at that time, the highest standard hotel Ireland had ever seen. I really enjoyed that experience and at that stage had made my way up to sous chef in this very demanding hotel. In 2005 I transferred with the company to the Four Seasons in Chicago. It was the GM of Dublin, Mr John Brennan, who sorted this transfer for me. I wanted to learn more people management skills, so I felt there was no better place than America to do this. The Chicago property was one of the busiest in the group in the US and I spent 2 years there. America was a good experience, but it wasn’t for me. I was fed up with all the GM foods and having had the experience of great Irish produce from a young age I missed Irish produce and the quality of it. So, in 2007 I took my first Head Chef position and opened Lisloughrey Lodge (Now the Lodge at Ashford) in Cong, County Mayo. In 2011, I moved to the Lodge at Doonbeg as Executive Chef and then in 2013, along with my wife Elaine, we moved to her home area and achieved a lifelong ambition and opened our own restaurant 1826 Adare. 7 years later we are still going!
What’s the most important ingredient in your success to date?
It’s difficult to pick out just one ingredient. My success, if that’s what you want to call it, has been a bit like a recipe of several ingredients. Obviously, my early days and my introduction to good quality ingredients and a respect for those ingredients. My own eagerness and thirst for knowledge (I always tell young chefs to act like a sponge and soak everything up) and probably the last and most important ingredient is people. Whether that has been family, friends, colleagues, fellow chefs, head chefs, managers, owners, team members, food heroes and so on. People have influenced my career so much and this article is not long enough for me to mention them all and I’m afraid if I mention any, I’d leave some important people out. One I have to mention though is my wife Elaine. I thought I knew a lot until I opened a restaurant with my wife. It was the first time we ever worked together. Her knowledge of the business and service side of things is second to none and 1826 Adare would not have been the success it is if it was just me at the helm.
So, to sum that up my recipe is "1-part love of ingredients, 1-part thirst for knowledge, 2-parts people and a handful of hard work thrown in at the end”.
Tell us about the team you work with
The “Team” are an integral part of what and who we are. Every member, both past and present, have had an impact on all things 1826. We work alongside a very small crew. We have been very lucky that people have stayed with us for long periods of time since we opened 7 years ago. We had a very low turnover in the first 4 or 5 years and then people moved on to either travel, go back home or go work in more high-end restaurants or hotels. We look at ourselves as a family restaurant with a family attitude. All this helps to build a positive environment. Everyone mucks in to help everyone. We learn alongside each other on a daily basis. This in turn helps keep the team and ourselves, interested and motivated. We look at the kitchen as a training kitchen for people to gain experience in a place that does everything from scratch in order to move on and further their careers, if they want to. It’s all about giving people experience. I don’t mind if somebody looks to work in the restaurant that has little or no experience, people can’t have experience without gaining it somewhere. The same with the front of house. Elaine spends a lot of time training staff to a very high standard. We have been really lucky to have great team members over the years and from all walks of life, all different characters and all have contributed in different ways to the success of the restaurant. I always say a chef, or a restaurant is only ever as good as their team!
“The Team are an integral part of what and who we are.”
Have you seen a negative side of the industry in your experience?
I’d be lying if I said I’ve never saw any negative side to the industry. The hours, the pay, the atmosphere, the heat and so on. A lot of this has changed for the better but there is still a bit of a way to go. I worked in the melting pot that was London in the 90’s. Some of the things I saw there only made me more determined that if I ever opened my own place this will never happen there. It is a very tough industry to work in and it’s not for everyone. There are a lot of people making strides to improve the industry and we as an industry need to get behind these changes and bring on the improvements.
“Don’t ask somebody to do a job you are not willing to do yourself!”
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?
Wow that’s a very difficult question and it would be difficult to narrow it down to just one or two of the points. Each point on the Kitchen Charter is important in its own way. We always try to build a positive and encouraging environment in the kitchen and the promotion of learning and development is important. We all try to learn together in 1826 and that is what keeps us going and is a vital part in the success of the restaurant. I love learning every day and it is a really important part of one’s personal development.
One of the things I have thought a lot about over these last few weeks, since we’ve been closed is our Work-Life Balance. I have told myself that once we are back open, I will not work the crazy hours I have been doing up to now and that time with my young son is more important to me than doing 70 hours a week in my kitchen. I try to look at the silver linings in all situations and with the coronavirus I see now the time I have gotten to spend with my family as time I would never have had if the restaurant was open. So, to make a long answer short I now think that the Work-Life Balance point is the most important. That could all change once we get back open again though haha!
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about being a leader in the kitchen?
Don’t ask somebody to do a job you are not willing to do yourself! It’s very simple really and that one line really needs no more explanation.
BEING A CHEF….
What I love most is… Getting to go, every day, to a job that I love
The biggest challenge is… The hours and age!! The older you get the harder it is to do those long shifts by the stove
What makes me most proud is… Seeing somebody on your team go on to have a great career of their own. It means you’ve done your job as a mentor.
The most rewarding thing I’ve done is…. Opening our own restaurant. It was always a dream of mine and to be able to do that alongside my wife, Elaine, and achieve what we have achieved in 7 short years is without doubt the most rewarding thing I’ve done to date.
I have learned that… Life is too short; you have to grab the bull by the horns and go and achieve your dreams. Nothing will land in your lap without putting in the hard work.
The key skills or traits to have in this job are…Patience, thirst for knowledge and a willingness to work hard.
We can create a better workplace by…Looking after one another and paying it forward.
My advice to chefs starting out is…Act like a sponge and soak up every bit of information and knowledge you can. It will stand to you in the future or further into your career.
My advice to chefs trying to progress their career is…Keep pushing and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
My advice to any chef opening their own place/setting up a business is… Make sure you know the financial side of owning your own business or like in my case be married to the brains of the business. Try not to be in debt up to your eyes before you even open your doors. Be smart and know the capabilities of both your property and the team.
My greatest mentor has been…Tough one but I would have to say my former GM at the Four Seasons Dublin, Mr John Brennan. What that man has forgotten about this industry is more than the entirety of what I know. Behind him would be Terry White my old Exec Chef in Dublin and Kevin Hickey, my Exec Chef in Chicago.
My biggest inspiration is…My son Rían. I used to work for myself and now I no longer do, I work to provide him with the best future I can. He already loves being in the restaurant and hanging out with all the team. They all call him Bossbaby
My favourite place to eat... Wow that’s so unfair, I have so many. In Ireland it is the Greenhouse, Campagne, The Tannery, Guilbauds, The Pigs Ear, Kai, The Oak Room and with that I’m sure I’ve forgotten some. My really happy place is a restaurant in Cape Town called Chefs Warehouse & Canteen owned by a remarkable Irish chef Liam Tomlin and his wife Jan
My favourite dish on our menu…Has to be the 12 Hour Treacle Braised Beef Short-rib. It’s a dish I was originally shown by Paul Flynn a few years back and I’ve tweaked it to become basically an 1826 signature dish. It takes a lot of work and you have to start 2 days before you can actually serve it.
How to keep or attract staff…Build an environment that people want to be a part of and actually don’t want to leave! In saying that people do have to move on and especially if they are young. We need to realise and accept that people should not and do not have to stay with you forever.
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